Law enforcement officials will sometimes request that a person under investigation submit to a polygraph. This frequently comes up in cases where a child or infant has suffered injuries under what the law enforcement officers find to be suspicious circumstances. Many people are afraid to refuse the request to submit to a polygraph thinking that if they do, it will make them look bad or make it appear that they have something to hide. The truth is that you should never submit to a polygraph examination at the request of law enforcement. The polygraph is just a technique used by law enforcement to interrogate someone. It can only hurt you. Here’s why.
Polygraphs are not admissible as evidence. If you submit to a polygraph and the results are helpful to you, the polygraph will not come into evidence. The police and prosecutors will attach very little importance to it. They will ignore the result and say that guilty people can pass a polygraph. You can be charged with a crime even if you pass.
Law enforcement officers are not asking you to submit to a polygraph to see if you will pass or fail. They are using the polygraph as an interrogation technique. They invite you to go down to the police station for the polygraph. Because you are invited, Miranda warnings do not apply.
The law enforcement officials will walk you into the bowels of the police or sheriff’s department. They will tell you that in order to submit to a polygraph, you need to agree that you will not have a lawyer present. They will then give you a form that waives your Miranda rights.
It doesn’t matter how you actually do. The interrogators will tell you that you failed the polygraph and that things look really bad for you. Then they will tell you that you better explain yourself, suggesting that it was an accident or that you didn’t mean to do it. Now you are in custody and being interrogated harshly. You just waived your Miranda rights and are at the mercy of the authorities.
Don’t underestimate law enforcement personnel. They have received extensive training in interrogation. Using exactly the above-described technique, they will transition seamlessly from a polygraph (real or faked) into an interrogation. You waived your Miranda rights, and everything you say will be on videotape. The polygraph portion of the interrogation will be precluded. What will be left will be a video of you making a statement that can only hurt you at trial.
If the police ask you you to submit to a polygraph, there is one correct answer. Say, “I need to consult with a lawyer.” Never submit to a law enforcement polygraph.
Michael J. Bloom