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Justice Department Announces Department-Wide Procedures for Eyewitness Identification

Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates announced today that the Justice Department is issuing, for the first time, department-wide procedures on eyewitness identification, which will apply to agents at FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the U.S. Marshals Service, and which will guide federal prosecutors when deciding whether to charge a case involving an eyewitness identification. The new procedures were outlined in a memo from Yates to the heads of the department’s law enforcement agencies. The procedures address the use of “photo arrays,” the most common methods used by law enforcement to determine whether a witness can identify the perpetrator of a crime, and are designed to ensure that law enforcement personnel do not suggest to a witness, even unintentionally, that they know which photograph contains the image of the suspect.

“Eyewitness identifications play an important role in our criminal justic