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Why do prosecutors negotiate immunity deals?

With some criminal offenses, members of law enforcement and prosecutors do not need much help to make a case. For example, if a driver is swerving and fails a breath test, the state probably has everything it needs to secure a conviction for driving under the influence. Evidence of some other crimes, though, does not come so easily.

When an alleged criminal offense is complex or involves multiple parties, both federal and state prosecutors often need information from a critical witness. If the witness has valuable testimony or other evidence, however, there is some chance he or she is also guilty of a crime. That’s where immunity deals come into play.


According to the U.S. Courts, Americans, including witnesses, have a right not to incriminate themselves. Immunity does away with this concern, as it gives a person freedom from facing legal consequences for his or her criminal conduct. As you can see, if someone has criminal culpability, entertaining a prosecutor’s immunity offer can be quite appealing. Indeed, providing testimony or evidence can get an otherwise guilty person completely off the hook in the eyes of the law.


Accepting a prosecutor’s negotiated immunity deal is not something anyone should do lightly. After all, immunity deals come with many strings. If a witness does not live up to his or her obligations, prosecutors typically can yank the immunity offering and even try to hold the person accountable for any crimes he or she may have participated in or committed.

Among others, the obligations of accepting an immunity deal usually include telling the entire story. Despite having immunity from prosecution, a witness obviously also cannot lie or provide misleading testimony.

Ultimately, because of the potential consequences of violating an immunity deal, it is advisable to seek independent legal counsel before negotiating with prosecutors.

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