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GARRITY RIGHTS
Posted On: Nov 13, 2014

GARRITY RIGHTS—FEDERAL LAW

The burden is placed on you to assert your Garrity rights. These rights can and should be asserted whenever you believe you are being investigated for possible criminal conduct.

The Garrity rule stems from a case decided in 1966 by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, some New Jersey police officers were questioned during the course of a state investigation concerning allegations of ticket-fixing. The officers were ordered to answer investigatory questions under threat of being discharged if they didn't answer. To save their jobs, the officers answered the questions and their answers were later used against them to convict them in a criminal prosecution.

The Supreme Court ruled that the use of the officers' statements in criminal proceedings violated the Fifth Amendment's guarantee that citizens cannot be compelled to be witnesses against themselves. The Court held that "the choice imposed on [the officers] was one between self-incrimination or job forfeiture," a choice the Court termed "coercion.

The result of the Garrity decision and a subsequent case ruling resulted in the following protections under Garrity:

Before a law enforcement agency can discipline an officer for refusing to answer questions, the agency must do the following:

·         Order the officer to answer the questions under threat of disciplinary action,

·         Ask questions that are specifically, directly and narrowly related to the officer’s duties or the officer’s fitness for duty, AND

·         Advise the officer that the answers to the questions will not be used against the officer in criminal proceedings.

If, after being given this warning, the officer refuses to answer the questions, the officer may be disciplined for insubordination.

Howard McQuillan,

President, FOP Fort Pitt Lodge #1


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