Post Conviction Polygraph Testing Ethics

Polygraph ethics in sexual offender casesOne of the major concerns with post conviction polygraph testing regards the Fifth Amendment.¬† Legal and ethical concerns about polygraph testing¬† on post-conviction sexual offenders gravitate around issues of…

  • self-incrimination
  • invasion of privacy
  • questions about the accuracy and reliability of polygraphs
  • and the admissibility of polygraph evidence in court.

Self Incrimination

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against compelled or forced self-incrimination. This becomes an issue as the key to polygraph/management treatment is the expectation that the offender will provide full disclosure about his past and current sexual offenses. The issue of self-incrimination comes into play because an offender who discloses prior (or current) victims during a polygraph examination may be risking further prosecution or revocation. In a Minnesota case1, that while statements cannot be compelled, the court found no Fifth Amendment violation in questioning sex offenders on probation.

Prior Crimes Limited Immunity

One option is for prosecutors to offer limited, or even full, immunity  for post-conviction offenders from prosecution for prior crimes discovered during their polygraph treatment. Typically these limitations are for specific or similar crimes and are in effect only as long as the offender complies with treatment and supervision conditions and does not reoffend.2 Immunity does not cover any new crimes committed while the offender is under probation or parole supervision. Many prosecutors are reluctant to go on record as supporting limited immunity agreements.

Privacy Concerns

Do convicted sex offenders have the same rights other citizens? No. Sex offenders are required to waive confidentiality. Treatment and conditions of probation or parole usually include the expectation for an offender’s full disclosure of his or her sexual history, at-risk behaviors, and new crime information.

Plus, the role that secrecy and lies are so critical to modus operandi of sex offenders that most offender management professionals believe that it is not only NOT unethical, but therapeutic, to encourage sex offenders to give up all secrets related to sexual deviance.

If you would like to discuss the professional services of Post Conviction Sexual Offender testing, please contact The Polygraph Examiner at 1-800-497-9305.

  1. Minnesota v. Murphy, 465 U.S. 420, 1983 []
  2. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/199673.pdf []