Suppose John Doe is on trial for murder and Jane Smith is called as a witness. Suppose some question prompts Jane to take the fifth against self incrimination. My understanding is that the prosecution can offer blanket immunity to Jane.

What happens if the prosecution offers blanket immunity to Jane, and then Jane admits to the murder and describes how she framed John? Is she free from prosecution for the crime of murder? Or can she only be immunized against other crimes, not the crimes that John has been charged with?

  • What jurisdiction, and if US what state (or federal)? The type of immunity offered depends on jurisdiction.
    – cpast
    Oct 21, 2015 at 21:09
  • I've heard of "blanket immunity," but I've never seen the "fine print." I would be surprised if it were really offered as a "tell us all your crimes and you're pardoned in advance for them." Do you have any real immunity contracts to reference?
    – feetwet
    Oct 21, 2015 at 21:57
  • @feetwet This sort of immunity isn't a contractual matter; very often the witness doesn't want to testify, so it couldn't be a binding contract.
    – cpast
    Oct 21, 2015 at 21:59
  • @cpast - So how is prosecutorial immunity granted? I thought it was negotiated and given by a prosecutor in exchange for testimony that the witness does not want to give.
    – feetwet
    Oct 21, 2015 at 22:44
  • 1
    @feetwet Immunity can be negotiated, but I'm assuming OP is asking about the immunity given to compel testimony. For fairly obvious reasons, compelling testimony isn't done via negotiation (since that requires both sides to agree on the terms, and compelling testimony involves "here are the terms required by law, now testify or go to jail"). Negotiated immunity results in voluntary testimony.
    – cpast
    Oct 21, 2015 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


When you say "blanket immunity," I assume you're talking about transactional immunity -- the witness cannot ever be prosecuted for any crimes they testified about. This immunity is actually broader than that required by the US Constitution (although some states do require it). However, if it's provided, it absolutely covers crimes connected to what John is accused of. One very common use of immunity is to give a co-conspirator immunity to testify against another co-conspirator being charged with conspiracy. If transactional immunity wouldn't cover that conspiracy charge, it would pretty much defeat the purpose.

  • So in my hypothetical, assuming Jane's testimony is believed, neither John nor Jane would be convicted?
    – Patrick87
    Oct 21, 2015 at 22:27
  • @Patrick87 if the jury felt that + other facts >= reasonable doubt, they must find John not guilty. Jane cannot be indicted, and therefore cannot be convicted, because he has been greanted immunity re: the crimes testifies
    – Aidan
    Oct 5, 2016 at 4:48

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