According a recent story in the Washington Times, three masked men walked up to a car in Northwest Washington, DC yelling trick or treat. While the car was stopped a traffic light, the men allegedly grabbed the driver's shirt and tried to pull him out of the car. The driver managed to drive away unharmed. The three suspects are said to have fled the scene and are being sought by the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles robbery charges, I want to discuss how a key issue in a case like this is often the way in which the police identify a suspect. Assuming the police were able to get a lead on the men who are alleged to have done this (and this is only a hypothetical), they would need the victim to make an identification of the suspects if they want to have a decent case in court. The proper way to do this might be to take a series of photos and include the defendant's photo in a photo array. Usually it is six pictures of people who are supposed to look similar and one of them is the suspect. They should preserve the photo array or "six pack" so the defense attorney can see it later. They should never put more than one suspect in the same photo array, and they should not have any pictures that obviously look like mug shots. It should be a neutral setting.
Another thing the police could do to identify a suspect would be to put them a line-up. The line-up should also be composed of people who are similar in height, weight, and complexion to the suspect, and there should not be more than one suspect in one line-up. The police should also take care to assure that the victim or witness does not see the suspect wearing handcuffs or being escorted by police because this is considered suggestive and could taint the indication.
The most unreliable thing that police could do is a "show-up" identification. This is where the police take the suspect in handcuffs and bring (drag) him to the victim who is usually hidden behind a tinted window or window blinds and the victim is asked if this is the guy who robbed him. This could not possibly be more suggestive. The police often do this claiming that it was an emergency and there was not time to set up a proper line-up. Your DC defense attorney should file a motion to suppress the identification. As I have discussed in other posts in this blog, a successful motion to suppress evidence can make a major difference in a criminal case and can also increase the chance of the defendant winning the case.
In Washington, DC, robbery charges carry a potential penalty of 2 to 30 years in prison depending on the defendant' prior criminal history and whether a gun or other weapon was used during the crime. Obviously, robbery while armed is considered a more serious felony than unarmed robbery.