When a law enforcement officer gets into a shooting or an accident with a citizen their path through the legal system is quite different than the average citizen. Whether that citizen involved with the law enforcement officer is wanted for murder, car jacking or another serious, violent felony, the
officer does not enjoy the same rights as you and I. When a “Critical Incident” such as this occurs South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is immediately called and takes over the investigation. All evidence including body worn camera video is turned over to SLED and remains in their possession during the pendency of the investigation.
During the time of the SLED investigation the officer is put on administrative leave and simultaneously undergoes an internal investigation conducted by his or her own department. The officer must give a statement and cannot invoke their constitutional rights as ordinary citizens often do when faced with an investigation.
In 1967 the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Garrity v. New Jersey. The issue in the Garrity case was whether a state could, contrary to the Fourth Amendment, use the threat of discharge from employment to secure incriminating evidence against an employee. Prior to the Garrity decision public employees were required to give statements and cooperate with an internal investigation or forfeit their jobs. After Garrity, public employees are still required to give statements and cooperate in the investigation, but their statements cannot be used against them in a subsequent criminal proceeding. In essence Garrity extended the right against self-incrimination to public employees, the same right that private citizens have enjoyed for years. So, the required statement of a public employee during an investigation has been dubbed a “Garrity Statement”.
For over thirty years the Cornely Law Firm has handled the majority of critical incidents involving law enforcement in the Lowcountry.