Studies Find Some Psychology Tests, Forensic Science Unreliable

Some people in Georgia may have higher bails or face harsher sentences because of a court that uses psychology or IQ tests that might not be reliable. According to a study that appeared in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, many of these studies are not widely recognized within the psychological community and thus may not be reliable.

The study examined hundreds of court cases from 2016 to 2018 and discovered that around one-third of the tests that courts used were not reviewed in the main psychological journals. Researchers also found that of the tests that were reviewed, only about 40% got favorable ratings. One-quarter of those reviewed were considered unreliable. One professor of law and psychology reports that he receives unsolicited catalogs from vendors for psychological tests that no longer include information about validity as they did until the late 1990s. One attorney has pointed out that courts are reliant on psychologists who testify to be aware of whether certain tests are not reliable.

Previous studies have also questioned the accuracy of some science used in the courtroom. A 2009 report by the National Research Council said that wrongful convictions could have resulted from unreliable forensic science analyses. Although there was a call for reform, few changes have happened.

An attorney who is working with a person facing charges for drug violations, assault, or other felonies or misdemeanors may want to look at the validity of any forensic or psychological testing used. The attorney might also look at other aspects of the case, including whether the person’s rights were violated at any point. Some people choose a plea bargain. This involves a deal with prosecution in which the person pleads guilty instead of going to trial, sometimes to receive reduced charges and a lighter sentence.

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