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Name: People v. Fields
Case #: D053080
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/14/2009

Polygraph evidence is not barred in SVP proceedings pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code sections 6600 et seq. A petition was filed to commit Fields for an indeterminate term of involuntary treatment. At the jury trial on the issue, witnesses for the prosecution testified as to Fields’ progress in the treatment process. In conjunction with the process, Fields underwent a polygraph examination. The court limited cross-examination of the witnesses with regard to the polygraph examination administered to Fields. The appellate court observed that, unlike a criminal proceeding, Evidence Code section 351.5 is not a bar to admission of polygraph evidence in an SVP proceeding which is civil in nature. Instead, admission of polygraph evidence is subject to the usual rules of admission of evidence offered by an expert. Here, although cross-examination was limited, under a prejudicial error standard, there was no reasonable probability that Fields would have obtained a more favorable result absent the limitation. Much of the information the defense hoped to present in cross-examination of the expert with respect to the polygraph examination was otherwise presented to the jurors; the substance of the polygraph examination could not have been used for the truth of the essence of the responses to the questions; the jury returned verdict in two hours, demonstrating that relative to the evidence it did receive, polygraph evidence would have had minimal impact.