If you had a relatively minor role in some type of illegal activity, what you know and are willing to share with authorities can help you avoid spending time behind bars. Your knowledge can be a valuable bargaining chip if it’s properly negotiated.
What we’re talking about here is the granting of immunity from prosecution. Immunity is most often granted to people who are involved in a large-scale criminal enterprise or conspiracy. These may involve drug trafficking, white collar crime and burglary rings. People at the lower levels may be offered immunity by prosecutors if they have information that can help them put together a case against the people at the top – some of whom they may not even have identified.
Transactional (blanket) immunity
The best type of immunity, if you can get it, is called transactional immunity. It’s often called blanket immunity. Basically, it means that someone won’t be prosecuted for whatever criminal offense(s) they committed as part of the activity under investigation in exchange for their sworn testimony against one or more others who have greater criminal culpability.
It’s crucial to understand, though, that transactional immunity won’t protect a person from prosecution for any other crime they might be accused of. Maybe a person gets immunity for their relatively minor role in a string of bank robberies. If they are accused of shoplifting on their way home from testifying in court, that immunity won’t help them.
Derivative use immunity
Sometimes just called “use immunity,” this simply means that someone’s testimony can’t be used against them. If you can’t testify about the ringleader’s role in the robberies without discussing your own involvement, your testimony can’t be used against you. However, if prosecutors have other evidence of your involvement in the crime, that can be used. Therefore, this type of immunity isn’t as coveted.
You should never try to negotiate for immunity on your own. It’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance.