Garrity v. State of New Jersey, 13

Decision Date16 January 1967
Docket NumberNo. 13,13
Citation17 L.Ed.2d 562,385 U.S. 493,87 S.Ct. 616
PartiesEdward J. GARRITY et al., Appellants, v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Daniel L. O'Connor, Washington, D.C., for appellants.

Alan B. Handler, Newark, N.J., for appellee.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellants were police officers in certain New Jersey boroughs. The Supreme Court of New Jersey ordered that alleged irregularities in handling cases in the municipal courts of those boroughs be investigated by the Attorney General, invested him with broad powers of inquiry and investigation, and directed him to make a report to the court. The matters investigated concerned alleged fixing of traffic tickets.

Before being questioned, each appellant was warned (1) that anything he said might be used against him in any state criminal proceeding; (2) that he had the privilege to refuse to answer if the disclosure would tend to incriminate him; but (3) that if he refused to answer he would be subject to removal from office.1 Appellants answered the questions. No immunity was granted, as there is no immunity statute applicable in these circumstances. Over their objections, some of the answers given were used in subsequent prosecutions for conspiracy to obstruct the administration of the traffic laws. Appellants were convicted and their convictions were sustained over their protests that their statements were coerced,2 by reason of the fact that, if they refused to answer, they could lose their positions with the police department. See State v. Naglee, 44 N.J. 209, 207 A.2d 689; 44 N.J. 259, 208 A.2d 146.

We postponed the question of jurisdiction to a hearing on the merits. 383 U.S. 941, 86 S.Ct. 941, 16 L.Ed.2d 205. The statute whose validity was sought to be 'drawn in question,' 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2), was the forfeiture statute.3 But the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to reach that question (44 N.J., at 223, 207 A.2d, at 697), deeming the voluntariness of the statements as the only issue presented. Id., at 220—222, 207 A.2d at 695—696. The statute is therefore too tangentially involved to satisfy 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2), for the only bearing it had was whether, valid or not, the fear of being discharged under it for refusal to answer on the one hand and the fear of self-incrimination on the other was "a choice between the rock and the whirlpool" 4 which made the statements products of coercion in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. We therefore dismiss the appeal, treat the papers as a petition for certiorari (28 U.S.C. § 2103), grant the petition and proceed to the merits.

We agree with the New Jersey Supreme Court that the forfeiture-of-office statute is relevant here only for the bearing it has on the voluntary character of the statements used to convict petitioners in their criminal prosecutions.

The choice imposed on petitioners was one between self-incrimination or job forfeiture. Coercion that vitiates a confession under Chambers v. State of Florida, 309 U.S. 227, 60 S.Ct. 472, 84 L.Ed. 716, and related cases can be 'mental as well as physical'; 'the blood of the accused is not the only hallmark of an unconstitutional inquisition.' Blackburn v. State of Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206, 80 S.Ct. 274, 279, 4 L.Ed.2d 242. Subtle pressures (Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 556, 74 S.Ct. 716, 98 L.Ed. 948; Haynes v. State of Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 83 S.Ct. 1336, 10 L.Ed.2d 513) may be as telling as coarse and vulgar ones. The question is whether the accused was deprived of his 'free choice to admit, to deny, or to refuse to answer.' Lisenba v. People of State of California, 314 U.S. 219, 241, 62 S.Ct. 280, 292, 86 L.Ed. 166.

We adhere to Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746, a civil forfeiture action against property. A statute offered the owner an election between producing a document or forfeiture of the goods at issue in the proceeding. This was held to be a form of compulsion in violation of both the Fifth Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. Id., at 634—635, 6 S.Ct. It is that principle that we adhere to and apply in Spevack v. Klein, 385 U.S. 511, 87 S.Ct. 625, 17 L.Ed.2d 574.

The choice given petitioners was either to forfeit their jobs or to incriminate themselves. The option to lose their means of livelihood or to pay the penalty of self-incrimination is the antithesis of free choice to speak out or to remain silent. That practice, like interrogation practices we reviewed in Miranda v. State of Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 464—465, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1623, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, is 'likely to exert such pressure upon an individual as to disable him from making a free and rational choice.' We think the statements were infected by the coercion5 inherent in this scheme of questioning and cannot be sustained as voluntary under our prior decisions.

