If you have been following our blog series, you know that we are trying to use our years of experience to help you find the best counsel and treatment possible for the issues that brought you into the legal system. This post may be the only controversial one of the series.
Should you take a polygraph test?
When most people think of a polygraph, they think about something they saw on TV or a lie detector. The polygraph is not a lie detector but a device that measures physiological responses. It is often not admissible in criminal court (though it is in some places and can be used for probation violations). So why am I even talking about it?
Despite it’s issues, the polygraph is routinely used in the treatment of sexual offenders and is considered a standard of practice. So even if you don’t do a polygraph pre-trial, you will while you are on probation. While on probation it is used as a therapeutic “tool” to assess whether the person on probation is following rules and regulations of probation and/or keeping any secrets from treatment and probation. It is a measure used to gather information.
Again, why on earth am I talking about you possibly taking a polygraph examination before you go to court? Just like it is used as a tool after adjudication, we can use it as a tool prior to sentencing. In our geographic area, the FBI likes to ask people they are investigating (often within hours of knocking on your door in the wee hours of the morning) to voluntarily consent to a polygraph test. What are they looking for by doing this? They are seeking any evidence that you may be a mixed offender. A mixed offender is someone who is being investigated or arrested for a cybersex crime that ALSO has committed a hands-on sexual offense in their lifetime. It will come as no surprise that many people to take this polygraph test right away don’t do very well. There are many reasons for that, anxiety, fear and absolutely no preparation.
As someone being investigated for a sex crime, why might it be helpful to you to do a polygraph? Honestly, for the same reasons that the FBI does them. Research now tells us that the assumption that people who look at child pornography must also be contact offenders is false. However, it is hard for a court or an evaluator to just take someone’s word for it. Though it is not admissible in court, if you take and pass a sexual history polygraph and have no history of contact offending, this has a favorable effect on your risk of recidivism.
Guidelines for taking a polygraph before sentencing
- Make sure your attorney is on board with this decision. As with an evaluation, you can do this through your attorney so if you don’t have a favorable result from a polygraph it will be protected under attorney client privilege.
- Find a polygrapher who is trained, accredited and familiar with working with sexual offenders and giving sexual history polygraphs. You want to take a Sexual History Polygraph.
- Do your homework. This means that you and your therapist need to spend a great deal of time going through your sexual history with a fine-tooth comb. This takes time. People often have trouble on polygraph tests because they don’t really go through their history. Work through your sexual history from the first time you kissed someone through the moment you are ready to take the polygraph.
- BE HONEST. It is best to be honest and pass than to keep and hold your secrets and have a deception indicated. Also remember, that though this may be a tool to help you in sentence mitigation, it is ultimately about you getting honest with yourself to help your treatment and growth into a better human!
Shame lives in secrecy. If there are no more secrets you can start to work on shame reduction. This means that the value of the polygraph can be something more than just another measure your attorney or psychosexual evaluator can use in sentence mitigation.
Dr. Jennifer Weeks is the owner of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services. She specializes in the treatment of sexual offenders and cybersex offenders. Through her program she provides psychosexual evaluations, treatment and expert witness testimony. SATS also offers coaching services for those people who are being investigated but are not in Pennsylvania.