If you’re a defendant in a case, your attorneys will meet with the presiding judge to iron out the details before you go to court. This pre-trial phase occurs in both civil and criminal proceedings, giving the defendant a chance to negotiate a satisfactory outcome to the matter without going to court.
The polygraph may play a role in civil and criminal matters involving pre-trial conferences. For instance, in a divorce case, the polygraph could be used to prove marital fidelity. Or in criminal cases, the lie detector test could serve as a means to support the defendant’s claim that they didn’t commit the crime they’re charged with.
The polygraph can only occur if the party is willing to do so and requests it. A private polygraph examiner conducts these pre-trial polygraph tests. In a criminal case, the examiner will conduct the polygraph and ask the defendant questions relating to their involvement in the crime.
If the defendant shows no deception during the exam and it supports their statement of events, the attorney can present the polygraph results to the presiding judge. The judge can use these results and other supporting evidence as grounds to dismiss the case.
While the lie detector test results are useful in pre-trial, many states do not permit them as admissible evidence if the case goes to trial. However, some states will allow for the admissibility of polygraph results if the defense attorney and prosecutor agree to admit them into evidence. The polygraph results will have to corroborate other evidence in the case to do so.
There are three instances where requesting a private polygraph exam may benefit your case strategy.
- When attempting to get a charge dismissed by the judge in the pre-trial phase.
- To persuade a prosecutor into agreeing to have the state process a follow-up lie detector test.
- To plead no contest to the charges or enter a plea agreement.
Undergoing a professional, independent polygraph during the pre-trial phase may mitigate the stress involved with going to trial for both parties involved in the case. If the examinee passes the lie detector, it lessens the doubt of an inaccurate testimony for witnesses and victims involved in the proceedings.
In several instances, attorneys can request polygraph tests for their clients in criminal cases. Some of these include the following.
- Pre-trial negotiations.
- Verification of witness and victim statements.
- Sentencing and plea bargaining.
- In the monitoring and treatment of sex offenders.
The police services also find the application of polygraph exams useful. Lie detector results can provide guidance on whether to charge an individual in parole interviews and during internal investigations involving officer misconduct.
The polygraph serves a vital role in law enforcement applications and pre-trial phases where they resolve issues preventing the need to go to trial. As a result, the state saves on resource allocation, benefiting the parties involved and the taxpayer.
What States Allow Polygraph Results as Admissible Evidence in Court?
Can you use the results in court if you take a pre-trial polygraph? As mentioned, most states don’t allow for the admissibility of polygraph results as evidence in a jury trial. It’s important to note that a polygraph should not defer the defendant’s right to a trial.
According to the United States Supreme Court, the question of admissibility regarding polygraph results relies on the individual jurisdictions’ decision. Some court districts may permit the admission of polygraph evidence in specific proceedings or when the parties agree to its admissibility in hearings.
Across America, 28, including Pennsylvania, forbid the admission of lie detector results as evidence in court proceedings. 18 states, including New Jersey, limit the admissibility of polygraph test results in court proceedings to cases where both parties agree to it.
However, the stipulation in admitting the test results as evidence would likely not occur due to the outcome of the test impeding either the defense or prosecution’s case in court. The defense and prosecution must enter into the agreement with full knowledge of the consequences involved and the right to refuse the admissibility of the polygraph results as evidence.
If the parties agree to the polygraph exam, it must occur through a qualified, certified, independent polygraph examiner with no bias to either party involved in the case. The examiner must conduct the test using standardized polygraph techniques.
The states that might sometimes allow for the admission of polygraph results in criminal cases include the following.
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
Every jurisdiction must be assessed to determine the standards of admissibility. Some courts will permit the introduction of polygraph results as evidence, while others won’t. The defendant’s attorney will make the inquiry and negotiate in situations where polygraph results may be permissible as evidence in court.
However, it’s more common for the polygraph to feature in the pre-trial phase rather than the trial itself. For instance, in the civil trial of O.J. Simpson, polygraph results were admitted into evidence. This action resulted in establishing a new precedent across America regarding the permissibility of polygraph exam results in civil trials, such as those involving divorces.
When Can I Use a Pre-Trial Polygraph?
There are several instances where it may benefit the defendant to request a pre-trial polygraph. While it’s not always to prove innocence, taking a lie detector can assist with minimizing sentencing or convincing the state to negotiate a plea bargain. Let’s look at some of the reasons why you should request a polygraph exam during the pre-trial phase.
Can I Take a Polygraph to Avoid or Reduce Charges Against Me?
If you want the prosecuting attorney to drop or reduce charges in your case, you’ll need to agree to take the lie detector test early in the proceedings. Typically, the polygraph is taken before the authorities file charges or during the pre-trial phase.