It is said that there was a 'waiver.' That, however, is a federal question for us to decide. Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. Public Service Comm., 248 U.S. 67, 69—70, 39 S.Ct. 24, 25, 63 L.Ed. 131. Stevens v. Marks, supra, 383 U.S. 234, 243—244, 86 S.Ct. 788, 793. The Court in Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. Public Service Comm., supra, in speaking of a certificate exacted under protest and in violation of the Commerce Clause, said:

'Were it otherwise, as conduct under duress involves a choice, it always would be possible for a State to impose an unconstitutional burden by the threat of penalties worse than it in case of a failure to accept it, and then to declare the acceptance voluntary * * *.' Id., 248 U.S., at 70, 39 S.Ct. at 25.

Where the choice is 'between the rock and the whirlpool,' duress is inherent in deciding to 'waive' one or the other.

'It always is for the interest of a party under duress to choose the lesser of two evils. But the fact that a choice was made according to interest does not exclude duress. It is the characteristic of duress properly so called.' Ibid.

In that case appellant paid under protest. In these cases also, though petitioners succumbed to compulsion, they preserved their objections, raising them at the earliest possible point. Cf. Abie State Bank v. Bryan, 282 U.S. 765, 776, 51 S.Ct. 252, 256, 75 L.Ed. 690. The cases are therefore quite different from the situation where one who is anxious to make a clean breast of the whole affair volunteers the information.

Mr. Justice Holmes in McAuliffe v. New Bedford, 155 Mass. 216, 29 N.E. 517, stated a dictum on which New Jersey heavily relies:

'The petitioner may have a constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman. There are few employments for hire in which the servant does not agree to suspend his constitutional right of free speech as well as of idleness by the implied terms of his contract. The servant cannot complain, as he takes the employment on the terms which are offered him. On the same principle the city may impose any reasonable condition upon holding offices within its control.' Id., at 220, 29 N.E., at 517—518.

The question in this case, however, is not cognizable in those terms. Our question is whether a State, contrary to the requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment, can use the threat of discharge to secure incriminatory evidence against an employee.

We held in Slochower v. Board of Education, 350 U.S. 551, 76 S.Ct. 637, 100 L.Ed. 692, that a public school teacher could not be discharged merely because he had invoked the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when questioned by a congressional committee:

'The privilege against self-incrimination would be reduced to a hollow mockery if its exercise could be taken as equivalent either to a confession of guilt or a conclusive presumption of perjury. * * * The privilege serves to protect the innocent who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.' Id., at 557—558, 76 S.Ct. at 641.

We conclude that policemen, like teachers and lawyers, are not relegated to a watered-down version of constitutional rights.

There are rights of constitutional stature whose exercise a State may not condition by the exaction of a price. Engaging in interstate commerce is one. Western Union Tel. Co. v. State of Kansas, 216 U.S. 1, 30 S.Ct. 190, 54 L.Ed. 355. Resort to the federal courts in diversity of citizenship cases is another. Terral v. Burke Constr. Co., 257 U.S. 529, 42 S.Ct. 188, 66 L.Ed. 352. Assertion of a First Amendment right is still another. Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444, 58 S.Ct. 666, 82 L.Ed. 949; Murdock v. Com. of Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 63 S.Ct. 870, 87 L.Ed. 1292; Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 65 S.Ct. 315, 89 L.Ed. 430; Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301, 305—306, 85 S.Ct. 1493, 1495—1496, 14 L.Ed.2d 398. The imposition of a burden on the exercise of a Twenty-fourth Amendment right is also banned. Harman v. Forssenius, 380 U.S. 528, 85 S.Ct. 1177, 14 L.Ed.2d 50. 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.

Reversed.

Mr. Justice HARLAN, whom Mr. Justice CLARK and Mr. Justice STEWART join, dissenting.

The majority opinion here and the plurality opinion in Spevack v. Klein, 385 U.S. 511, 87 S.Ct. 625, 17 L.Ed.2d 574, stem from fundamental misconceptions about the logic and necessities of the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination. I fear that these opinions will seriously and quite needlessly hinder the protection of other important public values. I must dissent here, as I do in Spevack.

