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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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what is a proffer agreement

By Spodek Law Group | July 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 28, 2023)

Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:31 pm

Understanding Proffer Agreements: A Crucial Decision That Requires an Experienced Attorney

If federal prosecutors invite you to a “proffer session” after an arrest, you face a critical legal crossroads that will impact the entire course of your case. The stakes involved with proffer agreements are extremely high. Having a skilled white collar defense lawyer advising you at this stage is absolutely essential.

This guide breaks down everything you need to know about proffer deals, why cooperating with the government is such a serious decision, and how to find the right attorney to protect your interests every step of the way. Don’t go through this alone.

What is a Proffer Agreement?

A proffer agreement, also sometimes called a “queen for a day” letter, is a written contract between the defendant and prosecution that allows the accused to provide information to investigators off the record. Anything said during the secret proffer session cannot be used directly against the defendant in court under the terms of the agreement.

In exchange, prosecutors get to gather critical investigative facts and gauge whether the defendant has valuable information to trade in return for some sort of plea deal, immunity, or other favorable treatment down the road. Defendants must tell the complete truth during proffer sessions under penalty of nullifying the immunity deal.

Common provisions of proffer agreements include:

  • Prohibition on directly using the defendant’s statements against them in court
  • Requirements to provide truthful information
  • Terms for withdrawing from and nullifying the agreement
  • Clawback clauses allowing derivative use of statements
  • Expiration date of the immunity provided

The Dangers of a Proffer Agreement

The limited protections offered by proffer agreements have some major loopholes. Information provided can still do damage through indirect derivative use and to cross-corroborate other evidence. Common risks include:

Locking You Into an Admission – Statements made can box you into a certain account of events. Even if not directly admissible, your credibility at trial will suffer if your testimony departs from the proffer.

Exposing Unknown Liabilities – You may unwittingly reveal potential crimes prosecutors were unaware of but can now pursue. Caveat emptor.

Derogatory Use Against You – Proffer statements provide “lead value” to guide the ongoing investigation and use against you in derivative ways.

Weakening Your Case – Disclosures give prosecutors a valuable preview of your defense strategy so they can undermine theories at trial.

Waiving Some Appeal Rights – Proffer waivers can foreclose certain appellate arguments down the road.

In short, proffering is fraught with hazards that require careful analysis by an attorney knowledgeable in criminal law. Never agree to cooperating with the government before assessing risks.

Should You Accept a Proffer Agreement?

Whether to proffer ultimately depends on your specific circumstances and risk tolerance. Some factors to weigh include:

Strength of the Evidence – The weaker the existing case against you, the more incentive prosecutors have to offer incentives for cooperating.

Potential Criminal Exposure – If you are facing decades behind bars, cooperation becoming an informant may be your best path to sentencing leniency.

Codefendants – Implicating others comes with dangers, especially if their testimony would contradict yours.

Case Strategies – Proffers let the prosecution eliminate gaps and weaknesses in their case. This compromises potential defenses.

Collateral Consequences – Cooperation can impact family relationships, career, finances, and reputation.

Moral Considerations – Some view cooperation deals as “snitching” which carries stigma. Others see it as taking responsibility.

Navigating all of these issues requires guidance from a lawyer well-versed in criminal law. They can provide a reality check on options. Never make these big decisions alone.

Finding an Attorney to Advise on a Proffer

Where can you find competent legal counsel to assess your proffer agreement options? Start by asking trusted colleagues and mentors for referrals to qualified white collar criminal defense lawyers with relevant experience. Contact state bar associations to vet credentials. Search for reviews from past clients online.

Look for attorneys who:

  • Regularly handle federal criminal cases
  • Possess extensive proffer agreement experience
  • Have negotiated favorable plea deals for clients
  • Understand complex criminal sentencing guidelines
  • Publish articles and content about proffer decisions

Also research court-appointed federal public defenders in your district. While unable to provide recommendations, they can offer very helpful perspective given their regular criminal defense work on behalf of less affluent clients. Cast a wide net and take time to thoroughly research multiple attorneys. Assess credentials, experience, and track records.

Choosing the Right Lawyer to Evaluate Your Proffer Deal

Vet any potential criminal defense lawyer across these important criteria before making a hiring decision:

Years of Relevant Expertise – Look for an attorney with at least 10-15 years handling federal criminal cases with proffer experience.

Negotiation Skills & Outcomes – Opt for counsel with a proven record of both securing beneficial proffer deals and avoiding unfavorable ones for clients when appropriate.

Communication Abilities – They must be able to clearly explain the complexities of proffer agreements in terms you understand.

Strategic Thinking – Choose a lawyer capable of dispassionately analyzing risks versus potential rewards of cooperating.

Resources – Select a firm with ample staffing to research case law, analyze the plea deal, and provide ongoing counsel.

Compatibility – Make sure your personality and work styles sync well. Trust and confidence in each other is crucial.

Affordability – Understand fee structures and secure cost estimates in writing. Make sure rates fit your budget.

Take time to thoroughly vet lawyers across all these criteria before making a hiring decision. Schedule initial consultations with multiple top choices before selecting your attorney.

Let Spodek Law Group Advise You on Your Proffer Agreement

Here at Spodek Law Group, founding partner Todd Spodek is an accomplished white collar defense lawyer with extensive experience providing proffer session counsel to clients. We will take the time to carefully analyze every clause of your proposed agreement.

If the deal proves favorable, we can advise you on how to approach the proffer session tactically to obtain maximum benefit. If the agreement contains concerning overreach by prosecutors, we will fight to renegotiate more client-friendly terms when possible.

In some instances, we may recommend declining the proffer altogether when risks outweigh potential rewards. Our job is assessing what course of action best protects your interests. Don’t go through this alone. To discuss your proffer agreement, contact our team anytime 24/7 at 212-300-5196.

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