If you take the polygraph and it indicates no deception, i.e., you’re telling the truth, your attorney may approach the prosecutor and show them the test results to prove your factual innocence in the matter. If the prosecutor finds the results compelling, they may decide to withdraw the case against you and dismiss all charges.
In most instances, prosecutors will take this route because they don’t want to pursue charges against someone innocent of a crime. Sometimes, the prosecutor may not be convinced that the lie detector results prove your innocence. Still, they may decide to reduce the severity and number of charges against you.
Can I Take a Pre-Trial Polygraph to Convince the Prosecutor?
The pre-trial polygraph exam can influence the prosecutor’s decision to drop the charges, or they might not believe the lie detector test results and continue with the case against you without altering the charges.
In this occurrence, the defense attorney would reapproach the prosecutor and ask for their office to conduct a second polygraph exam to substantiate the results of the first lie detector test.
In some instances, the prosecutor may change their opinion if their office conducts the test. They may have access to a polygraph examiner they trust more than an independent professional.
Suppose the state polygraph examiner concurs with the original results, agreeing you’re innocent of the charges. In that case, there’s a chance that the prosecutor may consider these findings with more clarity and weight, dismissing the case or reducing the severity of charges.
Can I Take a Polygraph to Negotiate a Plea Bargain?
There are instances where the defendant may undertake the polygraph but fail the lie detector test. The results imply that the defendant is guilty of the crime, giving them the opportunity to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor’s office.
As a result, the defendant may plead no contest or guilty to the crime to receive a reduced charge and a lesser sentence from the court. This strategy may prevent the need to go to trial, or it might prevent the defendant from being found guilty on other, more severe, charges.
What Happens If I Fail a Pre-Trial Polygraph?
If the defendant agrees to the pre-trail polygraph and fails the results of the lie detector test, the attorney or examiner doesn’t have to submit the results to the police of the prosecutor’s office. The defense attorney can carry on with their case preparations as if the polygraph exam never occurred.
The examiner is not obligated to step forward and present the test results to the authorities or the prosecutor. This is why the pre-trial lie detector test is often referred to as a “private” polygraph. In some cases, the courts can order a private polygraph exam in a criminal case.
According to the law, the results of a private polygraph exam may only be admitted into evidence if both the defense attorney and prosecutor agree on it.
Do Pre-Trial Polygraph Results Count as Admissible Evidence in Court?
According to the law, polygraph exam results may only be introduced into evidence if they meet specific criteria. The prosecutor and the defense attorney must agree on the admissibility of the test results to have them presented as evidence during the trial.
The same rules apply to the following information regarding the polygraph exam results and the following information.
- The polygraph examiners’ opinion of the test results and their thoughts surrounding the defendant’s deception or honesty.
- The fact that the defendant or a witness involved in the case offered to take a polygraph of their own free will to prove their innocence or testimony.
- The fact that the defendant in the trial, or a witness, refused to take the polygraph exam, or if they produced a failed result during the lie detector test.
- Or the fact that the defendant or a witness in the case submitted to, or requested, a polygraph exam.
Can I Take a Pre-Trail Polygraph if I’m In Prison?
The defendant can request a lie detector test from jail. However, in this scenario, the defense attorney would need to obtain a court order for the polygraph exam. They would also need to work with the county jail or state prison to organize and orchestrate the private polygraph test in a suitable venue within the institution.
The attorney would need to arrange for an independent polygraph company to appoint an examiner to conduct the test and qualify its results. The costs of the private polygraph exam would go to the defendant, and the prosecuting authority would only have to incur costs if they want their office to conduct the test using a polygraph examiner from their team.
Can Attorneys Present Polygraph Results as Exculpatory Evidence?
Unfortunately, defendants in criminal cases don’t have a constitutional right to present the results of a polygraph exam as exculpatory evidence in a trial or during a pre-trial negotiation. There are two things to note about polygraph results counting as exculpatory evidence.
The first is that exculpatory evidence clears the defendant of any guilt regarding the charges brought against them. The second is that the US Constitution states that the defendant has the right to present a defense to the prosecutor and the court.
However, despite the above terms, the United States Supreme Court ruled that defendants have no constitutional right to introduce polygraph results as evidence in trials.
Why Do Courts Not Permit Polygraph Results as Evidence During Trials?
This ruling from the Supreme Court denying the defendant to admit polygraph results in trials remains in place even if the polygraph exam presents results suggesting the defendant is not guilty of the crime. The reason for establishing this rule is that the court views polygraph results as unreliable, and there is room for error.
However, it’s important to note that this ruling was traced back to the case of Frye Vs. the United States in 1923. The District Columbia Court rejected polygraph results as admissible evidence in court. Interestingly, polygraph technology has progressed significantly in the last century. Yet, the court refuses to budge on its stance against using lie detector test results as trial evidence.