Question: In A Criminal Case, Can The State Of Indiana & A Suspect Agree That The Results Of An Upcoming Lie Detector Test Of the Suspect Will Be Admitted At Trial If Charges. Are Filed And The Case Goes To Trial?
Answer: YES!!! So if you did it, do not agree to take the polygraph testing!
In July 2013, Mr. Wroe voluntarily met with a Lieutenant at the police station to discuss allegation of child molestation. During that meeting, Wroe volunteered to take a polygraph test regarding the accusations. In a prior criminal case against him, Wroe had taken and passed a polygraph test, resulting in the dismissal of all charges against him. On July 31, 2013, Wroe returned to the police department for the polygraph examination. The Police Chief met with Wroe to go over the stipulation and agreement (the “Stipulation”) to be signed before the polygraph. The Chief read the document to Wroe out loud, as well as making it available for Wroe to read. Among other things, the Chief asked Wroe if he understood the terms of the Stipulation. Wroe stated that he did understand the document and then signed it. On September 19, 2013, the State charged Wroe with one count of Class C felony child molesting. On January 16, 2014, Wroe filed a motion to suppress the Stipulation, the polygraph examination, and all other evidence related to the polygraph. Following a hearing, the trial court summarily granted the motion to suppress and now the State now appeals.
On Appeal, the State argues that the trial court erroneously granted Wroe’s motion to suppress. As a general matter, Indiana courts look with disfavor on the admission of polygraph examinations into evidence in criminal proceedings. Consequently, our Supreme Court in the Sanchez case has held that polygraphs are admissible only when 4 prerequisites are met: (1) the prosecutor, defendant, and defense counsel must all sign a written stipulation providing for the defendant’s submission to the examination and for the subsequent admission at trial of the results; (2) the admissibility of the test results must be within the trial court’s discretion as it relates to the examiner’s qualifications and the test conditions; (3) the opposing party must have the right to cross-examine the polygraph examiner if his graphs and opinion are offered in evidence; and (4) the jury must be instructed that, at most, the examiner’s testimony tends only to show whether the defendant was being truthful at the time of the examination, and that it is for the jury to determine the weight and effect to be given such testimony. In the instant case, the parties agree that because the issue was decided by a pretrial motion to suppress, the only requirement at issue herein is the first one. A stipulation entered into by a defendant and the State before a polygraph examination is a binding contract. Therefore, contract law principles control the use and interpretation of such stipulations.
The only argument that Wroe makes on appeal in favor of affirming the trial court relates to the nature of the bargain made between himself and the State. Specifically, Wroe argues that the Stipulation was the product of misrepresentation by the State and that it was unconscionable. The Court of Appeals shared the concerns raised by Wroe. However, it is clear that our Supreme Court has found agreements such as the one herein to be valid, inasmuch as the Court has said that the only way in which polygraph examinations are ever admissible in a criminal case is when such an agreement is reached. It is always the case that there will be unequal bargaining power between an individual and the State, it will frequently be the case that the individual has not had all of the educational opportunities afforded the attorneys and police officers he is dealing with, and it is necessarily the case that these stipulations involve the waiver of constitutional rights, the hindering of defense counsel at trial, and the agreement to allow unreliable evidence to be admitted at trial. Notwithstanding these concerns, our Supreme Court has held that agreements such as these are valid absent other problems that have not been raised in this case. As a result, we are compelled to find that the Stipulation is not invalid based on unconscionability. Notwithstanding the language of the Stipulation, Sanchez is still the law of the land. Therefore, should the State decide to refile charges against Wroe, the trial court still retains the discretion afforded by Sanchez to consider the examiner’s qualification and the testing herein. This opinion has focused solely on the first prong of the Sanchez test and should not be interpreted to relate to any of the other three prongs. We also note that in the end, it will be the jury’s province to consider and weigh all evidence, including the polygraph examination results. The judgment of the trial court is reversed. 16 N.E.3d 462