When you are being questioned by the police or prosecutor about a crime, you have a constitutional right to remain silent to avoid incriminating yourself. However, if the prosecutor is really interested in getting information from you to help resolve a case, there is a possibility you could be offered immunity. There are two types of immunity and it is important you understand the differences so that you do not legally harm your case.
What Is "Use and Derivative Use" Immunity?
If the prosecutor offers you use and derivative use immunity, it means that any statements you make cannot be used against you to prosecute you. For instance, if you testify against an accomplice who committed murder, your testimony regarding the murder cannot be used against you to charge you with related crimes, such as helping to get rid of evidence of the murder.
However, there is a huge exception to this rule that could land you in legal trouble. Although your own statements and any evidence you provide cannot be used to prosecute you, the police and prosecutors can look for their own independent evidence to charge you. Using the previous example, if police find surveillance footage that shows your role in the crime, you could be charged anyway. This type of immunity is the most common offered because it leaves the door open to still seek justice against all parties involved in the crime.
What Is Transactional Immunity?
A less commonly offered type of protection offered by prosecutors is transactional immunity. It is the type of immunity usually portrayed on television legal dramas. Transactional immunity provides you complete protection from any crime about which you testify. For instance, if you testify against your accomplices about a drug dealing operation, you cannot face any charges related to any testimony you offer.
As with use and derivative use immunity, there is a catch though. Prosecutors can charge you for any crimes that you do not mention. For instance, if you were also breaking into homes while operating as part of the drug dealing operation and do not testify to this aspect, you could be charged with burglarizing the homes.
Whether you are offered transactional immunity or use and derivative use immunity, it is important that you confer with a defense attorney, such as Robert S Fisher P.C. The attorney can help negotiate the best protection for you and ensure that you have covered all of your bases when testifying.