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Garrity v. N.J.

Supreme Court of the United States

November 10, 1966, Argued ; January 16, 1967, Decided

No. 13

Opinion

 [****4]   [*494]   [***564]   [**617]  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

 [****5]   [*495]  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  [**618]  they refused to answer, they could lose their positions with the police department. See 44 N. J. 209, 207 A. 2d 689, 44 N. J. 259, 208 A. 2d 146.

  [****6]  We postponed the question of jurisdiction to a hearing on the merits. 383 U.S. 941.The statute  [***565]  whose validity was sought to be "drawn in question," 28 U. S. C. § 1257 (2), was the forfeiture statute. 3 [****7]  But the New  [*496]  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.

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385 U.S. 493 *; 87 S. Ct. 616 **; 17 L. Ed. 2d 562 ***; 1967 U.S. LEXIS 2882 ****

GARRITY ET AL. v. NEW JERSEY

Prior History:  [****1]  APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY.

Disposition: Appeal dismissed and certiorari granted; 44 N. J. 209, 207 A. 2d 689; 44 N. J. 259, 208 A. 2d 146, reversed.

CORE TERMS

warning, self-incrimination, involuntary, purposes, constitutional privilege, circumstances, interrogation, duress, cases, convictions, questioning, coercion, criminal prosecution, investigated, discharged, employees, traffic

Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Employees & Officials, Criminal Law & Procedure, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Interrogation, Voluntariness, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Perjury, General Overview, Evidence, Privileges, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Defendant's Rights, Right to Remain Silent, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Speech, Elections, Terms & Voting, Poll Taxes, Public Employees, Qualifications for Federal Office