Garrity Rule: Kind Of Like A Fifth Amendment For The Cops

Synopsis: While civilians have constitutionally provided protections against self-incrimination, what does the police have? The Garrity Ruling provides rights for law enforcement, and it grew out of a traffic ticket case.

Going by different names, when a law enforcement officer invokes the Garrity rule they are invoking their right against self-incrimination. Statements issued after invoking Garrity can only be used for investigative purposes, not criminal prosecution purposes.

The Garrity rule rose out of the case Garrity v New Jersey which the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1966. Of all things to initiate the Garrity ruling, it was a ticket-fixing case.

There are two forks under the Garrity rights.

  1. If an officer’s employment is conditional on answering questions, the officer’s answers may not be used in subsequent criminal prosecution, and
  2. The department is limited as to what they may ask.

The Garrity Rule is not automatic merely because questioning is occurring. The officer must formally declare that they want Garrity protections. The statement should be made in reading, and the officer gave a copy of it.

The actual wording of Garrity warning:

“1. I am being questioned as part of an investigation by this agency into potential violations of department rules and regulations, or for my fitness for duty. This investigation concerns: (fill in the blank).

  1. I have invoked my Miranda rights because I might incriminate myself in a criminal matter.
  1. I have been granted use immunity. No answer is given by me, nor evidence derived from the answer may be used against me in any criminal proceeding, except for perjury or false swearing.
  1. I understand that I must now answer questions specifically, directly and narrowly related to the performance of my official duties or my fitness for office.
  1. If I refuse to answer, I may be subject to discipline for that refusal which can result in my dismissal from this agency.
  1. Anything I say may be used against me in any subsequent department charges.
  1. I have the right to consult with a representative of my collective bargaining unit, or another representative of my choice, and have him or her present during the interview.”

The form is then signed and dated by the official executing the paperwork, the individual requesting Garrity protection and a witness.

Where Did Garrity Originate?

Garrity sprung from a U.S. Court decision that pitted a New Jersey police chief against the state’s attorney general. In 1961, the New Jersey AG started looking into accusations that traffic tickets were being fixed in Bellmawr and Barrington. The pending inquiry locked on Bellmawr’s police chief, Edward Garrity, and five of his employees. When interrogated, each was told that what they said might be turned against them in criminal proceedings. They were also notified that if they declined to answer, they would be fired. Instead of risking their jobs, the men talked, and their accounts were used in their prosecutions.

SCOTUS ruled the workers” statements were compelled by the state in violation of the Constitution’s Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. As the employees’ statements were mandated, it was unconstitutional to use them in a prosecution, and the convictions were thrown out.