New Jersey Court Discusses Admissibility of Eyewitness Identifications

In many instances in which people are assaulted, they do not know their attackers. As such, they will typically have to identify the assailant through other means. There is a high risk of unreliable results with many types of identification methods, however. Thus, the New Jersey courts have developed strict parameters for when out of court identifications of criminal defendants may be admitted into evidence at trial. The test for determining such admissibility was discussed in a recent New Jersey case in which the defendant was charged with robbery. If you are accused of a crime, you may be able to have the State’s evidence against you precluded at trial, and you should speak to a trusted New Jersey criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the victim was assaulted by three men while he was leaving a convenience store. One of the men pointed a gun at the victim and took his cellphone. Five days after the attack, the victim went to the police station. Detectives showed him pictures of several suspects, including the defendant, but the victim could not identify his attackers. He was then shown surveillance video from a nearby store and identified his attacker.

Allegedly, the victim then advised that he could identify his attacker in the pictures he was shown earlier but declined to do so out of fear of retaliation. He identified the defendant, and after an investigation, the defendant was charged with robbery, conspiracy, and unlawful possession of a weapon. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed on several grounds, including the assertion that the police used inappropriately suggestive methods to obtain the victim’s identification of the defendant.

Admissibility of Out of Court Identification

Under New Jersey law, there is a four-part test for determining the admissibility of an out of court identification. First, to obtain a hearing on the issue, the defendant must produce some evidence of suggestiveness that could have led to an incorrect identification. Generally, the evidence must be tied to a system variable. If a court finds that the defendant has met the burden of proving a hearing should be held, the State then has to offer proof that the eyewitness identification in question is reliable, accounting for variables with regards to systems and estimators.

If the court finds that the defendant’s allegations of suggestiveness are baseless, it can end the hearing at any time. The defendant ultimately bears the burden of proving that it is substantially likely that an irreparable misidentification has occurred. If this burden is met, the court should suppress the identification evidence. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant failed to demonstrate that a hearing was warranted. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with an Experienced New Jersey Attorney

Simply because the State has evidence that suggests a person committed robbery or another crime does not mean it will be able to obtain a conviction. If you are accused of a criminal offense, the experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue a successful result considering the facts of your case. We can be reached through the online form or at 877-450-8301 to set up a conference.

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