Covered by NYDaily News. Las Vegas man accused of threatening a prominent attorney and making vile remarks.
Covered by New York Times, and other outlets. Fake heiress accused of conning the city’s wealthy, and has an HBO special being made about her.
Accused of stalking Alec Baldwin. The case garnered nationwide attention, with USAToday, NYPost, and other media outlets following it closely.
Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:31 pm
Picture this, you and me, Todd Spodek of the Spodek Law Group, grabbing a coffee and talking about immunity. Not the vaccine kind, but the legal kind. Imagine it like a ‘get out of jail free’ card used in that Monopoly game, but with way more strings attached. You with me? Great, let’s dig in.
Now, you’ve probably heard of the Fifth Amendment. It’s like your safety blanket when you’re cornered by prosecutors with sharp questions. It’s your right to keep mum if you think your answer might land you in hot water.
In simple words, no one can force you to spill the beans on yourself. But here’s the thing, those sneaky government attorneys can work around this by offering you something called immunity.
One type of immunity is ‘letter immunity.’ You shake hands with the court, agreeing to testify voluntarily. Sounds pretty good, right? Hold on, there’s a catch. This immunity isn’t nationwide. Say you’ve got immunity in New York, but those pesky statements you made there can still be used against you in, let’s say, California. Not to mention, other officials can be tipped off about your previous testimony. Tricky, right?
Next up, we have ‘use and derivative use immunity.’ In this scenario, the prosecution can’t use your own statements to come after you. Even evidence they found based on your statement is off-limits. However, if they stumble upon some new evidence not directly connected to your statement, they can still bring the hammer down on you.
Here’s the thing. Government attorneys can’t break immunity agreements on a whim. It could land them in some seriously hot water, like an ethics hearing. They’d have to prove that the evidence against you came from a totally different source, not your testimony. And trust me, that’s a tall order.
Then there’s the big gun: ‘statutory immunity.’ This is like an iron-clad guarantee. The judge takes a hard look at your testimony and decides you have the right to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege. Then you get the order to testify, but the government attorney can’t use your words to come after you. It’s like getting a ticket to spill without the usual backlash.
What happens if you get immunity and still don’t testify? Well, you could end up in hot water. It’s called ‘contempt of court,’ and it’s the court’s way of saying, “Hey, you can’t disrespect us like that.” This can lead to fines or even a stint in the slammer.
You could be charged with civil contempt, which means you might end up cooling your heels in jail till you agree to testify or till the case wraps up. Worst-case scenario, you might be there for up to 18 months.
There’s also criminal contempt. This isn’t about twisting your arm to testify. It’s about punishing you for not testifying even after getting immunity. If the court proves that you willingly disobeyed a valid order to testify, you could be looking at a
fine or a prison sentence.
So why do federal prosecutors love offering immunity? It’s like dangling a carrot in front of someone who’s holding onto information about a crime. This person might be scared of being prosecuted for their role in the crime, or they might be under threat from someone else. By offering immunity, prosecutors can encourage them to open up.
There are tons of reasons why someone might get offered immunity. Maybe they were involved in a crime, but they have info on a bigger fish. Or maybe they were a witness and need immunity to avoid being charged for withholding evidence. Sometimes, they’ve already been charged, and the immunity is more about getting a reduced sentence in exchange for their testimony.
Remember, not all immunities are created equal. Some offer more protection than others.
For instance, ‘proffer letter immunity’ lets you spill what you know about a crime, without having your words used against you in court. But there are exceptions. If you change your story in court, it could be counted as separate evidence of wrongdoing.
Then we’ve got ‘letter immunity.’ It’s like a gentleman’s agreement between the government and your lawyer. It basically promises that your statement won’t be used against you. But here’s the kicker. If a totally separate source of evidence pops up and it’s unrelated to your statement, the government could still prosecute you. Not easy, but not impossible either.
The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to zip it if you think you might incriminate yourself. But in front of a grand jury, the tables can turn. The judge can order you to testify. As per 18 U.S.C. § 6002, if you refuse, you can be held in contempt. But in return, you get immunity. Your words won’t be used against you.
Dealing with immunity can be like walking a tightrope. It’s not something you should navigate without a seasoned lawyer by your side. Trust me, it can make all the difference. And if you need someone to fight your corner, you know where to find me, at the Spodek Law Group.
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