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Should I Take a Lie Detector Test?

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

A lie detector test, known as a polygraph test, measures a person’s physiological reactions to a set of questions. Breathing rate, pulse, blood pressure, facial expressions, perspiration, and other physiological elements are measured and recorded by polygraph tests.

You may have seen a TV or movie character submit to a polygraph test due to a criminal investigation against them, but did you know that employers can also ask you to take a polygraph test under certain conditions? It’s in your best interests to learn about the application of polygraph tests in both an investigative and professional setting to determine whether you should take one.

Criminal Investigations

If law enforcement agencies are conducting a criminal investigation, they gather evidence that can come in various forms, including a polygraph test. This type of lie detector test is what many people see in TV shows and movies: Two people sitting in a dimly lit room where one person (the tester) harshly interrogates the suspect, who is sweating profusely and trembling.

In real life, the testing room may have better lighting, but you may demonstrate physiological cues, such as sweating and trembling, that indicate guilt. If law enforcement officers threaten you to take a polygraph test or make you feel guilty for not cooperating by taking one, hold your ground.

You are not legally obligated to take a lie detector test in a criminal investigation.

Thus, no matter how intimidating and frightening law enforcement agencies can be, it’s your decision whether to participate in a lie detector test or not. However, you must be cautious when agreeing to submit to a polygraph test because such evidence could be used against you.

Considering how unreliable polygraph tests can be due to their high rate of inaccurate results, it’s risky to voluntarily agree to a polygraph test. You have the power to say "yes" or "no" when asked to take a lie detector test for a criminal investigation.


The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests unless certain circumstances apply. According to the Act, private employers may ask you to take a polygraph test under the following instances:

  • You are reasonably suspected of involvement in a workplace incident that results in economic loss to the employer and had access to the property that is the subject of an investigation
  • You are a prospective employee of armored car, security alarm, and security guard firms who protect facilities, materials or operations affecting health or safety, national security, or currency and other like instruments
  • You are a prospective employee of pharmaceutical and other firms authorized to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances and will have direct access to such controlled substances, or you’re a current employee who had access to persons or property that are the subject of an ongoing investigation

Despite having reasonable suspicion, an employer is subject to strict regulations when administering a polygraph test to their employees. Under the Act, employers may not require or request any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test, or discharge, discipline, or discriminate against an employee or job applicant for refusing to take a test or for exercising other rights.

Federal, state and local governments are excluded from the Act, and employees of Federal contractors engaged in national security intelligence or counterintelligence roles are also exempt.

Questions? Let Us Know.

Our Las Vegas criminal defense team is equipped with the hard-hitting legal skills and experience you need to combat your legal issues. Not many people know their legal rights when asked to participate in criminal investigations, such as taking a polygraph test, which is why we advise you to reach out to us online or by calling for a free, confidential consultation.

Our lawyer can guide you through your options and provide honest legal counsel on your behalf. We look forward to hearing from you.