Criminal Defenses in California: Understanding Mistaken Identity

What is Mistaken Identity as a Defense in Los Angeles?

Mistaken identify is a defense in criminal cases where a witness identifies the wrong person as the offender. When a defendant raises mistaken identity, they do not necessarily dispute that a crime occurred. They are saying they didn't do it. 

Many criminal cases rely on eye-witness testimony, both from the victim and anyone else who may have seen the incident. But the human memory isn't perfect and mistakes can be made when a witness identifies the person they believe to be the offender. 

Mistaken identity can lead to the conviction of innocent people for serious crimes. According to the Innocence Project, mistaken identification contributed to around 69% of wrongful convictions in America that were later overturned by DNA evidence.

If you are facing criminal charges, the attorneys at Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc are here to help. Contact us today at 888-666-8820 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.

How Mistakes Are Made in Identifying a Suspect in California

There is a range of reasons why someone may incorrectly identify a defendant during a physical or photo lineup, or when giving evidence in court. It may be an honest mistake or one made carelessly or maliciously. 

Studies have shown there are several factors that can impact a person's ability to accurately recollect facts, increasing the chances of a witness incorrectly identifying a defendant. These include where:

  • The witness and defendant are of different races
  • The witness was under a significant amount of stress or in a state of panic when they saw the offender, such as during a violent crime
  • A weapon was used during the offense

Personal characteristics of the witness, such as poor eyesight or a health condition, may also affect their ability to make an accurate identification. External factors, such as poor lighting, weather conditions, or the length of time between the incident and the identification can similarly affect the quality of a witness's identification evidence. 

If the identification is made as a result of a police lineup, there may have been procedural errors made. For example, if the alleged offender was of Asian appearance and only one Asian person is included in the lineup, this can lead to a witness identifying the wrong person. 

How is Mistaken Identity Proven in California ?

In a criminal case in Los Angeles, the onus is on the prosecution to prove each element of the offense against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. When a defendant argues mistaken identity in their case, this onus remains on the prosecution. But there are several strategies a defendant can use to advance their defense. 

The defendant can present alibi evidence. Evidence confirming the defendant was elsewhere when the crime occurred brings the reliability of the witness' identification directly into question. 

DNA evidence from the crime scene may also rule out a defendant who has been mistakenly identified as a suspect. 

A defendant can also call an expert witness to give evidence during their trial on the inherent issues of identification evidence. This witness can explain the relevant science and psychology to help the jury properly understand the potential weaknesses of identification evidence.

Criminal charges are serious, and if you are facing them, you need a law firm that is just as serious about defending you. Call Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc today at 888-666-8820 to schedule a free initial consultation to learn how we can help you.

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