Are Polygraphs Admissible in Utah Courts?

Are Polygraphs Admissible in Utah Courts?

Many people are fascinated with polygraphs, also known as “lie detector” tests. Although they are featured on many TV dramas and movies, the fact is they are not normally admissible in Utah Courts per the requirements of the Utah Rules of Evidence 702.  Several cases have discussed the admissibility of polygraph test. A few cases have set forth the standard of the admissibility of polygraph tests.

Polygraph tests are considered scientifically unreliable in most situations.

In State v. Rimmasch, 775 P.2d 388 (Utah 1989), a three-part standard was established for judges to admit scientific evidence under Rule 702 of the Utah Rules of Evidence:

  • Proving that the proposed evidence to be offered is inherently reliable. This can be accomplished through showing acceptance of the principle in the scientific community or by presenting a proper foundation to demonstrate the reliability of the evidence.
  • A showing that there is an adequate foundation for the testimony or evidence being presented.
  • Revealing that the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice, presenting cumulative evidence, confusing the issues, undue delay, wasting the court’s time, or misleading the jury.

In State v. Crosby, 927 P.2d 638 (Utah 1996), the Supreme Court reaffirmed the findings in the Rimmasch case and agreed with its standard for determining whether polygraph evidence was admissible. The court insisted that polygraph evidence must make a detailed foundational showing, specifically demonstrating how technology has made lie detectors more reliable.

A third case ruling on polygraph admissibility was State v. Brown, 948 P.2d 337 (Utah 1997). The court found that at that time, the admission of lie detector evidence was not proper unless the proponent provided the required foundational showing as required by the Rimmasch court, and this remains the current precedent in Utah today.

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