The defendant was a police officer. A state statute required state employees to answer questions or forfeit their job and pension. The defendant was told:
1) Anything he said could be used against him in a criminal prosecution;
2) He could refuse to answer questions if the answers could tend to incriminate him; and
3) If he refused to answer he could be removed from his job. The defendant made admissions and was convicted of a criminal offense in part based on the evidence consisting of his admissions.
Whether the defendant was deprived of his Fifth Amendment rights in view of the state statute?
Yes. The protection of the individual under the Fifth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits the use in subsequent criminal proceedings of statements obtained under threat of removal from a job.
Coercion that drives a confession can be mental as well as physical. The choice the government gave the defendant was between self-incrimination or job forfeiture. These choices were likely to exert such pressure as to prevent the defendant from making a free and rational choice. Because of the state statute, the defendant had a choice between a “rock and a whirlpool.” Making such a choice cannot be voluntary. The protection of the individual under the Fifth Amendment against coerced statements prohibits the use of these statements in subsequent criminal proceedings. However, the Fifth Amendment does not prohibit the use of these statements in administrative or civil matters.
385 U.S. 493, 87 S. Ct. 616 (1967)