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Immunity: What it means when the prosecutor wants you to testify

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2021 | Criminal Defense

At some point in your life, you could find yourself running afoul of the law. In fact, you might not even be law enforcement’s main target. But they could certainly put the squeeze on you trying to get you to cooperate with them against another defendant.

When that happens, you could be offered immunity in exchange for your testimony. But before you sign any agreements, make sure that you understand exactly what type of immunity it is that you are being offered.

The 2 main types of immunity

Unless you are a foreign diplomat or a high-ranking government official with scandalous stories to tell, there are two types of immunity you might be offered in a case in which you allegedly have knowledge. The protections offered are different, so the type of immunity that is proffered is very important.

Use immunity 

Suppose police accuse you of driving the getaway car of a jewelry store heist that went wrong and the proprietor was shot and killed. The prosecutor offers “use immunity” to you for your testimony against the gunman. They agree not to use your testimony, or any evidence revealed by your testimony, to initiate charges against you.

Even so, they can still use other independently discovered evidence against you, such as video evidence of you behind the wheel of the car used in the robbery-turned-homicide. Suddenly, your immunity deal doesn’t look quite so rosy.

Transactional immunity

If you and your criminal defense attorney decide to go this route with your testimony, this is the sort of immunity that your attorney will likely seek from the prosecutor. This is as close to blanket immunity as you will get because it means that you will not be prosecuted for any actions you took or that were attributed to you during the commission of the crime.

It does not, however, protect you so completely that you can’t be prosecuted for other acts unrelated to this crime.

Strategize your position with your attorney

Before accepting any offers of immunity, make sure that you and your attorney weigh all of your options so that you make the best choice possible.