You’ve lived in California for several years and never had a run-in with the law. Now, you find yourself facing criminal charges. Law enforcement claims that you were at the scene and committed the offense in question.
Later, it turns out that an eyewitness has managed to identify you and witnessed the alleged offense take place. How reliable is this as a source of evidence? Could they have made a mistake?
Human memory is fallible
Human memory is a fascinating area of study. Some people claim to have photographic memories, which means they can recall events exactly as they occurred. The science behind this phenomenon is limited though, and it is unlikely that a witness in your case recalls things in this way.
The much likelier option is that they have recreated the scene based on external factors. If a lot of time has passed, they might have read about the case in the newspaper or listened to gossip at their local convenience store. Their intentions may be pure, as they want someone to face justice for the crime that was committed. This doesn’t mean that you are the right person though, or that their recollections are true. The human memory is fallible, especially in criminal cases and after an extended period of time.
Law enforcement is not always honorable
Most of the time, the police do a tremendous job of preventing crime and solving cases. This is not always the case though. Law enforcement is under pressure to achieve targets, and they may have you in their crosshairs. Confirmation bias means that officers can sway more towards nailing a suspect than uncovering the truth. If you have been identified as a suspect, officers may try and steer witnesses towards identifying you, even when they are not sure. Witnesses should never be manipulated, even in a subtle manner.
It is up to the prosecution to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. They must be completely honest in their efforts. Having strong legal guidance behind you will help to pick apart any holes in the case against you.