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Psychological tests often go unchallenged in court

Psychological tests are introduced as evidence in many criminal jury trials in California. However, some of the tests that are introduced may be unreliable and lead to the convictions of innocent people.

A study that was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University analyzed cases in which psychological tests had been introduced as evidence against defendants. They found that the legal validity of the tests was challenged in just 3% of the cases. The researchers looked at 876 criminal cases between 2016 and 2018. In the cases, the most commonly used test was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, or MMPI. While the MMPI is generally viewed positively within the psychological community, the second most commonly used test was the Rorschach test. This test is considered to be highly subjective by many people within the scientific community.

Lawyers and judges are not experts in psychological tests and must follow guidelines about the validity of scientific evidence. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though attorneys and judges are applying the guidelines to tests in very many cases. Previous research has also found that other types of unreliable science are frequently introduced in the guise of forensic evidence, potentially leading to wrongful convictions of innocent people.

People who are charged with crimes might face serious consequences if they are convicted, including the potential for years in prison. An experienced criminal defense attorney may review any testing that was performed and challenge the validity of questionable tests. He or she might also challenge the validity of other types of forensic evidence if the prosecution seeks to introduce it. If the lawyer is successful, the tests or forensic evidence might be deemed inadmissible so that the prosecutor cannot introduce it at trial.

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Law Offices of Catherine A. Schwartz
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Riverside, CA 92506

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