How transactional and use immunity differ
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How transactional and use immunity differ

| May 12, 2021 | Federal Criminal Defense

You’ve gotten mixed up in something illegal, and now you’re facing charges. You’re relieved to hear, however, that the prosecutor considers you “small game” compared to others who are involved in the crime. You’re being offered immunity in exchange for your testimony against someone else.

Should you take it? Maybe. Before you take the deal, you need to ask what kind of immunity is being offered — and make sure that you understand the answer.

Are you being offered transactional immunity?

Transactional immunity is what most people think of when they hear that a witness has “immunity from prosecution.” If you’re offered transactional immunity, you are generally free from any threat of prosecution for the offenses in question — as long as you remain cooperative with the authorities and testify truthfully.

However, prosecutors can be loath to offer transactional immunity. This kind of blanket protection from prosecution can backfire on the state far too easily. It’s often reserved for situations where the prosecution can’t make their case any other way.

Are you being offered use immunity?

Use immunity is much more limited — but much more common. If you’re given use immunity, it only means that the prosecutors cannot use your testimony about the crimes to prosecute you. That can allow you to speak more freely in court.

One caveat should be noted, however. If the prosecution thinks that you aren’t truthful in your testimony, then anything you say in court about the crime can be used in a perjury trial.

What should you do if you’ve been offered immunity for your testimony?

If you’re wise, you’ll speak to your attorney before you accept any offer from the state. When you’re facing criminal charges, you need to consider every action you may take very carefully.