Your Guide to Understanding Garrity Rights and Protecting Your Job Security

Police officer interrogating criminal in handcuffs at desk indoors

You may have never heard of Garrity rights since the term is rarely used or discussed unless they become applicable to a certain situation.

Garrity rights are defined as the right not to answer questions during a workplace investigation or be compelled to answer questions with the threat of retaliation or disciplinary action.

History of Garrity Rights

The name stems from the 1967 Supreme Court Case Garrity vs. New Jersey.

The case began in 1961 when the New Jersey Attorney General began investigating allegations of traffic ticket-fixing in the towns of Bellmawr and Barrington. The investigation was primarily focused on The Bellmawr Chief of Police Edward Garrity and 5 others.

When questioned they were told in the Miranda Warning that anything they say can and will be used against them and they could refuse to answer in order to avoid self-incrimination. However, they were also told if they refused to help the investigators they could be dismissed from their jobs. Rather than be terminated they answered the questions, their statements were used against them and they were convicted.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that the employee’s statements made under threat of termination were compelled by the state in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The decision asserted that “the option to lose their means of livelihood or pay the penalty of self-incrimination is the antithesis of free choice to speak or remain silent.“

Therefore since the police employee’s statements were compelled by a threat of termination, it was unconstitutional to use the statements in a prosecution.

The convictions of the officers were later overturned.

There have since been many more case examples of the Garrity Rules including:

  • Garrity v. New Jersey 1967: Compelled statements cannot be used in criminal proceedings
  • Garner v. Broderick 1967: The employer cannot use the threat of termination to coerce an employee to waive their constitutional rights
  • Uniformed Sanitation Men Association v. Commissioner of Sanitation 1970: if an employee’s statements are immunized from use in future criminal proceedings and they still refuse to answer questions they can be discharged
  • Kastigar v. United States 1972- Use/derivative use immunity: The employee may still be prosecuted as long as the evidence against them does not include compelled statements or any other evidence derived from those statements.

The US Constitution and Garrity Rights

To understand The Garrity Rules you need to understand the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

The Fifth Amendment

Basically, the simplest version of the fifth amendment states that an individual cannot be compelled by the government to provide incriminating information about themselves.

The so-called “right to remain silent“ —When a person “pleads the fifth” they invoke that right to refuse to answer questions or to provide information.

The Fourteenth Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment, an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing equal protection under the law, states that 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 life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The Garrity Rule Statement

Since The Garrity rules rose out of a police case, it mainly pertains to officers. There are two requirements under the Garrity rights:

  1. If an officer’s employment is conditional on answering questions in an investigation, then those answers cannot be used in a future criminal prosecution
  2. The questions are limited

The Garrity rule is not automatic, unlike Miranda rights, and must be requested by the person being questioned.

There should be a statement read and the questioned person should be given a written copy.

The wording of the Garrity warning is:

  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)
  2. I have evoked my Miranda rights because I might incriminate myself in a criminal matter
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. If I refuse to answer, I may be subject to discipline for that refusal which can result in my dismissal from this agency
  6. Anything I say may be used against me in and subsequent department charges
  7. I have the right to consult with a representative of my collective bargaining unit, or another representative of my choice and have them present during the interview.

This form is signed and dated by the person requesting Garrity protection, a witness, and the person executing the paperwork during the questioning.

We at The Defenders always say never to speak with an investigator without legal representation no matter what.

If you think that your Garrity rights have been violated and you have been threatened with termination or another discipline for not answering questions you need to call a defense expert.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer

Even though you may think that this is a work situation or a constitutional situation, statements given can be used against you. If you were dismissed from a job due to statements given and you didn’t know that the Garrity rules existed, then you need to hire a lawyer.

Garrity warnings are similar to Miranda warnings and are designed to safeguard a person’s fifth amendment rights. Unlike Miranda warnings, they are only applicable to and used in the context of internal investigations against government employees.

These rights need to be advised to you before you answer any questions and you have the right not to incriminate yourself.

We at The Defenders advise that you not answer any questions without counsel present.

If you feel you were terminated from your job for answering questions during an investigation, then you need to hire an attorney.

The defense team at Defenders will perform our own investigation to discover if you have been wrongfully terminated for answering the investigator’s questions or for not.

If you have been threatened with termination for not speaking, we can help you get your job back. If we find that your company compelled you to answer questions and then fired you because of the answers, we will help you file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

This may all seem like a lot to understand, and that’s why hiring an expert on constitutional law or an interrogation specialist is a key to getting charges reduced or dismissed if they were compelled under the threat of disciplinary action including termination.

Does the Garrity Rules Apply to Private Citizens?

The Garrity Rules apply only to government employees, not private citizens. However, private citizens do have rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when being questioned by law enforcement.

In the case of Kastigar v. United States in 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that a person can be granted use/derivative use immunity if they are compelled to give statements during an investigation. This means that while they may still be prosecuted, any evidence against them cannot include their compelled statements or any other evidence derived from those statements.

This is why it is important for all individuals, whether a government employee or not, to understand their rights and to have legal representation present during questioning.

The Defenders Criminal Defense Attorneys - Best of Las Vegas Gold WinnerAbout The Defenders

The Defenders is a team of experienced lawyers. We have been in Nevada and Las Vegas for years. We have a proven track record of winning cases for our clients either by getting the cases dismissed altogether or getting the charges reduced.

Since we have been in the Las Vegas area for so long, we have a long-standing relationship with all areas of the court house including the prosecutor’s office, the sheriff’s department, the county jail, and most of the area police departments.

If you have been charged with a crime or dismissed from your employment due to The Garrity rules or lack thereof, you’ll need a trustworthy legal advisor to help you navigate the often confusing nuances of constitutional law.

We offer the following services:

  • Free consultation services
  • Available 24/7 for our clients
  • Attend all court appearances with our clients
  • A Proven track record of helping clients get reduced charges or dismissed charges
  • A large pool of attorneys with a variety of legal specialties

Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Garrity rules?

The Garrity rules are a set of legal protections that govern the rights of government employees when they are asked to answer questions during an internal investigation. Under these rules, public employees cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves and any information provided by them cannot be used against them in a criminal prosecution.

What happens if I refuse to answer questions during an investigation?

If you do not answer questions during an investigation or exercise your Garrity rights, then you may face disciplinary action including termination from your job. In order to protect yourself from such repercussions, it is best to have an attorney present with you during the questioning process.

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