What Happens in a Proffer Session with the Federal Government
Many people charged with a federal crime across the United States get offered the opportunity to engage in a proffer session with the prosecutors and agents related to their federal case. The purpose of this proffer session is for the government to attempt to get information from the person who's charged with the federal crime so that the government can prosecute other individuals who may be involved with other federal crimes.
A proffer session is something that is set up by the defense attorney for the person who is charged with a federal crime.
Not all cases involve proffer sessions, and before you engage in a proffer session, you would want to make sure that your attorney is on board and recommends that you do so. In any proffer session, the government and its agents will be asking you questions that could incriminate you and others.
So, before you go down this road, you want to be fully briefed by your attorney, and you want to give your attorney all the information you have so they can evaluate it and decide whether or not it's in your best interests to do a proffer session with the federal government.
One thing that will be obtained by an attorney who knows what they are doing in a federal proffer session situation is what's called a “Queen for a Day Letter.” This is an agreement by the government that anything that you say during the proffer session cannot be used against you to either bolster the case they currently have against you or to prosecute you for some other federal offense.
However, if in the future, you were to say something different than what you said in the proffer session, then usually that information would then be able to be used against you. In other words, if you gave a statement different than what you said in the proffer session, and then on the same subject matter, you changed it and said something different during a trial.
They could use your statement in the proffer session to impeach you and show that you were lying in the trial on the witness stand. So obviously, if you're going to get involved in a proffer session situation, you better tell the truth and give a complete account of what information you know.
A lot of times in these proffer sessions that I've become involved with, the government already has the answer to a lot of the questions that they ask, and they're testing the person to see whether or not they're telling them the truth or trying to omit some information during the proffer session.
If they decide that you are not telling them the truth or you're trying to guard certain information, then they will probably become angry, and they will not want to proffer with you any longer.
What is the result of the Government Not Trusting You
If you decide to do a proffer session and you try to either lie to the government or try to leave information out and they figure it out, then they're going to become angry, they're not going to want to talk to you any longer. They will terminate the meeting and likely use that against you in your pending federal case.
So, you must sit down with your attorney and review all the details. If you have concerns about things the federal government might ask you during the proffer session, that would be the time to tell your attorney. Then you and your attorney discuss it and ensure it's the right move to do this proffer session.
There's nothing worse than starting a proffer session, giving some information, and then the government determining that you're lying and then becoming angry. Now, they will try to do anything they can to prosecute you and get the highest sentence possible. So, don't even go down the road of a proffer session if you're not going to be honest and give all the details.
What's the Benefit of a Proffer Session?
There are several different benefits that a proffer session can expose for a criminal defendant. First, it allows them to tell the government their side of the story. Maybe the government thinks certain things about you that aren't true.
Maybe you're better than what they think. Perhaps you didn't do all the things that you're accusing you of. This allows you to tell your side of the story and hopefully help your position in your open criminal case.
In addition, if you are honest in the proffer session, the federal government and the federal prosecutors can benefit you when it comes time for sentencing in your federal case. This can be done through a 5k departure, where they determine that you've substantially assisted them by giving them information during this proffer session.
They can then shave points off your total offense level, giving you a lower sentence. Further, suppose you're facing a mandatory minimum of five years, ten years, or more. In that case, they can permit you to go under that mandatory minimum in your case if you substantially assist them during the proffer session and give them information that allows them to prosecute others – get weapons off the street, get drugs off the street, etc.
So, it's crucial that if you're going to do a proffer session, make sure that you and your attorney are on the same page – you both agree that a proffer session is the right thing for you and that you're truthful and straightforward and give all the information and then allow your federal criminal defense attorney to use the data from the proffer session to get you the most benefit possible so you can achieve the best result and the lowest sentence.