The live presentation of a criminal suspect to a victim or witness of a crime.
A show-up usually occurs immediately or shortly after a crime has occurred. If law enforcement personnel see a person who they suspect is the perpetrator of a very recent crime, the officers may apprehend the suspect and bring him back to the scene of the crime and show him to witnesses, or the officers may take the suspect to a police station and bring the witnesses to the station. This method of identification of a criminal suspect is a legitimate tool of law enforcement and is encumbered by few judicial restraints.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an unnecessarily suggestive identification procedure is a violation of due process (Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 87 S. Ct. 1967, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1199 ). Evidence from such an identification should be excluded from a trial of the suspect. A show-up is inherently suggestive because police generally do not present to a witness a person who they believe is innocent of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, show-ups do not violate due process if they are conducted near the scene of the crime and shortly after the crime was committed.
Show-ups are a valuable and practical tool in apprehending criminals. If a witness affirmatively identifies a suspect as the perpetrator of a crime, police can detain the suspect without delay to serve the interests of public safety. If a witness fails to identify the subject of a show-up as the perpetrator, the show-up will result in the quick release of the innocent suspect and allow police to redirect their efforts.
A show-up should be conducted shortly after a crime has been committed. If police do not apprehend a suspect until the next day, or several days or weeks afterward, they will have time to conduct a traditional, in-person lineup. One exception is when a traditional lineup is impractical. For example, if the sole witness to a crime is bedridden and approaching death, police may bring the suspect to the victim even if the crime occurred several days before the show-up (Stovall).
A show-up should not be performed for a witness unless the witness has displayed an ability to make a clear identification of the perpetrator of the crime. A show-up for a witness who cannot cite any identifying characteristics of the perpetrator may be unnecessarily suggestive and may be excluded from a subsequent trial of the suspect.
Because a show-up generally involves detention of a criminal suspect, police must have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect committed a crime before subjecting the suspect to a show-up. This is a low level of certainty and need only be supported by enough articulable facts to lead a reasonable officer to believe that the suspect may have committed a crime.