In very simple terms, immunity in the area of the law means that you are exempt from prosecution and penalty. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits someone from being required to incriminate themselves. This rule also applies in Michigan. A person with immunity can speak freely without fear of being charged criminally for what they might say.
On television or in movies, you may have heard the phrase “pleading the fifth” or “taking the fifth.” That is a way of saying that a suspect will not answer questions because the answers could be self-incriminating. Immunity removes that concern.
An offer of immunity must come from a prosecutor, and a court must approve the offer. To be “officially” granted immunity, there must be a court order that is signed by a judge.
There are two types of immunity:
The granting of Transactional Immunity requires a witness to testify about self-incriminating things in exchange for a promise to never prosecute the witness for information that comes out during his or her testimony. This type of immunity is also called “blanket immunity” or “total immunity.” Michigan, like the federal government, does not recognize or permit transactional immunity.
Use and Derivative Use Immunity
A witness given Use Immunity is protected from future prosecution based on what he or she says on the witness stand, but not from other evidence the police or law enforcement find or possess. Importantly, the government is not permitted to use the information provided by the witness to find other evidence against the witness. Using the testimony for investigation purposes is called “derivative use.” If the prosecutor files charges against the witness, the defense can demand a hearing to ensure any evidence was collected independent of the testimony.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney with Expertise in Immunity Issues
If the testimony of a witness may be incriminating against that witness, he or she may have the right to “plead the fifth” and remain silent. This person would have the right to an attorney at all times upon request and can retain counsel of their choice. As Michigan’s premier criminal defense law firm, LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C., has decades of experience helping witnesses obtain immunity and avoid criminal charges. LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will work to get you the most protection allowed by law. We have experience in both federal and state criminal courts and can help in protecting you against the many landmines common with grants of immunity. Please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and one of our attorneys will contact you for a free consultation.