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Criminal Resource Manual

287. Use of Hypnosis—Purpose

In certain limited cases, the use of forensic hypnosis can be an aid in the investigative process. Witnesses to crimes have been able to recall certain facets of the crime while in a hypnotic state that they had not remembered without hypnosis. The use of hypnosis, however, is subject to serious objections and thus should be used only on rare occasions. The information obtained from a person while in a hypnotic trance cannot be assumed to be accurate. Therefore, any information obtained by the use of hypnosis must be thoroughly checked as to its ultimate accuracy and corroborated. It would therefore be advisable to first consult with a board-certified forensic psychologist/ psychiatrist to ascertain if the matter in question is appropriate for the application of forensic hypnosis. Because of the question of admissibility with regard to information retrieved within a hypnosis session, Assistant United States Attorneys should also consider the appropriateness and potential application of the cognitive interview before using hypnosis. The cognitive interview is a non-hypnotic structured interview that is used to enhance the witness's ability to remember an event by engaging in a reconstruction of the context in which the event took place. In this type of interview, the witness is asked to:

(1) reconstruct the circumstances of the event; (2) provide a non-guided report of the event; (3) recall the circumstances of the event in a different order; and (4) change his/her perspective of the event. See additional references in this Manual at 294 for information on the cognitive interview.

[cited in USAM 9-13.600]