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What is a Proffer Agreement?

A proffer is an agreement between an individual and the government, which allows the individual to provide useful information to the federal prosecutors in exchange for clemency. As a result, the person is likely assured of lenient charges, non-prosecution, or immunity.

The proffer agreement is also called the proffer letter or “Queen for a Day”. Under the terms of the agreement, the prosecution cannot use the statement given by a person against them in a court of law. Such statements are often mutually beneficial for the individual and the prosecution. The person giving the statement gets some kind of clemency, whereas the prosecution team acquires useful information that helps it in the case.

It’s important to understand that the proffer agreement does not mean that the individual cannot be prosecuted at a later stage. The proffer agreement also becomes void if the person offers inconsistent information at a future proceeding that doesn’t corroborate with the statement in the proffer interview. The government can use the information to discover additional evidence, charge other individuals, and share the information with various government agencies.

Proffer agreements are widely used in White-Collar crimes because it’s sometimes difficult to extract evidence. If you’re involved in a proffer agreement, you should always consult a reputable attorney. The attorney will carefully evaluate the terms of the agreement and negotiate on your behalf.

The Proffer Interview

A proffer agreement is signed by the two parties in an informal setting. The federal prosecutors schedule a meeting with the individual and their attorney. During the interview, there is no stenographer present to record the statement. In the most likely scenario, the federal prosecutor will take notes, which will be used in the court proceedings.

Your attorney will also take relevant notes, which will serve as a record of your statement. While there is no formal record of the interview, the defendant must use their words wisely because everything they say can be used in court.

Sometimes, the attorney will meet the prosecutor before a proffer interview can be scheduled. The meeting includes particulars of the defendant’s statement, which is used by both parties to agree to specific terms. The attorney uses this opportunity to ensure that prosecutors are willing to work out a solution, which can benefit the defendant.

The Proffer Letter

The proffer letter is the agreement that outlines how the statement is used in the court and what it promises in return. Therefore, you and your attorney must carefully go over each clause of the agreement. The terms of the proffer letter are similar in many cases, and such templates can be found online.

Signing a proffer letter without an attorney can have a disastrous impact because it’s easy for the prosecutors to include legal terms, which are difficult for the defendant to interrupt. Under the circumstance, the role of the attorney is enhanced because your statement can be used against you if it contradicts your testimony in front of the judge.

Under certain circumstances, the terms of the proffer letter are also negotiable. Your attorney can help you negotiate a more favorable deal.

The Deal

Most people think that a proffer letter is a plea bargain. The truth is a bit harsh because the prosecution will also try to judge you before signing anything. During the proffer meeting, they will carefully evaluate what you can offer. If the prosecution thinks that you’re unwilling to disclose critical information, they may not do any follow-up.

It’s also a well-known fact that federal prosecutors try to intimidate defendants to confess making them think that they will end up in federal prison. Therefore, it’s quite common for the defendant to provide written answers instead of the proffer interview. In this case, the written answer allows the defendant to offer a more thoughtful analysis instead of blurting out information that can harm their cause.

While the proffer agreement is supposed to protect you, things can often go wrong. For instance, your cooperation can put you in physical danger. You can also lose your professional license because you’re confessing your mistakes by revealing important information. A proffer may not protect you if the information leads to more serious allegations related to the case.

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