Proffer Session

In the year 2018, there were over one million crimes committed in the state of California. Sometimes, it is in the best interests of defendants to cooperate with the government. Attorneys may advise their clients to cooperate through a proffer session when the evidence is stacked against them in their case, or by cooperating with the government, the defendant may have their sentence reduced.

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FAQ about Proffer Sessions

What is a proffer interview?

A proffer is a meeting between the criminal defense and the government. A proffer session is an opportunity for the defendant to give the government all of the information they have so that the government could make a plea agreement.  

Proffer meetings normally take place at the U.S. Attorney’s office and include the defendant’s legal counsel, and the prosecution and lead investigators on the case. Proffer agreements don’t apply to violent crimes or individuals with a history of violent crimes.

What does proffer mean in legal terms?

A proffer, proffer letter, proffer agreement, or “Queen of the Day” letter, that it may also be known as, is a written agreement between a defendant or witness and a prosecutor that gives the court information about a certain crime, and in some cases limits the prosecutor’s ability to use said information against the defendant or witness. A proffer is typically made prior to any other formal negotiations and offers evidence in support of the government’s case.

Can a proffer be used against you?

According to 18 U.S. Code § 1001, it is illegal to make false statements to a federal agent, and this would include proffer sessions. If the defendant takes the stand and testifies against what they proffer, then the proffer information can be used to impeach the defendant. 

A proffer could damage the defenses’ ability to cross-examine certain witnesses, or even allowing the defendant to testify. Especially if doing so conflicts the proffer agreement, therefore, allowing the prosecution to enter the entire proffer agreement as evidence in the case.

What is a reverse proffer?

A reverse proffer is, as the name implies, is the opposite of a proffer. In a reverse proffer, the prosecution presents information to the defendant’s counsel in order to encourage the defendant to plead to a certain crime or to cooperate with the prosecution. Reverse proffers can also happen between the two attorneys without the defendant present. After a reverse proffer the defendant and his legal counsel need to decide if they’ll proffer information, work towards a plea agreement, or continue to trial.

How do you differentiate between a proffer and an offer?

Definitively an offer and proffer aren’t so different but in the eyes of the law they can be very different. A proffer agreement is normally made under the informal pretense that the government will cooperate with the defendant through some level of immunity or plea agreement. This informal agreement is usually made between the attorneys and will not be reflected in the formal written proffer letter. 

Before entering a proffer agreement it’s important for the defendant, the defense team, and the prosecutor to have a clear idea of what information they’ll be proffering, and what arrangements they expect in return, through immunity or plea arrangement.

The government offers protections in immunity deals and plea arrangement offers but proffers don’t have those same protections. It’s important that you have a legal team that has your best interests in mind while determining if you should enter into a proffer arrangement. 

How can I prepare for a proffer?

There are many important details to consider before attending a proffer session. The defense should have clear answers to the following questions before cooperating in a proffer session:

  • What goal will the proffer session achieve?
  • What information will be discussed?
  • What information should I decline discussing?
  • Am I prepared to tell the whole truth in this matter?
  • How will the government protect me if I provide incriminating information?
  • What benefits can the prosecution offer me if I provide helpful information?
  • If I am charged, how strong is my defense, and would my defense be conceded by this proffer arrangement?
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