Immunity in Exchange for Testimony

Immunity in Exchange for Testimony

The Fifth Amendment allows anyone charged with a crime to avoid self-incrimination. There is no legal mechanism available to compel a witness to reveal any information that could lead to incriminating evidence being revealed. The only resource available to the prosecutor is called offering immunity in exchange for a testimony. Regardless of the outcome, the bail bonds process will still be available to any defendant or witness involved in the case.

Transactional Immunity for Testimony

Immunity protects witnesses against future charges that could relate to the testimony given. This also applies to the current case as well, but the prosecutor could theoretically bring charges against the witness for anything that isn’t related to the testimony.

Transactional vs Use Immunity, Can Immunity Be Revoked?

Can immunity be revoked once it has been offered to a witness? This is a tricky legal subject because if the immunity is revoked, it could have the effect of deterring future witnesses from accepting immunity in exchange for testimony. If the immunity has been granted by the court, any evidence as a result of the testimony will be inadmissible in the court.

There are other ways of revoking immunity, and this can happen by actions initiated by the witness. Choosing to testify is a form of waiving immunity, for example. The granting of immunity is important to understand because it comes with a stipulation: The witness could face a charge of contempt of court for refusing to testify. Fines and even jail time could be imposed on witnesses who refuse to testify after being granted immunity in exchange for a testimony.

Generally speaking, the immunity can’t be revoked by the prosecution because it would undermine the practice of granted immunity. Future cases would be affected if the immunity were revoked as a matter of routine, so this practice is strongly discouraged. However, the immunity is granted as a bargain in exchange for a witness testimony, and this must be fulfilled. If the witness takes the stand and refuses to give the promised testimony, the prosecutor can rescind the immunity and make a motion to re-try the case.

What is Derivative Use Immunity?

Derivative use immunity is a strict application of the concept of immunity. There are different legal immunity types because the issue in question is the use of the witness’s statement in the future. Derivative use immunity therefore refers to the ability of the prosecutor to use the statements made by the witness in court to construct a future case against the person. Derivatives refer to the secondary charges that can be made against a witness for statements made while under the protection of legal immunity.

Transactional vs Use Immunity

Because there are different kinds of legal immunity, it can be confusing to sort out the meanings of these terms. In general, these legal terms are descriptive, and this makes it possible to extrapolate the meaning from specific descriptive words. For example, transactional immunity is a bargain between the witness and the prosecutor.

This type allows the witness to enjoy immunity from prosecution for the offenses involved in the direct case. The transactional form is often called total immunity because it is the most comprehensive form of immunity that can be offered to a witness. However, the witness can still be charged for other items that are unrelated to the testimony given under immunity.

Use immunity provides a more limited scope of protection to the witness. In use immunity cases, the witness is protected against the prosecutor’s efforts to use any portion of the testimony against the witness. However, there are exceptions to this because the prosecutor could use the witness’s statements in future charges related to perjury or giving false statements.

Types of Immunity, Summary

Understanding the various legal immunity types can be helpful in the unfortunate situation that faces so many people every year. Witnessing a crime can be a consequential event in any person’s life, so it is important to understand the legal system and how it functions. Learning about transactional vs use immunity can assist in the process of determining the next legal steps to take. The transactional type of immunity is more common at the state level, and use or derivative immunity is more common at the federal level.

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