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Immunity in a Criminal Prosecution

Immunity- What is it & How Can you Get it?

Today's letter is the letter I. 

Today's post for the 2013 A to Z blogging challenge, is another brief one. I also want to apologize for not visiting your blogs, during the past couple of days. I expect home life to settle down by the end of the week & I promise to play catch up.

How many of you have heard or read about the term "immunity?" How many of you know what it is?

There are actually two very distinct and different kinds of immunity. Law & Order does not usually go into the difference between "Transactional Immunity" & "Use Immunity", but if one of your fictional characters will be offering or receiving immunity, then it is best to understand the difference.

The difference between transactional and use immunity is that transactional immunity protects the witness from prosecution for the crime or crimes involved, whereas use immunity only protects the witness against the prosecution's use of his or her immunized testimony in a prosecution of the witness. The witness is still subject to prosecution for perjury, however.

How does immunity come into play?

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, guarantees that a person may not be compelled to testify against himself. The prosecution may require a witness to give testimony that could implicate him in a criminal act, but to do so, they must first confer immunity upon that person.

If you or your character are seeking immunity, transactional immunity is what you should aim for. Transactional immunity is broad: the witness may not be prosecuted for the underlying offense. 

In contrast, "use" immunity limits the protection conferred upon the person testifying: statements made by the person may not be used against the person, but the prosecution is not agreeing that they will never prosecute the person. The prosecution is simply agreeing not to use their statement against them in a subsequent prosecution. The witness can still be prosecuted for the crime, but the prosecutor must find independent and untainted evidence.

Some jurisdictions confer full transactional immunity for any topic discussed by the witness during the scope of the criminal proceeding.

A witness, only offered "use" immunity as opposed to full transactional immunity, may not be forced to testify and may assert their privilege against self incrimination.

A prosecutor has almost full discretion in conferring or not conferring immunity.

I will return with more interactive post and chances to win a $25 Amazon gift card, later in the week.


Melissa Sugar said...

Fascinating - I didn't know there was a difference.

Melissa Sugar said...

I didn't know there were two kinds of immunity. Thanks.

Melissa Sugar said...

I had not heard of use immunity. Fascinating.

Melissa Sugar said...

Interesting! Thank you for sharing. :)

Melissa Sugar said...

That is interesting clarification on Immunity. I did not know there were two different models.

Chuck at

Melissa Sugar said...

While I hope I never need it, ha!, I appreciate knowing the difference. I, like many others apparently, never knew there were two different types. Thanksf or the info!

Melissa Sugar said...

You hear it often on crime shows. Also, diplomatic immunity is used to give a shady character power. Makes you wonder why it exists.

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