On Tuesday, legislation to ban the use of hypnosis to aid police investigations received approval in the Texas House and is making its way to the governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 281 by State Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D–McAllen) unanimously passed the Senate last month, and the Texas House has now given its unanimous approval to the bill.
Earlier this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety ended the practice of using hypnosis in investigations for the Texas Rangers.
In response to that decision, Travis Considine, DPS’ assistant chief of media and communications, stated, “DPS has developed more advanced interview and interrogation techniques that yield better results.”
This is not a topic unique to Texas. Twenty-eight states, including Texas, currently allow the use of hypnosis to aid investigations, while the other states ban the practice.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Charles Don Flores v. the State of Texas, a death row case involving law enforcement using investigative hypnosis but lacking physical evidence.
In 2016, Charles Flores was moved to death watch after spending 16 years in prison for being convicted of murder. All of his appeals were denied. The case had no physical evidence tying Flores to the murder, and only one eyewitness claimed to have seen him being hypnotized by law enforcement during questioning.
Texas is alleged to be the only state in the country with a certification program for law enforcement officers to learn hypnosis through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), and it also houses the only known police organization for investigating hypnotists.
As part of the 40-hour certification course, TCOLE requires police hypnotists to complete hypnosis training every 24 months in order to maintain their certificates. The technique is intended to assist witnesses in recalling certain events and suspect descriptions that normal memory cannot access.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the use of hypnosis can relieve stress and anxiety, such as the anxiety one may experience before a medical procedure. When performed by a trained therapist or healthcare professional, hypnosis is considered a safe, complementary, and alternative medical treatment.
However, a person suffering from severe mental illness may not be a good candidate for hypnosis, as it may cause strong emotions and there is a risk of creating false memories.
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III introduced House Bill 1002, an identical bill that passed in the House last month with no opposition.
The bill must be approved one more time by the House on Wednesday.