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California Polygraph Laws

What Are the Polygraph Laws in California?

A polygraph test, otherwise known as a lie detector test, allows the defendant to be questioned and examined to determine whether or not he/she is being honest. This device watches for biological changes that indicate when a person lies and when they tell the truth. California law allows for the admission of a polygraph test in court when all parties consent to using it as evidence. 

Are Polygraph Tests Accurate?

Many people are under the impression that a lie detector test, if passed, allows for acquittal of charges. This is false because these tests are not reliable. These machines record changes in area like:

  • Breathing
  • Heart Rate
  • Blood Pressure
  • Perspiration

 Stress alone can make these levels fluctuate, and the pressure of a polygraph test can cause skewed results even if the person taking the test is telling the truth. 

A polygraph test cannot be used as evidence in a jury trial unless the prosecutor and the defense attorney agree to use it as evidence. It is advised that no one take a polygraph test without first consulting a criminal defense attorney. 

Can You Take a Polygraph Test Outside of Court?

Yes. In certain cases, a defendant can go out on their own to take a private polygraph test. These test results, if they come back truthful, can be then handed over to the prosecutor in an attempt to have the case dismissed. Taking a private polygraph test is recommended when:

  • Trying to dismiss a charge during the pretrial process.
  • Attempting to persuade the prosecutor to consider a second examination during trial.
  • Convincing the defendant to enter into a plea bargain or no contest. 

A private polygraph test can cost between $200 and $2000

Can Your Employer Make You Take a Polygraph Test?

In California, the law forbids private employers from making employees take a polygraph test, California Labor Code 432.2 LC.

It does not matter if the test is administered for employment or continued employment, employers cannot force an employee to take one. Federal law also prohibits employers from subjecting employees to these tests under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988 (EPPA).

A polygraph test can be administered in the workplace only if the employee requests to take the test and that they are advised of their rights before taking the polygraph test.

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