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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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Understanding Federal Immunity Agreements: Can You Get Immunity?

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 09:14 am


Understanding Federal Immunity Agreements: Can You Get Immunity?

Getting immunity from prosecution is something that most people have heard about, but few actually understand how it works. Who can get immunity? What does it take to get immunity from the federal government? And what are the implications if you receive immunity?

This article will break down the key things you need to know about federal immunity agreements – from what they are, to how you can get one, and what it means for criminal prosecution if you do.

What is Immunity from Prosecution?

At it’s core, immunity is an agreement not to prosecute someone for a crime they may have committed. It’s a deal offered by prosecutors, usually in exchange for cooperation or information from the person receiving immunity.

There are two main types of immunity in the federal criminal justice system:

  • Transactional immunity – This type of immunity protects you from prosecution for any activities you reveal related to the crime. It’s full immunity for anything you disclose as part of the agreement.
  • Use immunity – This is more limited. It only prevents prosecutors from using your statements against you. But they can still prosecute you based on other evidence.

Use immunity is more common nowadays. Prosecutors often prefer it because it gives them more flexibility to prosecute if other evidence of a crime emerges.

Who Can Get Immunity from the Federal Government?

The short answer – almost anyone who has valuable information or cooperation to provide can potentially get immunity. But some people are more likely to receive immunity deals than others.

Key groups prosecutors commonly give immunity to include:

  • Co-conspirators – If you were involved in a crime with others, testifying against them can be rewarded with an immunity deal.
  • Eyewitnesses – If you witnessed a crime but weren’t directly involved, your testimony may be secured through immunity.
  • Family members – People close to the target of an investigation often have useful information and can receive immunity.

In some cases, even the main target of an investigation can receive immunity in exchange for cooperating against higher-level criminals or providing very valuable information.

But in general, the more central your role was in a crime, the less likely you are to get full immunity.

How Do You Get Immunity from Federal Prosecutors?

There’s no simple way to get immunity. It’s a negotiation process that often involves an experienced criminal defense lawyer. But here are some key steps:

  1. Get a lawyer – Hiring a lawyer experienced with federal cases is essential to navigate immunity discussions.
  2. Offer cooperation – You can proactively reach out to prosecutors and offer information or cooperation in exchange for immunity.
  3. Negotiate an agreement – Your lawyer will negotiate the terms of immunity and the type you’ll receive based on what you bring to the table.
  4. Proffer session – You’ll have a “proffer session” where you give a preview of what information you can provide.
  5. Sign the immunity agreement – If a deal is reached, you’ll sign a written immunity agreement binding prosecutors to the deal.

The specifics can vary, but in general you’ll need to prove you have valuable information before prosecutors agree to immunity. The better your lawyer, the stronger deal you can potentially negotiate.

What Are the Implications of Getting Immunity?

Immunity can seem like a get out of jail free card. But it does have major implications you need to consider.

Here are some key pros and cons of accepting federal immunity:


  • Avoid prosecution – This is the biggest benefit. Use immunity prevents your statements from being used to prosecute you.
  • Lighter sentence – Even with use immunity, cooperating can help reduce your sentence if prosecuted using other evidence.
  • Witness protection – You may be able to get witness protection if you provide substantial cooperation.


  • Testify against others – You’ll likely have to testify against co-conspirators or targets of the investigation.
  • Waive 5th amendment rights – You lose your right not to self-incriminate regarding the crimes you receive immunity for.
  • Perjury risks – Lying or withholding information during proffer and testimony can put you at risk of perjury charges.

It’s a complex decision with many nuances. Having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to advise you is crucial.

What Defenses Can Be Used Against Immunity Agreements?

If you receive immunity and testify against someone, they may try to challenge your credibility using some of these defenses:

  • Duress – Argue you were coerced into testifying falsely against them.
  • Bias – Claim you have an incentive to lie to avoid prosecution yourself.
  • Inconsistent statements – Point out contradictions between your testimony and prior statements.
  • Criminal history – Undermine your credibility by highlighting your criminal record.
  • Mental health – Challenge your competence and reliability as a witness.

However, if the immunity agreement is valid, your testimony will still be admissible despite these attempts to undermine your credibility.

Key Cases and Laws on Federal Immunity

There are a few key cases and laws that establish precedents on federal immunity agreements:

These establish many of the standards and rules around federal immunity. Consulting with an experienced attorney on how they apply to your situation is important.

The Bottom Line

Getting immunity from federal prosecution for a crime you may have committed or witnessed is possible. But it involves a complex negotiation process usually guided by an experienced lawyer.

While immunity can prevent charges, it comes with obligations to cooperate and risks of perjury. Understanding the implications fully before signing an immunity agreement is critical.

With the right information to trade and legal advice, immunity represents a chance to avoid prosecution. But it’s not an easy or simple process.

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