How Does Immunity Work in a Federal Criminal Case?

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Matt Kaiser, a Washington DC federal criminal defense attorney at The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC (http://www.tklf.com), discusses how immunity works in federal criminal investigations and federal criminal cases.

Sometimes, a person accused of a crime wants to give information to a federal prosecutor, but wants the best chance possible that what they say won't be used against See more +

Matt Kaiser, a Washington DC federal criminal defense attorney at The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC (http://www.tklf.com), discusses how immunity works in federal criminal investigations and federal criminal cases.

Sometimes, a person accused of a crime wants to give information to a federal prosecutor, but wants the best chance possible that what they say won't be used against them.

In this short video, criminal defense attorney Matt Kaiser explains the kinds of immunity that a person can sometimes get and what the advantages of each level of immunity are.

If you'd like more information for people facing federal criminal charges, under investigation for a federal crime, or trying to appeal a criminal conviction in federal court, please visit our webpage at:

http://www.thekaiserlawfirm.com

If you'd like more information, you can read our blog - which describes every published opinion in a federal criminal appeal where the defendant wins - you can read it here:

http://www.federalcriminalappealsblog...

Video Transcript:

If you are involved in a federal investigation and you have the information that the Government wants, that the Government would find useful. One thing that may happen is there would be immunity negotiations, or you may be able to get some kind of immunity for sharing the information that you have got. There are really three kinds of immunity that are most often talked about in that kind of situation, so let me talk about them.

First there is proper letter immunity. Normally, the Government won't give you a more significant kind of immunity without knowing a lot about what you are going to say. So what they do is they give you what's called a King-for-a-Day or Queen-for-a-Day letter. It's the weakest kind of immunity. What it does is it allows you to go in and you can talk to the Government and what you say won't be used against you later in a criminal proceeding - with two exceptions. First, they can use what you say to collect evidence to use against you. So, for example, if you tell them that you committed a murder, they can’t use the fact that you told them you committed a murder against you, but if they go dig up a body right where you told them it was and they find your driver’s license on the body they can use the fact that they found your driver’s license on the body against you. They can use the information to collect other evidence, in other words.

The second exception is if you ever say something different in court, they can use the fact that you said something else earlier against you in that later proceeding. But again, it's a relatively weak kind of community and it doesn’t guarantee that nothing bad will happen to you for talking to them, but it gives you a little bit of protection so you can sort of start a conversation with the Government.

The second kind of immunity that people often get is letter immunity. This is basically an agreement by the Governments negotiated between the Government and your lawyer. And what that kind of immunity gives you is a promise by the Government that they won't use what you say against you either to find other evidence or in any kind of prosecution. It's a relatively strong kind of immunity and what it winds up meaning, more often than not, is that if you’ve got that kind of immunity you are not going to get prosecuted later, because if you get prosecuted later the Government will have to go to a hearing and at that hearing they will have to prove that any evidence they found that they want to use against you didn’t come from what you told them earlier.

The third kind of immunity is called statutory immunity. If you’ve got statutory immunity, it means that a federal district court judge looked at the possible testimony you would give in a grand jury proceeding or in a trial and decided that you had a legitimate Fifth Amendment right - you had a right not to say anything at all - and that that judge is ordering you to talk at that proceeding. And in exchange for that - because you are still within the Fifth Amendment right - what you say can’t be used against you either directly in terms of having those words used against you, or indirectly in terms of the Government finding other evidence to use against you. Statutory immunity is the strongest kind of immunity you can have.

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Topics:  Federal Prosecutors, Fifth Amendment, Investigations, Letter Immunity, Proper Letter Immunity, Statutory Immunity

Published In: Criminal Law Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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