"Show-Up" Identifications:
Nearly Always a Bad Idea

August 20, 1999

There appears to be a recent increase in police officers conducting "show-up" identifications of crime suspects, not only in our jurisdiction, but everywhere. "Show-ups" usually occur when a suspect is located and arrested soon after the crime, and witnesses are brought immediately to the suspect's location to make an identification. Some officers may not be familiar with the case law surrounding such procedures. Others may think that this procedure is harmless. It is not.

In State v. Martin (1998) 1, the Montgomery County Court of Appeals upheld the suppression of eyewitness identification testimony because the witness had made a quick "show-up" identification of the defendant immediately after a robbery. Citing an earlier decision of the United States Supreme Court 2, the appellate court held that a "show-up identification procedure, as opposed to a well-conducted lineup identification procedure, is inherently suggestive." 3 The eyewitness was not allowed to identify the defendant at trial.

Although "show-ups" are quick and convenient, particulary when officers are seeking probable cause to make an immediate arrest, they can create major problems at trial. We strongly recommend that they be avoided.

1 127 Ohio App. 3d 272.
2 Neil v. Biggers (1972), 409 U.S. 188.
3 State v. Martin, 127 Ohio App. 3d at 275.
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