What Happens in a Proffer Session with the Federal Government
Many people who are 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 obviously before you would 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 are going to be asking you questions that could incriminate you and other people.
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 he or she can evaluate it and make a decision as to 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 that was 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 full 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 determine that you are not telling them the truth or you're trying to guard certain information, then obviously they are going to become angry and they are not going to 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 basically 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 they will likely use that against you in your pending federal case.
Therefore, it is crucial that you sit down with your attorney, go over all the details. If you have concerns about some things the federal government might ask you during the proffer session, that would be the time to tell your attorney and then you and your attorney talk about it and make sure that it's the right move to actually 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 with you. Now they are going to 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's a number of different benefits that a proffer session can expose for a criminal defendant. First off, it can give them the opportunity to tell the government their side of the story. Maybe the government thinks certain things about you that simply aren't true.
Maybe you're not as bad as what they think. Maybe you didn't do all the things that you're accusing you of. This gives you an opportunity 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 give you a benefit for that when it comes time for sentencing in your federal case. This can be done by way of what's called a 5k departure, where if they determine that you've substantially assisted them by giving them information during this proffer session.
Tthey can then shave points off your total offense level, and therefore, make you have a lower sentence. Further, if you're facing a mandatory minimum of five years, ten years or more, 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 which 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 information from the proffer session to get you the most benefit possible so you can achieve the best result and the lowest sentence.