When someone wants to apply to become a police officer, one question on the form is whether or not they have committed a crime or were present when a crime was committed. If they say yes and detail the crime committed, and the statute of limitations has not passed, is it possible the individual would be arrested and convicted of the crime? Could the form be taken as an "official government document," allowing the answer to considered tantamount to a confession even for a misdemeanor?

  • Related: "Garrity v. New Jersey", Wikipedia.
    – Nat
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 0:49
  • For what it's worth, on a general job application they're more likely ask if the applicant has been "convicted" of a crime. Unless they are trying to be extra sneaky I suppose...
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 1:16
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    Is that really how the question is worded? I have completed applications for background checks for top secret clearances in the military, and for airline pilot. The closest to that I think I've ever seen to that wording is asking if I had been arrested or charged. Certainly convictions are fair game to ask about, but "have you ever been present" is a pretty high standard! Who has never been to an underage kegger?! (even if you didn't drink you would answer yes) I would invoke Garrity vs New Jersey as well as the 5th amendment and decline to answer that one. Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 1:18

1 Answer 1


It is possible. If you say e.g. "On March 12 2021 I stole a steak from the grocery store at the corner of Smith St. and Wesson Ave.", that is a confession. It is voluntary and not coerced (you're not required to apply for the job), so it is admissible. It is extremely unlikely that there is any insulating provision in the job-application process ("information obtained via applying for this job will never be used against you in a court of law"). Whether or not you would actually be arrested and tried depends on the circumstances (basically, is it "worth it" to them to prosecute you). Also, what you say in the "explanation" box matters, so I gave you a clear confession to criminal culpability. Something like "I was at the store when some dude shot a lady" isn't a confession to committing a crime, it more satisfies the full-disclosure requirement.

  • 1
    The analysis on whether the confession was coerced seems a bit thin. A person isn't required to confess when they're being held without an attorney, but we still treat it as coercion. This is a long ways off, and the bottom-line conclusion may be correct, but it feels a bit more like guesswork than anything else.
    – bdb484
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 17:48
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    @bdb484 I think that the analysis about voluntariness as opposed to coercion is almost surely correct and for the right reasons. The inquiry on voluntariness generally hinges on whether you are in custody at the time, and if any threat tantamount to extortion or duress is present. A job application context presents none of these circumstances.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 21:34
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    Worth noting that lying on the application will be grounds for termination when the truth comes out - these questions are generally honesty tests and minor offences will not usually rule you out.
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 22:16
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    Might be worth commenting on "Garrity vs. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967)". While that case apparently dealt with someone who already had a job (rather than a job-applicant), it'd seem related.
    – Nat
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 0:59
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    @Acccumulation justia.com/criminal/defenses/duress is reasonable.
    – hobbs
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 3:46

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