What happens in a criminal case in Florida when a witness, who may have information that incriminates him/herself, is called to testify at a deposition? Most people are familiar with the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which says that a person has a right not to incriminate him/herself. This means that a person can not be forced to make statements to the police or prosecutors that could be used against him/her in a criminal case. But there are times in Florida where the state will subpoena a person for a sworn statement or deposition and ask that person for information that could implicate the person in a crime. Does that person have to answer those questions?
The person may have to answer questions and provide information that would be incriminating, but the information cannot be used against the person in a criminal case. A person who is subpoenaed to testify will be given what is called use and derivative use immunity. This means that the state cannot use the statements provided by the witness or any information derived by those statements against the witness in a criminal case. For instance, suppose the witness said that he drove the defendant to a particular hotel after the robbery and hid the gun in room 100. The state could not use that statement against the witness in a prosecution against the witness as an accessory to the robbery crime. Additionally, the state could not go to the hotel and get the registration form signed by the witness for room 100 and use that against the witness if the only way they learned of this information was through the witness’s statement. However, if the state was aware of the information about the hotel from another independent source, they could still use that information against the witness based on that other source.