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The Importance of Hiring an Attorney if Subpoenaed for a Federal Grand Jury

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Feb 19, 2024

It can be particularly intimidating to receive a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury—and rightly so. A grand jury investigation is a sober and serious matter as the jury investigates potential criminal conduct and determines whether criminal charges should be brought. 

Even if you're not the target of the investigation, being subpoenaed to appear signifies your involvement, whether peripheral or central, in matters under federal investigation. At the very least, the prosecution or jurors believe you have information pertinent to the case. 

Do You Need an Attorney for a Grand Jury Subpoena?

Ignoring a subpoena can result in contempt of court charges, and providing false information during your testimony can lead to perjury charges. In other words, if you must appear before a federal grand jury, you've likely already been investigated for a federal offense. 

A federal grand jury works with the prosecutor to review the evidence in your case to determine whether you should face criminal charges. Suppose you know that you are the target of a federal criminal investigation.

In that case, hiring a criminal defense lawyer early to help you navigate the criminal process could give you a substantial advantage in obtaining a favorable outcome. Perhaps your attorney can help you avoid formal criminal charges.

Because of the significance of the situation and all that may or may not be at stake, it's in your best interest to hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney before responding to a grand jury subpoena—even if you're not a target and even though the attorney won't be present during the proceedings. Let's discuss this issue in further detail.

What Are the Reasons Why You Might Be Subpoenaed?

A federal grand jury comprises about 16-23 members called to serve. They are responsible for reviewing the evidence and deciding if there is sufficient reason to believe you committed a federal crime. Everything in a grand jury is confidential to protect your reputation if you are found not guilty. 

If the grand jury decides the evidence shows your guilt, you will likely be charged with a federal criminal offense and must appear in court. If they determine insufficient evidence or that you are not guilty, the prosecutor might still decide to try to move your case to trial.

Federal grand juries issue subpoenas as part of a broad reach in investigating potential crimes. If you've received a subpoena, it is likely for one of the following reasons:

  • You're Believed to Have Material Information: You may be subpoenaed because you hold crucial information about a federal investigation, whether due to witnessing a crime or possessing knowledge about individuals connected with the alleged crime.
  • You Have Relevant Documents: You might be subpoenaed if you possess documents relevant to a criminal investigation. The grand jury requires these documents to further their understanding of the case.
  • You Can Provide Expert Testimony: As a professional with specific expertise related to a case, you could be subpoenaed to offer an expert opinion on matters about the investigation.
  • You're a Victim: If you're an alleged victim of the crime, you may be asked to share your firsthand account of the incident. This is separate from being summoned to testify in court if the case goes to trial.
  • You Can Corroborate Evidence: If you can corroborate evidence presented by prosecutors, you may be subpoenaed to testify. Your testimony can help solidify the case against the accused party.
  • You're the Target of the Investigation: You can expect to be subpoenaed if you're the main suspect in an alleged crime. Remember, however, that you can refuse to testify to avoid self-incrimination.

Why Do You Need Legal Representation?

Many people go into a federal grand jury without legal representation. While it's true that a federal grand jury is more casual than a formal court appearance, having an attorney can still provide significant benefits that may help you clear your name or avoid criminal charges altogether.

While it may be tempting to navigate this process alone, particularly for those who believe they have nothing to hide or are not the target of the investigation, this could be a grave mistake. The involvement of an experienced attorney can provide several key advantages.

  • Legal Guidance: An attorney can provide necessary guidance through the complex legal process related to a federal grand jury. They can help you understand the subpoena's scope, your rights, and the potential implications of your testimony.
  • Preparation for Testimony: Your attorney can prepare you for the questions you might be asked and advise on the best ways to answer to ensure you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself or others.
  • Protection of Rights: Attorneys protect your rights during the grand jury proceedings. They can advise when to invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, ensuring you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself.
  • Strategic Advice: An attorney can offer strategic advice based on their experience and understanding of the law. This advice could significantly impact the outcome of the grand jury process.
  • Assessing Risks and Implications: Even if you are not the target of the investigation, your involvement as a witness can have unforeseen consequences. An experienced attorney can help assess the risks associated with your testimony and how it might implicate you or shift the investigation's focus toward you.
  • Legal Representation if You Become a Target: The dynamics of a federal investigation can change rapidly. Today's witnesses can become tomorrow's targets. Having an attorney from the outset ensures you have representation already familiar with your case should the investigation's focus pivot toward you. 

During the grand jury hearing, your attorney won't be allowed with you in the grand jury room. However, they can provide invaluable assistance before and after your testimony. They can help prepare you for the hearing, discuss questions that were asked, and advise you on any follow-up actions that may be necessary.

Getting an attorney involved early in your case will give you the best chance of a favorable outcome and potentially help you avoid a trial. Contact Eisner Gorin LLP for more information about how we can assist you if you've been served a federal grand jury subpoena. Our offices are in Los Angeles, California. 

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About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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