Legal Dictionary


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 previously?

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.