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Garrity Right

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Garrity Rights is the public employees' right against compelled self-incrimination.

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Garrity Rights protects public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during an investigatory interview with their employer.  Garrity Rights prohibit an employee's statement, during an investigatory interview, from being used against him/her in a subsequent criminal prosecution, if such statement was made under threat of discipline or termination. This statement, however, can be used against the employee in subsequent disciplinary proceedings and civil lawsuits.  Garrity Rights are not automatic, public employees must announce that he/she wants the protections afforded to them under Garrity.[1]


The Fifth Amendment[2] to the U.S. Constitution reads:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Equal Protection of Laws

The Fourteenth Amendment[3] to the U.S. Constitution reads:

Section. 1:   All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Garrity v. New Jersey[4]

A group of police officers were investigated by the state for fixing traffic tickets. Each officer was warned that: (1) anything he said might be used against him in a state criminal proceeding; (2) he could refuse to answer if the disclosure would tend to incriminate him; and, (3) if he refused to answer he would be subject to removal from office.  The officers' answers to the questions were used in subsequent prosecutions, which resulted in their convictions.

The Court's response: "We now hold the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under threat of removal from office, and that it extends to all, whether they are policemen or other members of our body politic."

Gardner v. Broderick[5]

A police officer was subpoenaed for an investigating regarding bribery and corruption of police officers.  The officer was advised of his privilege against self-incrimination, but was asked to sign a "waiver of immunity" after being told that he would be fired if he did not sign. He refused to sign the waiver and was discharged solely for his refusal.

The Court concluded that dispite what a provision in a city charter may say, a police officer cannot be dismissed if he does not waive his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Sanitation Men v. Sanitation Comm'r[6]

New York City sanitation employees were being investigated, at which time they were advised that if they refused to testify with respect to their official conduct on the ground of self-incrimination, their employment would terminate.  Some of the employee decided to asserted the privilege against self-incrimination and refused to testify, they were dismissed basis of that refusal. Other employees who answered the questions and denied the charges made against them were suspended and asked to sign waivers of immunity. They were dismissed when they refused to sign such waivers. 

The Court held that public employees are entitled  to the benefit of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and they cannot be faced with a choice between surrendering their constitutional rights or their jobs. 

Lefkowitz v. Turley[7]

In New York,  public contracts are required to state that if a contractor refuses to waive immunity or to testify concerning his state contracts, his existing contracts can be canceled and he will be disqualified from further transactions with the State for five years.

The Court stated that "employees of the State do not forfeit their constitutional privilege and that they may be compelled to respond to questions about the performance of their duties but only if their answers cannot be used against them in subsequent criminal prosecutions."


  1. http://www.mofop15.com/garrityrule.html
  2. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment05/
  3. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment14/
  4. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=385&invol=493
  5. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=392&invol=273
  6. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=392&invol=280
  7. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=414&invol=70

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