Immunity In The U.S. Court Essay

1456 words - 6 pages

The right to not incriminate one’s self is established within the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states, “No person…shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” (Davenport, 2006, P. 87). People may plead the fifth as a means of refusing to answer questions about alleged criminal activities. The right to not self incriminate, is a fundamental right meant to protect individuals from being forced into giving evidence that could be used against one’s self. This concept against self incrimination extended to forced confessions due to Miranda v. Arizona. In the Miranda case, the Supreme Court decided that police have an obligation to inform a suspect to his rights under Constitution. The prosecution needs to show that the defendant was mirandized and that the confession being used by the prosecution as evidence was not coerced from the defendant. The individual needs to know they have the right to remain silent. In addition, confessions need to have been obtained voluntarily (Davenport, 2006). Of course, even the right to remain silent has limitations.
One of those limitations is being given immunity. If a defendant is given immunity they can be compelled to testify. The rule has been “that a person who receives immunity can be compelled to testify, no matter how personally embarrassing or humiliating testifying may be” (Davenport, 2006). Immunity falls into two categories: use and transactional. Use immunity is when “a witness may not be prosecuted based on grand jury testimony he or she provides but may be prosecuted based on evidence acquired independently from that testimony” (Neubauer, 2011, p. 467). When a defendant is granted use immunity, anything said to investigators cannot be used against them in a later trial. This means that if a defendant is granted immunity in exchange for testimony about a crime that information cannot be used to incriminate them. In some cases this works in two ways. For example, if a defendant gives testimony about a murder cases and says were they threw the gun, police cannot be asked to search for the weapon to be used as evidence. However, if by chance someone independent by the government finds the weapon and turns it in, the weapon can be used as evidence against the defendant (Davenport, 2006). The other form of Immunity is transactional immunity, which is “absolute protection against prosecution for any event or transaction about which a witness is compelled to give testimony or furnish evidence” (Neubauer, 2011, p. 466). This form of immunity is said to be the preferred form of immunity by defendants, because the government will be barred from prosecuting the defendant for a crime they were granted immunity (Davenport, 2006). Use immunity grants less protection than transactional immunity in that witnesses may not refuse the government’s offer of immunity. In this case, accepting immunity is forced and is not a choice.
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