Cases of mistaken identity are common. How many times in your life have you thought that you saw someone you knew, only to find that they were not the person that you thought? While these interactions are usually harmless, the Newark New Jersey police’s case of mistaken identity certainly wasn’t. On August 11, 2016, Newark police showed up with their firearms drawn and aimed at a robbery suspect. However, in this case, their suspect was not the right person and was in fact a ten-year-old boy.  The middle school student who thought he was in trouble for crossing the street without looking both ways stood stunned as police cornered him in an alley with guns drawn, thinking that they had cornered their suspect who was twice the boy’s age.  While the true suspect was shortly apprehended after the police realized that they had the wrong suspect, and the police stated they never drew their weapons, a traumatized child and mother took to social media to vent their frustrations.

They boy’s mother also took to social media and unleashed a scathing review of the entire situation, citing that her pre-teen son was now traumatized by the encounter and that he had to seek counseling to deal with the ordeal.

Unfortunately, cases of police mistaken identity are common, and there have been thousands of cases of the police, not only arresting and charging the wrong suspect, but also the court sending innocent people to jail for crimes they did not commit.

Reasons for Police Arresting the Wrong Person

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The American Civil Liberties Union has drawn public concern to police officers arresting the wrong person. The ACLU is trying to draw attention to what they call a widespread practice of reckless and sloppy police investigation, and overzealous police officers eager to make an arrest. These issues raise serious concerns for citizens and members of the legal community, as the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the police from making an arrest without probable cause.

  • Incentivized informants – In many cases where there are multiple suspects, the police and prosecutors will make “deals” with one of the accused – often offering them some form of judicial immunity if they help testify against another party. However, the problem with these tactics is that the investigators and prosecutors will often take the informant’s confession or identification on its face, and are only using their confession as a mere pretext.
  • Eyewitness misidentification – There has been several notable reports all arguing that eyewitness identification if largely inaccurate, and there have been demonstrated studies that have sharply questioned how competent and credible people are at making eyewitness identifications. Police will often rely on people on the scene to make an identification, which can lead the police to arrest the wrong person.
  • Government misconduct – The government, including the police, must follow certain procedural rules when they are conducting a search for a suspect. However, in certain cases, the police may ignore these rules, that when followed would have prevented an improper arrest.
  • Computer errors – Often police will rely on information they receive from their computer systems when they are making an arrest, however, the problem is that there have been many cases where a small spelling error has lead to the wrong person being accused and arrested for a crime.

Unfortunately, there have been many cases where the police have not only accused the wrong person but have to arrest them. This recent case shows that not only is this problem common, but it can leave those who were falsely accused with deep emotional trauma.

Let an Attorney Help You Handle the Consequences of Criminal Charges in New Jersey

When you face serious criminal charges in New Jersey you not only face formal consequences and penalties, but also the informal consequences associated with a criminal conviction. Remember anytime you have been arrested by the police you have certain Constitutional rights, specifically, the right to an attorney.  If you have been arrested don’t wait to speak to an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney immediately. We offer free and confidential initial consultations. If you are seeking aggressive and strategic criminal defense representation, call us at (609) 616-4956.