Sunday, December 22, 2013

Garrity v. New Jersey case brief

Garrity v. New Jersey case brief summary
385 U.S. 493 (1967)

Defendants, who were police officers, appealed judgments from the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which sustained their convictions for abuse of public office, over defendants' objections that the incriminating statements used to convict them were coerced.

Upon the direction of the state supreme court, allegations that police officers were fixing traffic tickets were investigated by the State. Pursuant to the forfeiture-of-office statute, N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A: 81-17.1 (Supp. 1965), each defendant was warned before questioning that what was said could be used against him and told that if he refused to answer on the grounds that it would incriminate him, he would be discharged. Defendants answered the questions, and their responses were used to convict them on criminal charges. Defendants appealed, and their convictions were reversed.


  • The Court held that §2A: 81-17.1 was relevant only regarding the voluntariness of the statements. 
  • The Court reviewed the record and concluded that defendants' statements had been coerced and made under duress because defendants had to choose between self-incrimination or job forfeiture. 
  • The State could not threaten to discharge defendants to secure incriminating evidence against them. 
  • Defendants were entitled to the protection of U.S. Constitutional amends. V and XIV, and any incriminating statements obtained pursuant to N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A: 81-17.1 could not be used in subsequent criminal proceedings.

The Court reversed defendants' convictions on the grounds that their statements were coerced. The State could not threaten to discharge defendants in order to obtain incriminating evidence against them. The Court ruled that everyone was afforded the protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Any incriminating statements elicited under the forfeiture-of-office statute were barred from use in any subsequent criminal proceeding.

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