21st April 2022
If you’ve been arrested and you know you’re innocent, you’ll likely be willing to do whatever it takes to prove it – even if that means taking a polygraph, or lie detector test. Whether you’re facing a charge of having committed a financial crime,drug trafficking, a property crime or anything else, you might feel desperate enough to submit.
You have the right to do so, of course. But should you? The answer isn’t as clear-cut as most people assume. You’ll have to consider a lot of different factors before you choose to take a lie detector test. Having an experienced attorney by your side will be a must, because they’ll be able to give you the advice you need to make the best possible decision.
What is a Lie Detector Test and How Does it Work?
You’ve no doubt seen a television or movie actor being strapped to a polygraph machine at one time or another. You might be wondering how this contraption actually works.
In a nutshell, the machine measures your perspiration rate, your breathing rate, your pulse, your blood pressure, and other functions. The machine in itself won’t tell whether you’re lying or not – but the expert who administers the test supposedly will. That person will base their opinion on their interpretation of the readings that machine provides.
The body has certain reactions when someone is lying. Their pulse and perspiration will increase, and their heart will start pounding. At least that’s the theory behind the polygraph. But there’s a huge fallacy behind this assumption. Someone can be completely innocent of a crime, yet be so nervous their body will react in a way that implies they’re not telling the truth. A lot of people show the same signs of anxiety and stress simply because they’re taking a lie detector test in the first place.
Can You Volunteer to Take a Lie Detector Test?
Again, you are well within your legal rights to volunteer to take a lie detector test. It doesn’t matter whether you’re facing a major federal charge or a relatively minor local charge. You might be so certain of your innocence that you’ll welcome the chance to do so.
We’ll cover this more in the next section, but never take a lie detector test administered by a law enforcement officer. Your attorney can help you find an independent examiner who will provide unbiased results. Even if the prosecutor urges you to submit – and you might be willing to do so because it will provide the fastest path to proving your innocence – don’t do it.
Don’t Consent to a Police-Led Polygraph
The police investigating your case may try to convince you to strap yourself to one of their polygraph machines. What might seem like a way to prove you’re innocent could quickly turn into an interrogation. The police may try to agitate and scare you in a way that will guarantee your physical reactions will make it look like you’re lying.
Unless a polygraph is administered by a skilled, trained professional, it won’t have the safeguards in place to ensure the test is as accurate as possible. The accuracy of lie detectors in general is questionable at best. When administered by a non-expert, the results are almost never legitimate.
Some unethical officers will try to force defendant’s to submit to a lie detector test through intimidation. They might say submission is mandatory, and might even resort to threatening an extended jail stay if you refuse. Always remember that’s false – you will never be under any obligation to submit to a polygraph.
Are Lie Detector Tests Used at Trial?
This is a fairly unclear area of the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled way back in 1950 that results of a defendant’s polygraph test were inadmissible in a criminal proceeding. In 1974, a defendant in a case argued that his test should have been admissible, and tried to get the Court to overrule the 1950 ruling. However, the Court refused.
But that doesn’t mean that lie detector test results can never be used in a trial, due to doubts about the scientific reliability of those results. So, in general, the results aren’t admissible. However, if both the defendant and the prosecution agree, then they may be admitted.
It’s important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that lie detector results are questionable, and they have not reached accepted scientific standards. But the Court does not forbid polygraph test results to be used in federal cases.
If you still want to submit to a test – as long as it’s administered by an expert, and the test is taken in the presence of your attorney – there’s a chance the results could actually help your case. Your attorney may be able to show those results to the prosecutor. This could lead to the prosecutor being more amenable to accepting a plea deal, or possibly even dropping the charges completely.
Consult with Your Attorney to Avoid Taking a Lie Detector Test
So, as you can see, the answer to the question of whether or not you should take a lie detector test has a lot of gray areas. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive right or wrong answer – with the exception of taking a police-administered lie detector test. In that case, there is a right answer – and it’s never to agree to do it.
The best chance you’ll have of making the best decision will be to speak with an attorney. At Sand Law, we will always make sure your rights are protected at all times. If we feel it will be in your interests to submit, we’ll recommend you do so. If not, we’ll recommend that you avoid submitting to a polygraph.