Providing substantial assistance may result in a lesser sentence or reduce the length of an existing sentence in federal or state courts. To receive this benefit, a person must assist law enforcement with the investigation and prosecution of another person. This process is one way to receive a sentence below the federally mandated minimum sentences and can be obtained before or after a conviction.

Federal Substantial Assistance

CourtroomWhen a defendant or convicted felon has information about another person’s criminal activities, the prosecutor may choose to accept substantial assistance in a case against that person in exchange for a reduced sentence. The assistance must be “substantial” to receive this benefit and whether the information meets this requirement is determined solely by the prosecutor. The person seeking a reduced sentence can inform the prosecutor that they have information which may meet the substantial assistance threshold:

Before or during a trial;

  • As part of the sentencing process; or
  • After they are already serving time.

It is important to never approach the prosecutor on your own as you may not receive the bargain you intend. You must have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to assist you with this process to protect your rights.

The “Proffer”

As part of the substantial agreement process, the defendant or felon makes an agreement with the prosecutor. As part of this process, the person must “proffer” or detail their knowledge of all the illegal activities they are aware of. It is critical that this person be represented and advised by an experienced criminal defense attorney so the lawyer can:

  • Evaluate the person to determine if he or she is a good candidate for a proffer;
  • Assure that the proffer statement does not include information that may implicate the client of further wrong-doing;
  • Confirm that the information is complete so that the prosecutor cannot void the agreement later due to lack of full disclosure; and
  • Negotiate the best sentence reduction possible for the substantial assistance provided.

The proffer statement is a minefield of potential disasters and should not be approached lightly or quickly. Seek guidance from an expert criminal defense attorney before participating in this process.

If you are faced with the situation of providing substantial assistance, do not proceed without a skilled criminal defense attorney. I am a former prosecutor and board certified criminal defense attorney who has successfully assisted hundreds of clients obtain reduced sentences through this process. Whether you are accused of a crime or incarcerated, let me protect your rights as I guide you through this procedure.