Criminal Law – Identification

After an arrest where identification is in question, whether of an adult or a juvenile, it is important to test the reliability of the procedure that the police used. This is done at a hearing held before the trial. The hearing court can suppress a suggestive police-arranged procedure.

A new trial was ordered by the appeals court in a recent Queens County case because of an unduly suggestive show-up.

In People v. Haskins, the defendant and others were standing in front of a store near the location of a knife-point robbery. The police patted them down but found no weapons. However, the police did find the victim’s wallet on one of the individuals.

One of the officers held the wallet and walked over to the victim who identified his wallet. The officer then asked him if he recognized any of the suspects. The victim then identified all of the suspects. At trial, this identification was allowed into evidence.

The appeals court held that this identification procedure was unduly suggestive and should have been suppressed. Since this was a one-witness identification case, the error was held to be not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.