Queen for a Day / Proffer
A "Queen for a Day," commonly referred to as a "Proffer"
or "Proffer Letter," is an agreement to conduct an interview
between a federal prosecutor (Assistant United States Attorney, or "AUSA")
and a prospective defendant (person under criminal investigation) regarding
information he or she may have pertaining to some criminal activity. The
purpose of this interview for the potential defendant is to obtain some
type of leniency or immunity from the Government in exchange for that
information. The prosecutor's purpose is to obtain an honest and credible
preview of what the potential defendant knows about certain crimes and
how he or she would testify at trial. In exchange for a look at this potential
testimony, the AUSA promises not to use the Queen for a Day statements
or information against the potential defendant in the government's
case-in-chief. The person interviewed can be a witness, person of interest,
or a target of the investigation. The meeting takes place in the offices
of the federal prosecutor and is usually conducted in the presence of
the defendant's attorney, the AUSA, and federal agents.
Generally, before the Queen for a Day session takes place, the defendant's
attorney will have several discussions with the prosecutor to obtain an
idea of the scope of the meeting and to find out what the defendant stands
to gain from cooperating with the government. There is an implied promise
that the defendant will be offered a plea agreement or immunity, if and
only if, federal prosecutors are convinced that the information offered
by the defendant is truthful, and that the information will lead to the
conviction of other more culpable defendants. The written agreement provided
by federal prosecutors will not state any unconditional promises of immunity
or specific plea arrangements. There is only an informal understanding
between the defendant, defendant's attorney, and the federal prosecutor.
This is where an experienced criminal defense attorney makes all the difference
to the defendant and the negotiations. If the defendant does not tell
the truth in the meeting or if the negotiating process breaks down, then
all bets are off, and the defendant can now be indicted using derivative
information from the statements made during the Queen for a Day session.
In other words, the prosecutors cannot use the actual statements provided
in the meeting but are free to use the defendant's statements to follow
up leads and further their investigations. If they discover new evidence
against the defendant, that new evidence can also be used to convict the
defendant. Queen for a Day statements can also be used to impeach the
defendant if he or she testifies at trial and the AUSA believes the witness is lying.
There are a number of questions that need to be addressed with your attorney
before entering into a Queen for a Day interview, such as:
- What evidence do prosecutors have against you?
- Are there any defenses to charges that could be brought against you?
- What is your exposure (potential sentence) if you are convicted?
- What are the pros & cons of cooperating with the government?
- Can you provide valuable information to the government that will help the
government make a strong case against other defendants? This will depend
in part on whether you speak to the government early on in the process.
Those defendants who cooperate early in the process reap better plea deals
than those who wait. That is because those who wait usually have no new
information to offer the prosecutor.
- Can you be 100% honest with prosecutors even if you incriminate yourself?
- Has your attorney worked out favorable deals with the same federal prosecutor
Queen for a Day meetings are very common in federal prosecutions but are
also utilized in state prosecutions. Queen for a Day negotiations are
risky propositions that need to be thoroughly evaluated by an experienced
criminal defense attorney. Do not attempt to speak to federal prosecutors
or agents without an attorney present. Consult with an experienced criminal
defense attorney to learn about your rights, defenses, risks, and legal options.