Legal Memorandum: Admissibility of Hypnotic Testimony in VA

Issue: Under Virginia law, is hypnotic testimony admissible?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Hypnotic testimony; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Virginia
Cited Cases: 475 U.S. 1098; 230 Va. 280; 337 S.E.2d 264
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2015

Virginia courts remain skeptical about hypnotic testimony.  Hopkins v. Commonwealth, 230 Va. 280, 337 S.E.2d 264 (1985), pet. cert. denied Hopkins v. Virginia, 475 U.S. 1098, 106 S. Ct. 1498 (1986).  “We do not underestimate the potentially dangerous effects of hypnosis on a witness’s testimony.”  Id. at 291, 337 S.E.2d at 271.  The court concluded that hypnotically produced evidence amounted to a question of witness competency, and instructed trial courts to “consider any evidence of suggestion and should compare the subject’s prior statements with those made after hypnosis.”  Id.  At least one court of appeals decision has interpreted Hopkins to bar hypnotic testimony all together.  Radcliff v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0987-93-1, 1995 Va. App. LEXIS 501, 2-3 (Va. Ct. App. Jun. 6, 1995) (citations omitted).


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