Garrity Warnings to Law Enforcement Officers During Investigations

February 27, 2023

The concept of a Garrity warning, also known as Garrity protection, is rooted in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case. This principle applies to all citizens, including law enforcement officers, who may be suspected of wrongdoing during the course of their duties.

A Garrity warning informs a law enforcement officer that their statements during an internal investigation may be used against them in a subsequent criminal proceeding. The purpose of the warning is to ensure that officers are not coerced into making self-incriminating statements during an internal investigation, as the Fifth Amendment guarantees that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against themselves in a criminal case.

The Garrity warning is named after a 1967 Supreme Court case, Garrity v. New Jersey, in which the Court held that the self-incrimination privilege applies to public employees, including law enforcement officers, during internal investigations. In this case, the Court found that statements made by police officers during an internal investigation, which were compelled under threat of disciplinary action, were inadmissible in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

Garrity warnings are typically given to law enforcement officers who are suspected of misconduct, such as excessive force, corruption, or violation of departmental policies. The warning is meant to ensure that officers are aware of their rights and that their statements are voluntary and not coerced. It is important to note that the Garrity warning applies only to statements made during an internal investigation and not to statements made during a criminal investigation.

It is important to note that while Garrity warnings are given to protect officers from self-incrimination, they also serve to protect the integrity of the internal investigation. Without the protection of a Garrity warning, officers may be hesitant to speak candidly during an internal investigation, which could lead to a lack of evidence and a lack of accountability for misconduct.

When providing a Garrity warning, it is important to ensure that the officer understands the warning and its implications. The officer should be informed that their statements may be used against them in a criminal proceeding and that they have the right to remain silent. Additionally, the officer should be informed that they have the right to legal representation during the internal investigation.

It is also important to note that the protection provided by a Garrity warning is not absolute. While statements made during an internal investigation may not be used directly in a criminal proceeding, they may be used to lead to other evidence that can be used in a criminal case. Additionally, if an officer makes a statement during an internal investigation that is not protected by Garrity and later incriminates themselves in a criminal case, that statement can be used in the criminal case.

Contact Us for Help

If you are a California law enforcement officer suspected of wrongdoing, criminal charges may follow. Consequently, you need to protect yourself. Contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today. Call us to schedule a free confidential consultation with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney. Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. This distinction is held by only a small percentage of California defense lawyers. He’s represented police officers and federal agents throughout Southern California in both state and federal criminal cases.

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