With some types of alleged crimes, members of law enforcement have an easier time building a case than with others. For example, for a charge of driving under the influence, officers often collect all the evidence they need to secure a conviction by the time they place the suspect in handcuffs.
With complex white-collar crimes, though, prosecutors often need someone to provide critical testimony or evidence. Those with valuable testimony may have close involvement with an unlawful scheme, though. Indeed, they often develop their relevant knowledge by participating in a criminal enterprise.
It is not uncommon for federal and state prosecutors to offer immunity deals to witnesses. This typically happens when a witness plays a minor role in a crime and has information about someone who masterminded it. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, immunity shields a witness from the legal consequences of his or her criminal conduct.
If a prosecutor extends immunity to a witness, the person has an obligation to explain everything he or she knows about an alleged criminal offense. After all, the witness no longer has a fear of prosecution. If the witness lies or provides misleading testimony, however, he or she is likely to run into serious consequences.
Facing white-collar criminal charges can be downright frightening, as a conviction can lead to prison time, steep fines or both. No witness should take a prosecutor’s offer of immunity lightly, though. Ultimately, if prosecutors want to discuss immunity, it is advisable to obtain independent legal counsel before meeting with them.