If you got caught up in some type of criminal activity, you may be able to avoid prosecution if you have information that could give authorities the evidence they need to charge someone who has more serious legal culpability than you. If your information is valuable enough, you may be able to get immunity.
Prosecutors often grant immunity in large-scale criminal conspiracies or in cases where multiple people are involved at different levels. It’s not uncommon in white-collar criminal activity as well as drug and sex trafficking cases, where building a case against the person in charge can be a challenge.
Even if someone hasn’t been charged with a crime, they may be afraid to testify as a witness against someone because they might incriminate themselves. If federal or state prosecutors need their complete and honest testimony and don’t want their witness to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, they may offer that witness immunity. People have been granted immunity to testify in court, before a grand jury and even before Congress.
A person who is granted transactional immunity (sometimes called “total immunity” or “blanket immunity”) has an agreement that they won’t be prosecuted for whatever their role was in the criminal activity being investigated and on which they’ve agreed to provide testimony.
This immunity doesn’t protect someone against prosecution for any other alleged criminal activity. It’s not a lifetime “get out of jail free” card.
This is a more limited immunity. If you are granted this, (which is also called derivative-use immunity), it simply means that your own testimony can’t be used against you. It basically prevents witnesses from invoking their Fifth Amendment rights. However, if the evidence is discovered by other means of your alleged criminal activity, you can still be charged and prosecuted.
Information you have about serious criminal activities (and your willingness to provide that info to the authorities) can be a powerful negotiating tool if you’re under investigation or already facing charges. With experienced legal guidance, you have a better chance of obtaining immunity from prosecution.