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You Can’t Handle the Truth: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Exclusion of Polygraph Evidence

41 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2011 Last revised: 29 Jan 2013

Adam B. Shniderman

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: July 22, 2011


Since the decision in Frye v. United States, polygraph results have been deemed inadmissible as evidence in many state and federal courts across the United States. Exclusion has been justified based on purported scientific weaknesses of the test, or the assertion that to allow polygraph evidence would usurp the jury’s role as the arbiter of credibility, wreaking havoc on the American judicial system. This paper suggests that the extensive body of literature on polygraph evidence fails to understand the actual reason polygraph evidence has been an evidentiary pariah. First, this article systematically demonstrates that the justifications for excluding polygraph evidence at trial are equally applicable to nearly every other forensic science except DNA analysis. Second, this paper asks the novel question, “Why is polygraph evidence held to such a different standard?” This article suggests that the only significant difference between many routinely admitted forensic techniques and polygraph evidence is the party most frequently offering the evidence. This article then considers several possible explanations for why this fact matters in judges’ decisions. Finally, this article concludes that because science and law have little to do with the exclusion of polygraph the trend is likely to continue regardless of technological advances.

Keywords: polygraph, lie detection, scientific evidence

Suggested Citation

Shniderman, Adam B., You Can’t Handle the Truth: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Exclusion of Polygraph Evidence (July 22, 2011). Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology, Vol. 22 No. 2. Available at SSRN:

Adam B. Shniderman (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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