With the uptick in interest in true crime over the last few years, many people who have been involved in a crime are wondering if they can get some compensation for their story. However, there is a lot of confusion under which circumstances you can do this.
Did you commit a crime?
The Federal law that prohibits profiting from a crime restricts you from profiting from a crime that you have committed under state or Federal law. Importantly, this law doesn't require a conviction so if you are saying that you have committed a crime that has not otherwise been found out, then you can still have your proceeds from selling your story seized. This, for example, prohibits you from sharing that you acted as an accomplice to a crime where other people have been convicted of being involved in the crime. If you have committed a crime overseas, this can be a 'grey area', but many other jurisdictions also have similar laws about not profiting from a crime.
Are you the victim of a crime?
In most cases, if you are the victim of a crime, there are no restrictions on selling your story. However, if no-one has been convicted of the crime, or if there are outstanding appeals by the criminal, then you should get some advice from the relevant Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to ensure that your story will not interfere with the prosecutor's legal work. This also applies to victims in a broader sense, such as the family of a murder victim.
Do you have inside information on a crime?
If you have otherwise useful information, such as being the witness of a crime, you can sell your story but it also a good idea to consult with the DPP as a public story describing the crime could be prejudicial to a criminal trial and could make it harder to get a conviction for the crime.
Have you declared bankruptcy?
In the case of many white collar crimes, the criminal is required to pay back their victims and declare bankruptcy. This usually involves being required to pay back creditors any earnings over a certain level, so if you have done this, you may find that you need to pay back victims with your book or story earnings.
If you are looking to sell your true crime story, it is a good idea to get some legal advice to determine the best way to structure the deal.