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Lie detector tests for monitoring New Jersey sex offenders


While the use of lie detectors to monitor the activities of sex offenders might seem appropriate to some individuals, five sex offenders in New Jersey challenged the practice based on alleged civil rights violations that could occur because of the monitoring. The state is responsible for the oversight of nearly 7,500 sex offenders, and polygraph tests can legally be used to evaluate these individuals. While an appeals court upheld the practice on Jan. 21, it did find that the Parole Board is responsible for protecting the rights of those interviewed if instances of self-incrimination could occur.

The appeal was based on the idea that these polygraph tests equate to coerced interviews in which the individuals in question cannot have a lawyer present. Further, Miranda rights are not read during such interviews, while questioning could lead to potential penalties in cases of any admissions of guilt. Input from the state's Public Defender's Office also pointed to the lack of reliability of polygraph testing, which is often viewed negatively in the court system. The Parole Board, however, considers the tests essential in its monitoring program.

In its decision, the court noted that the having a lawyer on hand during a polygraph interview was not necessary because this situation is not equivalent to a criminal investigation. There is not a risk of confinement for failure to cooperate in this situation. However, the court also referred to the problems with the reliability of polygraph examinations. Those who brought the case to this point now plan to take it to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

In a criminal defense case, constitutional rights can be an important factor in a strategy devised by the attorney representing a defendant. A person who was not advised of these rights prior to questioning might be able to have charges dismissed due to procedural errors on the part of the authorities.

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