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New Procedures for Police Line-Ups in California

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Oct 02, 2020

New Procedures for Photo Line-Ups and Live Line-Ups Under California Penal Code Section 859.7

For the last 26 years now, I've had to deal with photo line-ups and live line-ups for purposes of identification in criminal cases.

A lot of these procedures have been done in an improper manner which as influenced the potential witness in a case to identify my client or other clients related to cases that I've defended in Los Angeles county.

They have now come up with new procedures pursuant to Penal Code Section 859.7.  Now the detective and the prosecutors, if they're involved at the stage where the identification is being done, have to do certain things in order to have a successful witness identification.

Police Can't Inform Witness If They Picked Right Suspect

New Procedures for Photo Line-Ups in California
Under new rules for live line-ups, police can't tell that witness if they picked the right or wrong suspect.

It's still not clear exactly what happens if they don't do these things, but I believe that the defense could challenge the identification if they do not do what they're supposed to according to Penal Code Section 859(b).

Basically, a list of things are there if you look at the section, but it has to do with, for example, the witness identifies the person that the law enforcement thinks is the perpetrator of a crime.

Law enforcement is not allowed to tell that person, that's the right person, or they can't tell them that's the wrong person.  They don't need to tell them anything.  They do the identification and that's it.

Told Suspect Might Not Be in Live Line-Up

There's also a list of things that the prosecutors have to read to a potential identifying witness.  One of which is that the person may not be in the live line-up or the photographic line-up.

Usually, it's going to be the police reading this because the prosecutors don't typically get involved in the stage where there's a line-up.  It's typically the police that are doing this, and this is a decision that needs to be made early in the case.

These procedures in Penal Code Section of 859.7 do not apply to a field show-up.

For example, where they've caught somebody close in time to the crime, they bring the alleged victim or witnesses to the scene where that person is and they see if the person can identify the individual out in the field that was responsible for the crime.

These procedures have to do with when they get their witness in the police station and they want to show them a photo line-up of six people and they put the defendant in one of the positions.

They have to do a whole host of different things.

Blind Viewing

Another thing that comes up in this Code Section is, they have to do a blind viewing, meaning the person that is administering the photo line-up can't know who the person is who they think the perpetrator of the crime.

Police Live Line-Ups in California
Now, the person giving the line-up can't know who police believe is the right suspect.

This is because I've had a lot of cases where witnesses have told me the investigators have put their finger near the witnesses picture or signal somehow that that was the actual perpetrator of the crime.

So, there's a lot of things that happen inappropriately when it comes to these photographic line-ups and live line-ups, so that's why they've had to put these procedures in place.

So, if you or a loved one is charge with a crime and part of the identification is a photo line-up or a live line-up, obviously you want to get an attorney in there to challenge that.

If you're innocent of the crime, you want to make sure that your attorney cross-examines the police regarding what procedures they've used in the line-up in order to make the identification.  I've seen all kinds of inappropriate things done by the police.

Now at least there are some hard and fast rules that can be used to challenge the police when it comes to criminal cases in Los Angeles eyewitness identification by way of a line live-up or by way of a photographic line-up.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.