The Meaning of Witness Identification

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Witness Identification is one of the most important pivotal issues when it comes to the criminal justice system as they help solve serious crime cases. Any slight mistake or error can cause wrongful analysis and conviction as the issues is a leading matter during the process. Therefore in this document, analysis is done to discover the problems arising from this matter and the suggestions of how the problems can be solved (Thomas, 2017).


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The memory of human beings is almost all the time viewed as static, which in sometimes this is wrong as in reality the memories are not often fixed when it comes to experiences that are perceptual. This is in fact true as studies done by the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 show that memories may gradually start to become distorted and slowly degrade especially when later, when they are needed to be remembered or when they are at first established. Over time, in order to accommodate new data and information, these same memories could start to evolve also. An individual sooner or later may not realize that changes have happened to his or her memories. This could bring issues in witness identification as such issues could lead errors like wrong convictions and wrong analysis or the entire case (James, 2012).

There is the issue of environmental factors; when an alleged crime is witnessed by an individual, there could exist certain conditions or factors that are ambient which could hinder the individual from remembering the exact events of the situation and perceiving them accurately. For example, if the individual is influenced by factors such as poor lighting or even influenced by the distance or in case the perpetrator disguised him or herself buy se of mask or a wig, the reliability of the recollection and eventually the identification become less and less. The witness may also be under extreme stress during the event of the crime scene or during the identification process. The accuracy of the identification can be affected by the biases of the person and so can factors of stress like for instance, a gun being present during the process (Jefferey, 2012).

Lineup procedures are one of the issues as they could be questionable; just because an individual witnessed a crime situation clearly and is able to accurately recollect it does not necessarily mean that during the identification process will be accurate as well. This is because of the procedures of identification that are managed poorly which leads to errors caused by memory distortion arising from the same unreliable procedures during the identification process. For instance, any form of data or information provided by authorities to the witnesses could potentially cause memory contamination, whether by accident or intentionally and unfortunately, these practices are several and are used widely even in cases involving the most serious cases (Andrew, 2012).

Another serious issue is misinterpretations that occur during trials; identifications done by witnesses during trials can be affected by the way the process is done as it affects the accuracy. For instance, a witness may not display high confidence level of seriousness when the same individual was making the identification but however, the identification presented by the authorities of law enforcement is made as certain. Similarly, an identification done by a witness, that is in fact incorrect, may receive a high certainty level in the event that the authorities provide confirming feedback to the same witness.

Questioning testimonies of witnesses is another serious issue since all their issues that are potential could not be analyzed and weighed accurately especially when supporting crime charges is supported by the evidence. This is in fact very serious and vital as attorney can be consulted for advice and it is a benefit to individuals facing charges that involve witness identification. The witness identification is challenged by the advice or in other situations charge contesting scenarios (Andrew, 2012).


In order to help solve the issue of memory limitations, during the process of witness identification it is important during the criminal lineups to put individuals who resemble the perpetrator that was described by the witness. The brain is a powerful organ in the body when it comes to remembering as much as it prone to gradual memory loss or contamination as this is proven true when during the identification the witness is able to slowly recall the live features on the perpetrator as he or she checks every lined up individual one by one until the witness is completely sure that the selected choice individual is the correct one according to the witness. This is accomplished as the witness is able to surely tell that his or her select choice has the exact description features as the one in his memory recollection (Jefferey, 2012).

To curb the issue of environmental factors that was ambient, during the identification procedure, the witness should be placed in a stress free environment that has no factors that trigger fear, stress or shock such as guns. The identification environment should be friendly, calm and optimum for example placing good lighting for sight for the identification, distance required between the witness and the supposed select perpetrators should be just enough but they should be separated and the perpetrators should not know of the presence of the witness to prevent spark of fear. Crimes done during the use of disguises can be dealt with also by; during the lineup of the suspected perpetrators, all of them should be in the same disguise as this could help the witness to recollect his or her memories properly (James, 2012).

The report done by the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 advices the authorities to stop practices such as the following in order to curb the issue of questionable lineup procedures; 1) Allowing authorities that know suspect identity to perform the lineup. The witnesses may be given cues from those police officers inadvertently which results to selecting the suspect arising from the witness being predisposed by the cues. 2) Claiming that during the line up the perpetrator must be present. The witness should be advised by the authorities that the perpetrator may not be present and that even though the suspect is identified, the investigation will still continue. 3) The lineup procedures should be done without making records of the same; Errors and/or admissions on authorities’ part can be captured by the recording which may influence the witness identification of a suspect and his or her memories (National Research Council, 2014).

During presentation of the evidence, it should go under record the level of confidence displayed by the witness during the identification procedure in order to indicate that further investigation is very important. The witness should also be informed that however the feedback from the authorities is positive and confirming, he or she should not be dissuaded and assume that his or her identification is correct and should be advised to stick to their actual truth. It is imperative to weigh all witness identification issues that are potential as they very crucial to mattes that mainly focus on criminal charges especially the ones used as evidence (Josh, 2015).

It is our nature to report whatever we witness and unsurprisingly, investigations of crime and prosecutions have, for quite a long period of time, depended on witness accounts. Similarly, judges and juries have long depended and embraced reports that are self assured of what was witnessed to help in the area of adjudication. Even though these witness identification play a vital role, just like all other things, they are plagued by issues and problems which often lead to serious consequences but in light of those issues, there exists their own solutions that could help make the criminal justice system better (Tim, 2015).


  1. Thomas, D. (2017). Psychological and Cognitive Sciences: Why Witnesses Fail. 114(30): Pg. 7758–7764.
  2. National Research Council. (2014). Identifying the Culprit: Assessing Eyewitness Identification. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  3. James, M.L. Jefferey, S.N. Andrew, D.C. (2012). The Psychology of Eyewitness Identification. Taylor & Francis.
  4. Tim, V. Josh P.D. (2015). Forensic Facial Identification: Theory and Practice of Identification from Eyewitnesses, Composites and CCTV. John Wiley & Sons.

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