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Use of Truth-Telling Devices in Sexual Assault Investigations

NCJ Number
Date Published
15 pages
This guide examines the use of polygraph tests and other truth-telling devices ("lie-detector tests") in sexual assault investigations.
The overall intent of this guide is to support a provision of the Violence Against Women Act and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005), which states that truth-telling devices must not be used with sexual assault victims as a condition of charging or prosecuting an offense. Special issues relevant to using truth-telling devices with sexual assault victims are discussed. The overall conclusion is that the use of polygraph tests often undermines the recommended best-practice of using a victim-centered approach to a sexual assault investigation. If a victim refuses a polygraph test or fails it when she is telling the truth (polygraph tests are not infallible), then a law enforcement agency may decide to close the case. This not only enables the offender to continue offending behavior, but also impedes the victim's recovery from the victimization. Victim advocates, law enforcement officers, and policymakers may use this guide to develop policies, practices, and procedures, as well as to improve collaboration regarding the use of truth-telling devices as the VAWA 2005 provision is adopted across the United States. 35 references

Date Published: January 1, 2009