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Hypnosis as an Investigative Tool

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Quarterly Dated: (February-April 1997) Pages: 9-10
E K Yager
Date Published
2 pages
The use of hypnosis to refresh memory is a widely accepted therapeutic tool in the helping professions, but its use in the forensic setting is less widely accepted even though it can be a viable and effective technique.
The value of hypnotically refreshed memory in criminal investigations has been demonstrated in many cases. Depending on several variables, hypnosis can permit the bypass of unconscious variables, facilitate clear memory of the event in question, and provide an opportunity to examine details not previously recognized. Hypnosis can help the individual remember a traumatic event dispassionately, without distortion or emotional blocking. Hypnotically refreshed memory is admissible in all cases in four States, inadmissible in all cases in three States, safeguarded in 12 States, and not regulated in 11 States; pre-hypnosis statements are admitted in 20 States. Only California, Texas, Washington, and Oregon have legislation regulating the use of hypnosis; all other States regulate hypnosis by case law. In particular, the California Supreme Court has approved the use of hypnosis in criminal proceedings but does not permit a witness to testify to material recovered through hypnosis. Even though the criminal investigator cannot be present during hypnosis, he or she can be watching and listening electronically and can feed questions to the clinician. The need for close cooperation between criminal investigators and prosecutors in cases involving hypnosis is emphasized.