Garrity Rights investigations
Beginning in 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a series of cases that had a significant impact on the Fifth Amendment rights of law enforcement officers. The first two were the companion cases of Garrity v. New Jersey 385 U.S. 493 (1967) and Spevak v. Klein. 385 U.S. 511 (1967) In the Garrity case, police officers were interrogated about an alleged conspiracy to obstruct the administration of traffic laws Id at 494. They were informed that under New Jersey law they would be subject to removal from office if they exercised their right to remain silent. The officers answered the questions, their answers were admitted into evidence in their subsequent criminal trials on conspiracy charges, and they were convicted.
In resolving the issue of whether a state can use the threat of discharge to obtain incriminating statements from a public employee, the Court focused on whether fear of discharge for refusal to answer, on the one hand, and fear of self-incrimination, on the other, created a “choice between the rock and the whirlpool’ which made the statements products of coercion . . ..’” Id at 496 (citing Stevens v. Marks, 393 U.S. 234, 243 (1966). In a five-to-four decision, the Court found that duress is inherent when an individual is forced to choose between exercising the fifth amendment privilege and remaining a law enforcement officer and, therefore, the statements were involuntary as a matter of law. The Court held that a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment occurs when the government uses a police officer’s statement in a criminal trial against that officer when the statement resulted from his being told that he might lose his job if he failed to answer the questions. Id at 500.
Loraine & Associates has assisted public employers and public employees with investigations and discharge proceedings throughout Missouri.
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