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Are Lie Detector Test Results Admissible In Court?

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Wouldn’t our justice system be so much easier if everyone just took a lie detector test in the courtroom and the Judge found you guilty or not guilty based on the results?  Our question today:

Are polygraph Results Admissible in Court?

Lie detector tests don’t really tell us when you are lying directly.  Instead you are asked questions and the machine measures your biological responses to the questions – such as breathing and heart rate.

Did you eat the last piece of pie?  Do I look fat in these jeans?  Where were you on the night of December 31, 1999? 

In our Courts the Judges are the gatekeepers of what evidence is given to the jury and the general test for scientific evidence is what is called the Daubert test = named after the case it came from involving a guy named Daubert.  An attorney can’t hire a mind reader from the circus and present him or her in Court to say his client is telling the truth and the Judge will not allow him to testify (although THAT is something I’d love to see).

The Daubert test asks whether the polygraph evidence applies “reliable principles and methods” and there is our issue.  Although polygraph pros will tell you there is a 90% reliability rate – no one really knows.

And no one really knows because it depends on what you are trying to find out.  If you ask someone if they “would ever shoot their husband” – the answer is “no” unless he was physically harming her children or failing to put the toilet seat down.  That question leads to problems for the test.  If the question asked is more black and white then the test becomes more reliable.

So, when an attorney presents a Judge with polygraph test evidence, the Judge looks at the test in light of the issues and questions involved in the case and lets it in … or not.  And the answer is “Usually Not.”  Courts generally do not allow polygraph test evidence in absent agreement of both parties. 

The following states are more likely to allow it IN because there is a greater amount of case authority in the past which has allowed it in:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

And there you have it, polygraph tests are generally NOT allowed in as evidence because they just aren’t reliable – Google “how to beat a polygraph” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Jeremy Hogan
Jeremy Hogan
Attorney Jeremy Hogan is a partner at Hogan & Hogan.