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Seeing a weapon changes witness accuracy

When a witness testifies about what happened during a crime or picks a suspect out of a lineup, there are a lot of factors that influence the decisions that they make. One of the biggest factors is whether or not they saw a weapon during the event.

By comparing those who saw weapons to those who did not, researchers found that the people who saw the weapons made more false identifications and fewer correct identifications.

This is often called the weapon focus effect. The general way that it works is fairly simple: A person who sees a weapon spends more time looking at that weapon. They put much less focus on the person holding the weapon. When that person gets arrested, the witness may remember more details about the weapon than the person's face.

If you have been accused of a crime and a witness picked you out as the one who committed it, did the weapon focus effect play a role? Maybe someone who looked like you committed an armed robbery. The person being robbed spent the whole event staring in fear at a gun that person was holding. They never memorized the person's face, and the vague impressions they have led them to think it was you -- when you know that you did no such thing.

False accusations are both frightening and frustrating. It's hard to know why it happens or what you should do. You feel overwhelmed. Don't worry. You do have rights, and you do have legal options. Just take the time to carefully look into what they are.

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An Award-Winning LawyerFirm founder Dustin R.T. Sullivan has been recognized as one of the leading attorneys in North Carolina. His accolades include:

  • Super Lawyer2017 Rising Star in DWI Defense Super Lawyers of North Carolina
  • Superior DUI Attorney 20162016 Superior DUI Attorney ranking for fourth consecutive year by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense
  • Super Lawyer | Dustin R.T. Sullivan | Selected In 20172016 Public Service Award for Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • 10 Best 2017 | Attorney | Client Satisfaction 2015 10 Best Client Satisfaction Award by the American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys
  • NAFLA2015 Top 10 Ranking by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys
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    • 2014 Top 100 Attorneys in North Carolina by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense
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  • StarNews Media | Finalist for Best Attorney2013 Finalist for Best Attorney in Cape Fear region by Wilmington Star News
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