How does someone get immunity from prosecution?
Immunity from prosecution is rarely granted on a state or federal level. Because there are different types of immunity, it is essential to have experienced counsel helping you.
Immunity is an Exemption from Prosecution and Penalty
In straightforward 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 “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 a judge signs.
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 never to prosecute the witness for information discussed during their testimony. This type of immunity is also called “blanket immunity” or “total immunity.” Like the federal government, Michigan 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 they say on the witness stand, but not from other evidence the police or law enforcement find or possess. Notably, 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 that law enforcement officers or agents collected evidence independent from the testimony.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who has immunity from prosecution?
In exchange for evidence against other suspected criminals, a public prosecutor may provide protection from prosecution to a witness accused of criminal activity.
Why do prosecutors grant immunity?
A prosecutor typically grants immunity to someone who has committed a minor offense in the hopes of catching or convicting someone who has committed a significant crime.
What does immunity mean in legal terms?
Immunity is a legal exemption provided by government authority or statute from a legal requirement, punishment, prosecution, or penalty.
Can prosecutors offer immunity?
Prosecutors grant immunity to witnesses who can assist them or law enforcement in making a case. Specific rules apply once they have granted it. Prosecutors use immunity from prosecution as a powerful tool. Witnesses for all types of crimes, including major ones like kidnapping and murder, may be granted immunity.
Can police officers offer immunity?
Immunity is granted through a court order in Michigan. The police cannot get a court order and cannot grant immunity. If the police offer immunity in exchange for incriminating evidence, a judge can suppress the evidence due to the officer’s misconduct.
What happens if you are granted immunity?
If someone is granted immunity, they cannot be prosecuted for any offenses covered under the order for immunity from prosecution. Immunity is highly complex, and it is vital that someone does not seek immunity or attempt to interpret an immunity order without a lawyer.
How do you acquire immunity?
The most common way to acquire immunity from prosecution is through negotiations between a retained criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor or Assistant United States Attorney.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney with Expertise in Immunity Issues
If the testimony of a witness may be incriminating against that witness, they 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 criminal defense attorneys who are experienced in federal and state criminal courts and can help protect you against the many landmines common with grants of immunity.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.