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Admissibility of Polygraph Test Results in the Courts of the United States

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

The Frye standard (Frye v. United States, 54 App. D.C. 46, 47, 293 F. 1013, 1014 [1923]) was superseded in 1993 by the U.S. Supreme Court which revisited the Frye standard in Wiliam Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 113 S.Ct 2786, 125 L.E.2d 469, 509 U.S. (1993), and issued another landmark decision directly affecting the admissibility of expert testimony, including results of psychophysiology veracity (PV) examinations using the polygraph.


Under the standard enunciated by the United States Supreme Court in Daubert, which superseded the Frye standard of the “general acceptance” test, the court ruled that:

The trial judge, pursuant to Rule 104(a), must make a preliminary assessment of whether the testimony’s underlying reasoning or methodology is scientifically valid and properly can be applied to the facts at issue. Thus, under the Daubert standard, there would appear to be several factors that must be addressed for the advocate attempting to lay a foundation for the admission of a PV examination.

  1. The specific PV examination technique used can be (and has been) scientifically tested.

  2. With demonstrated validity and reliability,

  3. It is the potential error rate determined,

  4. Preferably subjected to peer review and publication.

  5. The existence and maintenance of standards controlling its operation,

  6. Attained acceptance within a relevant scientific community.

  7. The PV examination was conducted correctly,

  8. By an appropriately trained and competent forensic psychophysiology expert, and

  9. The entire examination was video or, at a minimum, audio recorded.

The attorney who intends to introduce PV examination results as evidence in a court of law on behalf of the state/client must realize that the supersedence of the Frye standard in favor of the Federal Rules of Evidence by William Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals is merely an invitation for forensic psychophysiology to show that it is worthy of acceptance by the court. It, therefore, behooves the attorney who has such an aspiration to present to the court a most competent and well-prepared forensic psychophysiology expert, whose expert testimony is preceded by the scientific testimony of a foundation expert and whose results (of the PV examination) are confirmed by a qualified quality control reviewer. An excellent text including a model transcript for use by the attorney at law and his/her foundation expert in preparation for the foundation expert’s testimony in court is found in “Examination and Cross-Examination of Experts in Forensic Psychophysiology Using the Polygraph” by James Allan Matte, available at http://www.amazon.com.


There are numerous areas where the attorney can use PV examination results. Whenever there is a factual dispute regarding a distinctive issue, the PV examination may be used to prove or disprove essential elements of his/her client’s version of the incident or matter. This includes civil as well as criminal cases. The following are areas where the PV examination is frequently used: Plea Bargaining, Motions to Suppress, Settlements, Sentencing, Supporting Evidence, Parole and Probation, Arbitration, and Civil Actions.

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