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In 2022, Netflix released a series about one of Todd’s clients: Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 11th March 2023, 06:15 pm
The Fifth Amendment of the The Constitution guarantees you the right not to incriminate yourself. Therefore, if a prosecutor asks you a question that would incriminate you, you may invoke the Fifth Amendment. To be incriminating, the question must give direct evidence of a crime or provide evidence that could lead to additional evidence that a crime has been committed. Government attorneys remove the possibility of a witness invoking his or her Fifth Amendment privilege by offering the witness immunity.
With letter immunity, you voluntarily agree to testify, so the court is not ordering you to do so. Because the court isn’t ordering you to testify, you would be in danger of making incriminating statements against yourself. Another weakness of letter immunity is the fact that it only applies to one particular district. For example, you can receive letter immunity in district 1, but you may be found to be a suspect in a case in district 2. If the immunized statements that you made in district 1 can be used to prosecute you in the case in district 2, these statements will be used against you. In addition to that, the government attorney can inform officials in other jurisdictions that you testified in the previous case in district 1.
“Use and Derivative Use” Immunity
With use and derivative use immunity, the prosecution may not take a witness’ statements and use them to prosecute him. The government attorney must also not use evidence that came from the witness’ statements to prosecute the witness. It doesn’t, however, prevent the government from investigating the matter further and using additional evidence to prosecute the witness. For example, the witness may admit to committing a crime while giving his immunized testimony. The government attorney may only prosecute the witness after finding independent evidence against the witness.
Breaking the Agreement
It will be difficult for the government attorney to break this agreement because this would require the government attorney to attend an ethics hearing before he or she would be able to prosecute you. At the hearing, the prosecution must prove that the evidence he or she is going to use to convict you did not come from the testimony you gave in the case in which you were immunized. A government attorney is also in danger of being sanctioned if the court discovers that the attorney tried to break your agreement when it wasn’t warranted.
Statutory immunity is the strongest type of immunity. The federal judge examines the testimony that you will give in court, and he or she determines that you have a legitimate right to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege. In this case, the judge orders you to testify, but the government attorney will not be able to use your statements to prosecute you. You cannot be prosecuted at a later date in the event that the prosecution used your testimony to discover further evidence that you committed a crime.
Refusing to Testify after Receiving Immunity
If you refuse to testify after you have been granted immunity, you may be subject to being held in contempt of court. Then, you may receive a fine, or you may receive a jail sentence. Contempt of court is a charge you would receive if you were to disobey or disrespect the court. It is used to ensure that the judge can maintain order in the court.
In this instance, you would be charged with either civil contempt or criminal contempt. If you are held in civil contempt, you will not have the right to a jury trial. Therefore, the judge may decide to leave you in jail until you agree to testify or until the court case concludes, but you cannot be held for longer than 18 months.
You can also be held in criminal contempt. Rather than coerce you to testify, criminal contempt is used to punish you for not testifying when you were granted immunity. If the court proves that the order to testify was valid and that you willfully disobeyed it, you can be charged with criminal contempt of court. With this type of contempt of court, you will be put on trial. If you are found guilty, you will receive either a fine or a prison sentence.
Immunity is a powerful tool that gives federal prosecutors leverage that can help them win big cases. When a person has information about a crime, they may feel compelled to keep quiet. Sometimes, they are under threat from an outside party, but often, they are simply afraid of prosecution for their own involvement in the crime.
If a person is suspected to have knowledge of a crime, or they are suspected to have been involved somehow, the federal courts may choose to offer them a form of immunity in exchange for providing the court with their information.
A variety of situations can lead the government to offer immunity:
Not every type of immunity offers blanket safety for the person in question. Some guarantee more safety than others.
This type of letter gives a person under investigation “queen for a day” status, allowing them to tell the federal government what they know about a crime without the threat of having their words used against them in court.
This type of immunity isn’t as bulletproof as it sounds. If you’re given proffer immunity by a federal court, your words won’t be used against you in the literal sense. They can be used to inspire investigators to go on the hunt for more evidence to stack against you.
There is another exception to profit letter immunity as well. If the witness changes their story in court, it can count as separate evidence of wrongdoing.
In a federal case, letter immunity is negotiated between the government and the suspect’s lawyer. This is the type of immunity one can really trust in. A solid agreement of letter immunity guarantees that the person’s statement won’t be used against them in any way, including as inspiration to look for further evidence. This type of immunity is offered when a suspect or witness has information so valuable it’s considered worth allowing their possible involvements in the crimes to slide.
While one can technically still get prosecuted in a case with letter immunity, it would be very rare. The government would need overwhelming evidence from a completely different source, and they would need to be able to prove that they didn’t find this source or obtain this information due to their knowledge of the witness statement. This usually isn’t easy to do.
There are exceptions. For example, if a witness had information about a high-level criminal, and they got this information through assisting with a crime, their role in the matter would be set aside. However, if a video was later released by another party, and it clearly showed the witness participating in the crime, prosecution could still occur.
The Fifth Amendment gives citizens the right to refuse to incriminate themselves. However, in the grand jury, things can be a bit different. In federal court, a judge sometimes chooses to force an individual to give a witness statement.
According to 18 U.S.C. § 6002, when a witness with immunity refuses to testify, they can be held in contempt. In exchange for this “taking away” of their right to silence, it is simply transferred into immunity. The witness testifies, and their words will not be used against them.
If you’re involved in a criminal case and considering an offer of immunity, it’s important to avoid moving forward without the advice of a qualified lawyer. Taking an offer of immunity can be highly beneficial or very detrimental depending on your situation. Only an experienced lawyer will be able to determine whether taking an offer of immunity is in your best interest.
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