Federal Investigation Immunity
Becoming involved in a federal investigation can begin with a knock on the door, a search warrant, a subpoena, a target letter, or word on the street. You may contain useful information the government wants pertaining to a certain case in question. If you are willing to provide information, notify officials that immunity negotiations must be considered before any information is given. This will protect the individual in question. There are common types of immunity. This includes a proffer letter immunity, letter immunity, and statutory immunity.
The Proffer Letter
The proffer letter is known as the “king for the day” or “queen for the day” agreement letter written and signed between the individual involved in the criminal investigation and federal prosecutors. This agreement allows the individual to explain any knowledge of the crime(s) with assured protection that none of the statements can be used against him or her in court. This can include the target, subject, and/or witness; although generally the targets and subjects are the ones to mostly provide proffers. Two exceptions align with the proffer letter. The first exception allows federal investigators to utilize the statement given to collect other evidence against the individual concerning the case. The second exception concludes that if the individual under investigation states different facts or information at a later date or in court, federal investigators can use that against the individual in a later court proceeding. This immunity does not give full protection, yet just enough that the individual can speak to the government without those statements being used against the individual. Already considered risky, the proffer letter can prove to be even riskier with the ability that federal prosecutors can use any given statements for impeachment purposes. The proffer version the defendant originally had given to federal agents will be compared with the new trial testimony to decide whether or not the defendant shall be impeached. Keep in mind, the proffer statement was interpreted and written by federal investigators. Proffers can be high risk and should never be made without the guidance of a white-collar criminal defense attorney.
The letter immunity is an agreement by the government that is negotiated between the individual’s lawyer and the government. This immunity gives the individual a government promise that any statement given can and will not be held against him or her in the court of law. This includes not allowing the government to use statements as evidence or towards prosecution. This is a strong type of immunity protection for the individual and prohibits the government to prosecute. In order to be prosecuted at a later date, the government would have to attend an ethics hearing as well as prove any information that investigators want to use has not been provided in previous statements.
This type of immunity also known as formal immunity is based on a federal judge reviewing the individuals’ possible testimony that would be given at trial or grand jury proceedings and has determined the individual has a legitimate right of the Fifth Amendment. Even though the individual has right to not speak, the judge is ordering testimony from that person. In exchange for testimony, prosecutors can not prosecute the individual whether be directly or indirectly. Directly would include terms of testimony used against the individual, whereas indirectly would conclude that the government is not allowed to use any given testimony to collect further evidence to be used against the person.
Witness Immunity Limits
In some cases, immunity is not available through prosecutors while others may have limited immunity. Generally, prosecutors do not offer any sort of immunity towards sex offenders. This is due to the fact that the United States has a predominant interest in prosecuting and convicting sex offenders. In addition, if a witness commits any crime such as obstruction of justice, perjury, contempt, or conspiracy to impede an ongoing prosecution or investigation, will be prosecuted for the crime committed. A witness that commits any of these crimes will not lose immunity since it relates to the case the witness is testifying about.
In some cases, more than one jurisdiction such as federal and state, or more than one state can prosecute a criminal for his or her crime. If a crime has violated both federal and state laws, testimony from the immunized federal witness cannot be used in conjunction with the states testimony and vice versa. If a witness receives “transactional immunity”, he or she’s immunity will extend throughout the state only, not into federal jurisdiction. The federal system offers what is called the “use and derivative use immunity.” This immunization concludes that a witness receiving transactional immunity can potentially be prosecuted for crimes or activities relating to witness testimony. However, federal prosecutors do not have the ability to use the witnesses’ testimony against him or her.