The majority employs a curious mixture of doctrines to invalidate these convictions, and I confess to difficulty in perceiving the intended relationships among the various segments of its opinion. I gather that the majority believes that the possibility that these...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1400 cases
  • Evans v. State
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • June 17, 2021
    ...evidence supporting the jury's verdict. Evans also challenges the denial of her motion to dismiss the indictment, citing Garrity v. New Jersey , 385 U. S. 493, (87 S.Ct. 616, 17 LE2d 562) (1967), which bars evidence obtained from public employees by threatening their employment; but Garrity......
  • People v. Stuller
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • August 14, 1970
    ...the ordinance places an unconstitutional condition on his 'right of employment,' relying on such cases as Garrity v. State of New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 87 S.Ct. 616, 17 L.Ed.3d 562; Uniformed Sanitation Men Ass'n v. Commissioner of Sanitation, 392 U.S. 280, 88 S.Ct. 1917, 20 L.Ed.2d 1089. I......
  • Richards v. Whitley
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Hawaii
    • February 2, 2021
    ...the failure of the employee to respond." (citing LaChance v. Erickson, 522 U.S. 262, 267-68, 118 S. Ct. 753, 139 L. Ed. 2d 695 (1998))). Garrity, a 1968 Supreme Court case, held that the Fourteenth Amendment "prohibits use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under thre......
  • Rawlings v. Police Dept. of Jersey City, N.J.
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • July 13, 1993
    ...imposition of the disciplinary sanction for failing to give it. [Id. at 113, 436 A.2d 944.] See also Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 509, 87 S.Ct. 616, 620, 17 L.Ed.2d 562, 567 (1967) (holding that "the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced stateme......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 firm's commentaries
87 books & journal articles
  • School Bullies--they Aren't Just Students: Examining School Interrogations and the Miranda Warning - Elizabeth A. Brandenburg
    • United States
    • Mercer University School of Law Mercer Law Reviews No. 59-2, January 2008
    • Invalid date
    ...(internal quotation marks omitted). 71. Lyles v. State, 221 Ga. App. 560, 561, 472 S.E.2d 132, 133 (1996). 72. Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 497 (1967); Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 534 (1963); Dixon v. State, 113 Ga. 1039, 1039, 39 S.E. 846, 846 (1901). 73. 230 Ga. App. 318, 49......
  • Confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 1 - 2020 Contents
    • August 16, 2020
    ...was coerced and invalid in a subsequent prosecution for conspiracy to obstruct administration of traffic laws. Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 87 S.Ct. 616, 17 L.Ed.2d 562 (1967). As is evident from these fact scenarios, due process and Miranda claims of involuntariness generally do no......
  • Confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 1 - 2014 Contents
    • August 17, 2014
    ...was coerced and invalid in a subsequent prosecution for conspiracy to obstruct administration of traffic laws. Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 87 S.Ct. 616, 17 L.Ed.2d 562 (1967). As is evident from these fact scenarios, due process and Miranda claims of involuntariness generally do no......
  • Confessions
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Texas Criminal Lawyer's Handbook. Volume 1 - 2021 Contents
    • August 16, 2021
    ...was coerced and invalid in a subsequent prosecution for conspiracy to obstruct administration of traffic laws. Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493, 87 S.Ct. 616, 17 L.Ed.2d 562 (1967). As is evident from these fact scenarios, due process and Miranda claims of involuntariness generally do no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 provisions
  • DC Register Vol 68, No 19 May 7, 2021 Pages 004792 to 005149
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Register
    • Invalid date
    ...of Police/Dep't of Corr. Labor Comm. v. District of Columbia Pub. Emp. Relations Bd., 973 A.2d 174, 177 (D.C.2009) 36 Garrity v. N.J., 385 U.S. 493, 500 (1967) (holding that “the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subseque......
  • 500 KAR 13:020 [Effective Until 2/24/2024] Internal Investigations Branch
    • United States
    • Kentucky Administrative Regulations 2023 Edition Title 500. Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Chapter 13. Abuse Investigation
    • January 1, 2023
    ...enforcement, or the Kentucky State Police with the exception of all documents and evidence that are protected under Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). Section 7. Incorporation by Reference.(1) "IIB-2, Special Incident Reporting Form", 5/15, is incorporated by reference. (2) This ma......
  • DC Register Vol 70, No 1 January 6, 2023 Pages 000001 to 000161
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Register
    • Invalid date
    ...Police Dep’t v. D.C. Pub. Employee Relations Bd., 2021 CA 001662 P (MPA) at 11 (May 11, 2022) (Ross, J.). 65 Id. (citing Garrity v. N.J., 385 U.S. 493, 500 (1967) (holding that “the protection of the individual under the Fourteenth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits use in subse......
  • Chapter 311, SB 13 – Law Enforcement Internal Investigation Requirements
    • United States
    • Utah Session Laws
    • January 1, 2021
    ...refuses to respond, or fails to respond truthfully, to questions after having been issued a warning issued based on Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 [(f)] (e) engages in sexual conduct while on duty; or [(g)] (f) is certified as a law enforcement peace officer, as defined in Section 53-1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT