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New Jersey Supreme Court Upholds Use of “Lie Detector” Tests for Paroled Sex Offenders

Polygraph tests, popularly known as “lie detector” tests, cannot be used as evidence to prove that someone committed a crime. In New Jersey, however, they can be used to test whether or not a paroled sex offender has been violating the terms of their release.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled recently that the state Parole Board can continue to require paroled individuals to submit to lie detector tests. The Parole Board is required to tell test-takers that the results cannot be used against them to prosecute additional criminal charges. The Court also held that test-takers cannot be required to say anything that might incriminate them or link them to illegal activities.

The Supreme Court also agreed with an Appellate Division ruling that polygraph results can be used only as the basis for more investigation into a parolee’s activities—not as the basis of imprisonment or other restrictions. In so doing, the Supreme Court sought to strike a balance between the use of the polygraph tests and the Fifth Amendment rights of the parolees required to take the tests.

However, the New Jersey Supreme Court did not require the Parole Board to allow parolees to have their attorneys present when they took the test. The Court held that taking a lie detector test is not the same thing as being under arrest, and that the test-taker could not be charged with a crime unless he or she voluntarily confessed.

The Court found that the polygraph tests were often “therapeutic” in nature, and that in some cases, they also helped put parolee’s Internet browsing and other daily routines into context. Polygraph tests have, however, been found to be too unreliable and unscientific to be used as evidence in criminal trials.

New Jersey is not the first state to require individuals paroled in sex-related cases to take lie detector tests, according to the Supreme Court. Several other state and federal courts have found the practice constitutional, as has New Jersey’s own Appellate Division.

If you’ve been accused or charged with a crime in New Jersey, contact criminal defense attorney William J. Connelly, III. Our office works to defend our clients’ legal rights throughout the criminal trial process.