Prosecutors may have a difficult time making a case against the “big fish” – the person or people who masterminded a crime. That’s where knowledge is power. Your knowledge, perhaps combined with the evidence you can provide, can give authorities what they need to charge someone who has committed far more serious crimes than you are alleged to have committed.
If you have useful information and are willing to provide it, you may be able to get immunity from prosecution for your alleged role in the criminal activity. Prosecutors often grant immunity in large-scale cases where the ringleader has been careful not to get their fingerprints on it – literally or figuratively.
There are two primary types of immunity, which are very different from one another.
Transactional immunity is also called “blanket immunity” because it’s the most comprehensive. If you’re granted transactional immunity, it means that you won’t be prosecuted for your alleged criminal activity as it pertains to the case at hand or the overall activity you’re testifying about as long as you work with authorities.
Note that this doesn’t apply to any other alleged crimes you may have committed. If you’re granted immunity in connection to an embezzlement case at work, and then you’re arrested for shoplifting, your immunity won’t protect you.
Derivative use immunity
Sometimes also just called “use immunity,” this is far more limited. Derivative use immunity protects you from prosecution for any crimes you may have to admit to as you testify against others. With this type of immunity, you can’t “plead the Fifth” because you’re not risking prosecution by incriminating yourself.
There’s an important caveat to derivative use immunity. While your own testimony can’t be used against you, other testimony and evidence can be.
When you have information that is useful to law enforcement and prosecutors, it’s wise to make the most of it. Don’t try to negotiate on your own. Let an experienced criminal defense attorney work to get you the best possible immunity deal.