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What Is a Proffer Agreement?


Sometimes, in a criminal case, cooperating with the government is in the defendant’s best interest. For example, suppose the evidence against you is so strong that it cannot be rebutted. In such a case, cooperating with the government may be in your best interest. Collaborating with the government may also be in your best interest if you are facing significant trial risks. In other words, cooperating with the government could be the best strategy if you risk facing severe legal consequences if convicted at trial. One of the ways to cooperate with the government is by entering into a proffer agreement. Proffer agreements are commonly used in federal cases. However, these agreements can also be used in state criminal cases. This article discusses proffer agreements.

What Is a Proffer Agreement?

A proffer agreement is a legal agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that the defendant will provide helpful information relevant to the criminal case to the prosecutor. This can be information about activities they were directly involved in or know about from others. With a proffer agreement, the prosecutor agrees not to use the information the defendant gives them directly against them in a criminal proceeding. However, while the prosecutor cannot use the defendant’s statements against them in court, they can follow up on and investigate leads and information provided during the proffer interview. This means that if a prosecutor discovers evidence after the proffer interview, through the defendant’s cooperation, that evidence is considered fair game and can be used against the defendant in court.

In some cases, a defendant who enters into a proffer agreement may receive a promise of a certain level of immunity from the prosecutor or a recommendation for a reduced sentence. Usually, it is up to the prosecutor’s discretion whether to offer the defendant any plea deal or leniency. Whether a prosecutor decides to offer a defendant any kind of plea deal or leniency may depend on the level and value of cooperation provided. In other words, proffer agreements usually have no guaranteed deals.

When Are Proffer Agreements Used?

Proffer agreements are common in federal cases. But as mentioned already, these agreements can also be used in state criminal cases. Proffer agreements are commonly used in cases involving complex criminal activities and multiple defendants. Some common types of criminal cases that frequently involve proffer agreements include drug trafficking cases, organized crime and racketeering cases, conspiracy cases, corruption cases, and gang-related criminal cases. Proffer agreements allow prosecutors to understand the full scope of operations and identify all the key individuals involved.

Benefits and Risks of Proffer Agreements

For defendants, proffer agreements offer several benefits. However, there are also some risks that come with entering into a proffer agreement. The most notable benefit of proffer agreements for defendants is the potential for reduced or dropped charges if cooperation is significant. You also have a chance of receiving a lighter sentence if convicted. However, with proffer agreements, there are no guaranteed benefits or leniency. Also, if your case goes to trial and you make statements that contradict your proffer statements, your proffer statements could be used to impeach you.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a target of a criminal investigation and are considering cooperating with the government, it is crucial that you consult an attorney. Our skilled NYC criminal defense attorney can assess the specifics of your case and advise you accordingly.

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