The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution states that no person shall be compelled in a criminal case to be witness against himself.” Perhaps more commonly understood is that a person placed under arrest has the “right to remain silent.” This right is provided through the Fifth Amendment to protect people from having to answer incriminating questions about themselves. It is important to understand, however, that the Fifth Amendment doesn’t mean a person does not have to answer any questions. An individual specifically may be required to answer questions regarding another person who may have been involved in a crime. When being questioned, a person may choose to invoke the Fifth Amendment right. However, a prosecutor may be able to override the right, specifically to provide a witness with immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony.
Two Types of Immunity From Prosecution
The first type of immunity a witness may be offered is known as transactional immunity. Transactional immunity offers total protection from prosecution for the matter at hand. It should be noted, however, that transactional immunity does not protect a witness from being held responsible for another crime. With transactional immunity, the witness is protected from being prosecuted from what is outlined in the immunized testimony only. He or she could still be prosecuted for criminal activities that are unrelated to what is being discussed. It is also important to point out that transactional immunity is not on an option in federal court system. Consider the following example to better understand transactional immunity. If a witness assisted the defendant with robbing a jewelry store, the prosecution may grant transactional immunity in exchange for a confession, admitting he helped with the robbery. The transactional immunity guarantees the witness cannot be prosecuted for his part in the crime.
The second type of immunity is known as use and derivative use immunity, which is more common than transactional immunity. This type of immunity is used by federal and state prosecutors. This type of immunity protects a witness’s statement from being used against him or her in a criminal prosecution. Use and derivative use immunity doesn’t prevent prosecutors from collecting independent evidence to use later against the witness, though.
Call Our Office
If you’ve been asked to testify or cooperate with the authorities, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer at The Law Office of Peter Blair. We can help you better understand immunity and help protect your rights.