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Are lie detector tests reliable or not?

The polygraph machine has been around since the early part of the last century. Despite early claims about how the so-called lie detector could use physiological measurements of a subject to determine if he or she is lying, results have always been questionable. The result is that using results as evidence has faced an uphill climb in the court.

Many people in New Jersey may be under the impression that because of the sketchy history, lie detector results are inadmissible against a person facing criminal charges – be they sex crime charges or something else. However, that is not an accurate take on the issue.

The fact is that the Supreme Court decided in 1993 that judges have a certain amount of discretion on whether use of detectors and the information they provide have value in proving a case. In addition, a New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that state use polygraph tests as part of the post-prison monitoring of sex offenders.

The decision reflects a rejection of a claim by a group of convicted offenders. The five individuals had argued that subjection to the tests as part of lifetime supervision called for by their sentences was tantamount to illegal interrogation. They cited the fact that subjects weren't allowed to have an attorney present during the questioning, informed of their rights against self-incrimination and faced punishment if they refused to answer invasive questions.

The court disagreed and said probation officials could employ polygraphs. The judges did specify, however, that special steps be taken to protect subjects against self-incrimination. The panel also said the test couldn't be used to restrict the lives of the individuals. Unhappy with the appellate level ruling, the five plaintiffs say they will seek to take the matter to the state Supreme Court.

What's clear is that the prospect of ongoing penalties long after prison time is served makes putting up a strong defense against sex crime charges important from the outset.

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