Law Enforcement Bulletin

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > January 2014 > Proper Protocol (Photo Arrays): State of Ohio v. Hudson

Law Enforcement Bulletin RSS feeds

Proper Protocol (Photo Arrays): State of Ohio v. Hudson

Question: Is a photo array unduly suggestive if all of those pictured do not look similar to the suspect?
Quick Answer: No. Photo arrays are not required to contain photos of people who look identical to the suspect, but should be based on the description given by the witness.

State of Ohio v. Hudson, Seventh Appellate District, Mahoning County, Dec. 9, 2013
Facts: “M,” a 14-year-old girl, was kidnapped while walking to school at knife point. She was taken to an abandoned house and raped by an individual described as an older black man between 40 and 50, possibly with facial hair, who had a distinctive walk. The investigating officer compiled a photographic array using images from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The investigators believed that M had difficulty accurately gauging the age of older men and so included older and younger men. The investigator included Charles Hudson’s image because of M’s description of a distinctive walk, and M identified Hudson as the man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted her. After identifying Hudson in the photo array, M began to cry, but was able to confirm when asked that she was sure he was her assailant. Hudson filed a motion to suppress, arguing the results of the photo array were unduly suggestive because the investigator included individuals outside of M’s description and that he was the only individual who appeared close to 60 and had gray hair.
Importance: While the Constitution prohibits lineups that are unduly suggestive, it does not require that all of the subjects be nearly identical to the suspect. In this case, age was just one factor given by M. The court also found that this lineup was not suggestive because the reasons why Hudson’s photo was selected (distinctive walk, prior criminal history, and local suspect) were not evident to M when she looked at the photo array.
Keep in Mind: If a lineup is unduly suggestive, the identification may still be reliable. Many factors will be considered to determine reliability, including the personal observations of the witness, the accuracy and consistency of the description of the suspect, the certainty of the witness with the identification, and the length of time between the crime and identification.