Eyewitnesses Protection Services
Witness protection is only provided for witnesses whose testimony is determined to be critical to the successful prosecution of a criminal case and whose life or the life of his family is in danger. The witness’s testimony must also be considered credible and certain in coming, which means that the witness will not back out of testifying in court.
The Witness Security Program is managed by three organizations:
- The US Marshals Service ensures the security, health, and safety of non-incarcerated program participants.
- U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO) authorizes the admission of witnesses whose lives are jeopardized as a result of their testimony against drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime members, or other major criminals into the program.
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is in charge of incarcerated witnesses.
The United States Attorney General’s Office, which has the final say in all witness protection cases, has defined specific cases in which witnesses may be granted entry into the Witness Protection Program, including:
- Any offense defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(1) (organized crime and racketeering)
Any of the drug trafficking offenses listed in Title 21, United States Code
- Any other serious federal felony for which a witness may provide testimony, which may result in retaliation through violence or threats of violence.
- Any state offense of a similar nature to those listed above
Certain civil and administrative proceedings in which a witness’s testimony may jeopardize that witness’s safety
Weighing the Consequences
When a state or federal law enforcement agency submits a request for protection, the process of enrolling a witness in the program begins. The OEO then receives a Witness Security Program application, which summarizes the testimony to be provided, the threat to the witness, and any risk the witness may pose to a new community if relocated.
The OEO then arranges for the witness to have a preliminary interview with the Marshals Service so that he or she can learn more about his or her new life in the program. The Marshals Service coordinates the interview directly with the prosecutor or requesting law enforcement agency, which must provide the Marshals Service with a copy of the application and threat assessment.
Following the preliminary interview, the Marshals Service recommends whether the prospective witness be placed in the Witness Protection Program. Its recommendation is forwarded to the OEO.
The final authority to enroll a witness in the program rests with the United States Attorney General. The Attorney General’s authority was established as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and it was expanded by the Witness Security Reform Act of 1984.
The Attorney General (or a person delegated by the Attorney General) creates a written assessment of the risk the witness and his family members may pose to their new community, taking into account recommendations from the Marshals Service and prosecuting attorneys, as many of these witnesses are often criminals themselves. The Attorney General considers the following factors for each adult seeking protection:
- Records of incarceration
- Other options for witness protection
- Other potential witnesses’ testimony
If the value of the witness’s testimony outweighs the risk to the new community, the Attorney General has the authority to enroll the witness in the Witness Protection Program. The OEO then notifies the requesting agency’s headquarters of the Attorney General’s decision, and the witness and family members are required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, confirming that they understand the program’s rules.
The program’s acceptance is only the first step toward anonymity. If you don’t qualify for the traditional witness protection program, but would still like witness protection and/or transportation, contact us today to request more information about our security services.