Eyewitness Testimony in Illinois

eyewitness testimony in illinois

Eyewitness Testimony in Illinois

Eyewitness testimony is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that the State can present against someone charged with a crime. Illinois courts have consistently held that a single witness can be sufficient to overcome the presumption of innocence. In fact, eyewitness testimony does not need corroboration by other evidence and the eyewitness testimony doesn’t even need to be unequivocal to be believed by a jury. The only thing required for eyewitness testimony is that the person  giving the testimony must have been in a position to give a positive identification that isn’t vague or doubtful.

Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony

Whether eyewitness testimony is reliable is decided on a case-by-case basis. However, the United States Supreme Court in Neil v. Biggers cited to certain factors that are important when evaluating the reliability of eyewitness testimony. These factors are:

  1. The opportunity the victim had to view the criminal at the time of the crime;
  2. The witness’s degree of attention;
  3. The accuracy of the witness’s prior description of the criminal;
  4. The level of certainty demonstrated by the victim at the identification confrontation;  and
  5. The length of time between the crime and the identification.

The Neil factors are nothing more than a guide and the most important considerations are whether the person giving the eyewitness testimony was in the position to make a correct identification and whether the identification was the result of improper suggestion by the police.


As former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan said, eyewitness testimony is evidence that “juries seem most receptive to, and not inclined to discredit.” However, even though eyewitness testimony is one of the most powerful pieces of evidence in the State’s arsenal, it is also “notoriously unreliable.” The Chicago car accident law firm agrees and abides by this.

An experienced criminal attorney can attack and discredit the eyewitness testimony by establishing that it was unreliable or that it came about as the result of improper police tactics. If you or your family member is charged with a crime, the Chicago criminal defense attorney at Jaleel Law P.C. has the experience to make a difference in your case. We will sit down with you in a free no-obligation consultation where we will discuss your options and tell you how we can attack the eyewitness testimony in your case.