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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  The Garrity Warning 

The Garrity Warning                                                                               

 Police and Law Enforcement News
 Sunday, December 22, 2013
  6:19 .m.


The Garrity rights, Garrity rule or Garrity warning is a protection that is utilized by many law enforcement officers each year. Simply, Garrity is an invocation that may be made by an officer being questioned regarding actions that may result in criminal prosecution.  

This article is geared toward law enforcement, but the Garrity Warning is also available for other employees of state and local government organizations.

The Garrity Warning is often misunderstood as it is inconsistently applied throughout the country.  In some states it may be read to the employee before questioning begins.  In other states, the employee must invoke his or her Garrity Rights.

Simply, our Constitution protects everyone from having to criminally incriminate themselves.  We cannot be forced to testify against ourselves. 

By invoking the Garrity, the officer is invoking his or her right against self incrimination. Any statements made after invoking Garrity, may only be used for department investigation purposes and not for criminal prosecution purposes.

The Garrity Rule stems from the court case Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), which was decided in 1966 by the United States Supreme Court. It was a traffic ticket fixing case of all things.  

Officers were advised that they had to answer questions subjecting them to criminal prosecution or lose their jobs. The Court held that this was Unconstitutional.  

Technically, there are two prongs once Garrity has been triggered.

First, if an officer is compelled to answer questions as a condition of employment, the officer's answers and the fruits of those answers may not be used against the officer in a subsequent criminal prosecution. Second, the department becomes limited as to what they may ask. Such questions must be specifically, narrowly, and directly tailored to the officer's job.

Thus, the basic thrust of the Garrity Rights is that a department member may be compelled to give statements under threat of discipline or discharge but those statements may not be used in the criminal prosecution of the individual officer. This means that the Garrity Rule only protects a department member from criminal prosecution based upon statements he or she might make under threat of discipline or discharge.

Also, the Garrity Rule is not automatically triggered simply because questioning is taking place. The officer must announce that he or she wants the protections under Garrity. The above statement should be prepared in writing, and the officer should obtain a copy of it. If a written statement is being taken from an officer, the officer should insist that the Garrity Warning actually be typed in the statement.  Consult your attorney and union delegate for the laws regarding Garrity in your state before providing any statement.  

In New Jersey, the Garrity Warning is actually covered in the New Jersey Attorney General Guideline on Internal Affairs.  Simply, if an officer being questioned invokes his Garrity Rights, the agency can contact the county prosecutor.  The county prosecutor can elect to grant use immunity which will prohibit any part of the officer's statement from being used against him or her in a criminal proceeding.  But, if use immunity is granted, the officer is required to answer the questions.

Below is an excerpt from the Guideline:

If the subject officer states that he refuses to answer any questions on the grounds that he may incriminate himself in a criminal matter, even though the investigators do not perceive a criminal violation, the department should discontinue the interview and contact the county prosecutor.

If the department wants to continue its administrative interview, and the county prosecutor agrees to grant use immunity, the department shall advise the subject officer, in writing, that he or she has been granted use immunity in the event his or her answers implicate him or her in a criminal offense. The officer must then answer the questions specifically related to the performance of his or her official duties, but no answer given by him or her, nor evidence derived from the answer, may be used against the officer in a criminal proceeding. At this point, if the officer refuses to answer, he or she is subject to disciplinary charges for that refusal which can result in dismissal from the agency.

It is, of course, always recommended to seek advice from an attorney qualified in the field before answering any formal questions.
















What is the Garrity rule?

The Garrity Rule

What is the Garrity warning?

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