Have you been mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of a crime?

  • Sep 21 2020

In today’s world, your identity is at risk. Not only is there a constant danger that your identity will be stolen, but there is a perpetual threat, greatly heightened if you’re a member of certain minorities, that you will be mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of a crime. When someone points at you in a lineup, or picks out your photograph from an array of images, it is difficult to prove you are not the culprit. What you need if you find yourself in this situation is a highly skilled criminal defense attorney with a track record of successful outcomes.

VCM Law Group in Miami is an accomplished criminal defense team with outstanding credentials and a well-earned reputation for protecting our clients against all types of criminal charges. We are especially savvy about defending our clients against false charges “backed up” by mistaken identity.

Mistaken Identity as a Legal Criminal Defense  

First of all, it’s important to know that “mistaken identity” is a legal defense that works on the premise that, for any number of reasons, the accused is really a victim. We may use a mistaken identity defense to prove that you were trapped by a witness who, innocently or intentionally, misidentified you, or by a lineup or photo array that, carelessly or maliciously, stacked the cards against you. What this means is that we must prove either that the witness is not reliable or that the identification process itself was corrupted in some way.

Recent Undeniable Evidence of Mistaken Identity Gives Us an Advantage

Programs like the Innocence Project have brought the reality of mistaken identity into the public eye by uncovering numerous cases in which an innocent person has suffered terrible consequences — sometimes decades of unjust incarceration, as a result of mistaken identity.

The availability of DNA evidence is now able to provide incontrovertible evidence when such mistakes have been made. 

When is mistaken identity most likely to occur?

Research has shown that misidentifications are much more likely to occur under the following circumstances:

  • The witness and the suspect are of different races
  • The witness was threatened by a weapon
  • The witness was under extraordinary stress
  • The witness had limitations in memory due to aging, ill health or the amount of time that has elapsed since the incident
  • One or more of the witness’s senses were limited or impaired
  • The witness’s viewpoint was unclear or distorted by obstructions or weather
  • There was racial bias on the part of the witness or law enforcers resulting in defective identification processing

If you want to mount mistaken identity as your defense, it is essential that you have a sharp criminal defense attorney who has in-depth, comprehensive knowledge of current Florida State and federal laws as well as strong litigation skills.

What makes witnesses unreliable in the above-mentioned situations?

Racial or ethnic differences between the witness and the suspect

We live in a country that continues to be plagued by racial and ethnic divisions. This translates into the common problem, even among unbiased witnesses, that “all black (or white or Asian or Middle-Eastern or Orthodox Jewish or Arabic) people look alike.” Almost half of all cases involving mistaken identities involve witnesses and suspects of different races and/or ethnicities.

Confusion experienced by those under extreme stress

Several studies have shown that witnesses who are tense, anxious, or worried are far less capable of remembering details. This is demonstrated by the fact that they are far less accurate when reporting details of a violent crime than a nonviolent one.

Witness unreliability when there is a weapon involved

Other studies have shown that when witnesses see a weapon, they tend to focus on the weapon rather than the perpetrator. This, of course, makes them less accurate when trying to make an identification. This problem worsens if the witness is directly threatened by the assailant. Mistaken identity in the case of violent crime is especially alarming because the penalties are so harsh.

Witness inaccuracy when ability to see, hear or remember clearly is impeded

When, due to aging or other causes, a witness can be proven prone to memory lapses, poor eyesight or impaired hearing, that witness’s account of a crime and its perpetrator may arguably be incorrect. Similarly, when the crime happened a long time ago, during a heavy rainstorm or fog, during the night, or as a noisy train was going by, your criminal defense attorney has every right to question the witness account. 

By the same token, if, as your lawyer tries to replicate the witness’s view of the crime, it turns out that a large tree was blocking the witness’s vision, or the distance from her/his vantage point made distinguishing features impossible — mistaken identity may be a successful defense tactic.

What is useful evidence to prove mistaken identity?

The team at VCM Law Group may use any of the following to bolster your case of mistaken identity:

  • Suggestions by police to the witness that point you as the perpetrator
  • Statements, posts on social media, joke-telling, etc. by the witness that show bigotry towards members of the minority group to which you belong
  • Membership by the witness or police in groups that stand for or tolerate bias and discrimination
  • History of complaints that the police who conducted the identification process have demeaned the minority to which you belong
  • Problems with the identification process itself, indicating ineptitude or bias*

*For example, a lineup with only one African-American or Asian or a photo array in which one image (yours) is front and center or otherwise highlighted

Tainted identification processes are subtle, particularly when they are deliberate, but our criminal defense attorneys are well-practiced in uncovering sloppiness or intentional acts that may have led to your misidentification. If you are the victim of mistaken identity, be proactive. The sooner you call us, the sooner we’ll straighten out the error that threatens to derail your life.

Posted in: Criminal