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Investigation finds interrogation tool lacks scientific validity

When a person in Wyoming is taken into custody, law enforcement may use different interrogation techniques. Some law enforcement agencies nationwide use a system known as Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, but critics say there is no scientific support for its accuracy.

According to the creator of SCAN, by asking a person an open-ended question and having them write out an answer, lies can be detected. As an example, one man who was convicted of murder in the 1990s was asked to write an account of what he did on the day the murder occurred as part of a questionnaire with nine questions. Later, a detective who reviewed the man's responses determined that they showed signs of deception. He based this on minor word choices and even on handwriting size. For example, writing "went home" instead of "I went home" was considered deceptive because of the missing "I." A statement that he had nothing to hide was considered an admission of guilt because he did not instead say he did not lie.

A federal review of different interrogation techniques ordered by the Obama administration stated that SCAN's accuracy was no better than what would be expected by chance. Despite this, many law enforcement bodies continue to use it as an investigative tool.

People who are facing charges for drug crimes or other offenses may want to talk to an attorney. Among other things, the attorney might look at the evidence the prosecution has collected. If some of it seems unscientific, the attorney may be able to use that as part of the defense. An attorney might also call into question the accuracy of various types of testing and ensure that a person's rights were not violated during the investigation. For example, if there was an illegal search and seizure, evidence might be dismissed.

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