Polygraph Test: Inaccurate and Easy to Beat?

Polygraph test test

Doug Williams, a licensed polygraph test examiner, is in federal prison right now. He started out his career as a cop and eventually studied to be a polygraph examiner. In the course of his work with polygraph tests, he started to notice the unsettling occurrence of innocent people being found “guilty” of lying by this machine.

The machine in question – the polygraph machine – is very simple. It hasn’t changed for the almost 100 years of its existence. It consists of several separate components taking readings of body systems. They are graphed during the questioning of a suspect: pulse rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and skin conductivity.

Williams quit being a cop when he realized the damage he had been doing or could do, to people with this machine. He embarked on a crusade to rid law enforcement and government agencies of the use of the polygraph.

In addition, his goal was to teach average people – who may lose a job or be subject to charges of which they were innocent – how to beat a polygraph test. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2015 at the age of 69 for charges related to this practice.

Polygraph Test Used As Tool

Speak to any polygraph examiner and he or she will tell you there’s no way to beat the test.

Doug Williams insists it’s easy and that he’s never failed to train anyone how to beat it. He states that you simply have to condition your body to respond the way they expect to see in a “guilty” answer for all of the nonrelevant questions and in an “innocent” way for all of the relevant questions.

Have you ever seen the lie detector scene in the movie Ocean’s Thirteen? In one scene, one of the gang members has to pass a polygraph test in order to get a job at the casino. He used a tack in his shoe to create the physical responses necessary to beat the test.

According to Williams, it’s actually much easier than this. You simply have to think about something stressful. In any case, it does take a little coaching. Williams coached many people who were afraid of being falsely accused or losing their jobs. Until undercover agents began to ask him to help them lie and he was found guilty of fraud.

Speak to any polygraph examiner and he or she will be forthright in how the test gets used to make a case against someone. He or she may say that it accurately tests how truthful someone is being, but the limitations are known.

Are Polygraph Test Results Admissible in Court?

Polygraph test results are not admissible in court. This means our court system recognizes how little this technology can be trusted.

However, what is admissible in court? Any confession made as a result of being subjected to a polygraph test. Law enforcement officers often use the polygraph in conjunction with the interrogation techniques like the Control Question Test (CQT) to solicit confessions. Polygraph subjects are asked questions they fear answering more than the relevant questions. Supposedly, a pattern of “guilty” responses will emerge to provide a baseline for the relevant questioning.

There are many problems with the polygraph. Lack of a placebo test is one of them. Do subjects fear the test as much as they fear getting found out in a lie?

Another problem is its application. There’s virtually no difference in the way it gets used for any kind of application. Another obvious problem is that polygraph countermeasures – like those developed by Williams – do seem to be effective. Yet government agencies and law enforcement keep using it.


If you are facing charges brought against you because of a confession you made during a polygraph test, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Call my office today.

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