The law allows citizens the right not to incriminate themselves whether they have information that may do so or not. However, lineups and showups area form tools used by the prosecution to gather evidence against an accused person. Requiring one to stand in front of a commoner, posing as a suspected criminal waiting to be identified is a form of self-incrimination on its own. More so since it is a fact that has been observed over the years that eyewitness identification is one of the major perpetrators of miscarriage of justice.
As much as one has the right to avoid self-incrimination, the government rules out lineups and showups as a form of violation of this right. It views lineups and showups as simply part of a procedure that the prosecution is entitled to in the quest to gather evidence. The lineup is placed in the same category as scientific analysis of the suspect’s blood samples, hair, and clothing among others. Lineups are therefore, not considered a way of incriminating oneself.
The fact that challenges me is a violation of the Sixth Amendment right with regard to the lineups and showups. The law clearly requires the presence of counsel at all crucial stages of an ongoing criminal case, a lineup inclusive, should it pose a threat to the defendant’s case. Regardless, the government states that it is not necessary for a lawyer to be present during a lineup as it is merely a procedure in pursuit of evidence. A lineup is not considered to be a critical stage as the presence of counsel is least likely to affect the process of the lineup. The Framers of the Bill of Rights envisaged a broader role for counsel than under the practice then prevailing in England of merely advising his client in ‘matters of law’ (Justice Brennan, Part II).
In my opinion, there is much needed clarity in matters to do with lineups and showups as to whether it violates the fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination or not.
Stern, S. & Wermiel, S. (2010). Justice Brennan: Liberal champion. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.