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Subpoenas FAQ

Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas FAQ

Receiving a federal grand jury subpoena can be a daunting experience, even if you are not the subject of the investigation. A subpoena could imply grave seriousness, and failing to comply properly can result in legal consequences.

Even if you are not the primary target of the federal criminal investigation, being subpoenaed to appear signifies your involvement, whether peripheral or central, in the issues now under investigation. At the least, the prosecution or jurors might believe you have information pertinent to the case.

Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas FAQ

If you ignore a subpoena, you could face contempt of court charges. You could also face perjury charges if you provide false information during your testimony. 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 closely with the prosecutor to examine the evidence in a case to decide whether you should face federal criminal charges.

Suppose you already know you are the target of a federal criminal investigation. In that case, retaining a federal criminal defense lawyer early in the criminal process to help you can give you a substantial advantage in obtaining a favorable outcome.

Sometimes, your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution to avoid formal criminal charges. Due to the significance of the situation and all that might be at stake, it's in your best interest to hire an experienced lawyer before responding to a grand jury subpoena, even if you're not a target and your attorney won't be present during the proceedings.

Knowledge is power, however, so the more informed you are about the process, the more confidently you can respond to the subpoena in a way that also ensures your constitutional rights are protected.

Grand Jury Subpoena - Frequently Asked Questions

Many people will decide to go into a federal grand jury without legal representation. While the process 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.

Among the many and varied investigative tools at the federal government's disposal, the grand jury subpoena is unique in its potential consequences for the government's investigation target.

This means you must understand all aspects of a federal grand jury subpoena. Let's discuss some of the most common questions below.

What is a federal grand jury subpoena?

A federal grand jury subpoena is a legal document issued by a court that requires an individual to present requested documents, testify before a federal grand jury, or both. It is a tool used in the investigation phase of a federal case to gather evidence and determine whether there is probable cause to issue an indictment.

How does a federal grand jury work?

The grand jury consists of 16-23 citizens tasked with determining whether there is enough evidence to bring someone to trial for federal crimes. They review the evidence presented by prosecutors, including:

  • Documents,
  • Physical evidence, and
  • Testimonies.

Their proceedings are not public, and they operate in secrecy to protect the integrity of the investigation and the privacy of those being investigated.

Unlike trial juries, grand juries convene for a specified period of time, during which they may review evidence on multiple cases. Also, grand juries vote to indict by majority vote (as opposed to trial juries, which must convict a defendant unanimously).

What is a federal grand jury subpoena?

Do I have to comply with a federal grand jury subpoena?

Yes. You are legally obligated to comply once you receive a federal grand jury subpoena. Failure to do so can result in contempt of court charges, which could lead to penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

Can I have an attorney present when appearing before a federal grand jury?

No, attorneys are not allowed inside the grand jury room while you are testifying. However, you can consult with your attorney outside the grand jury room during your testimony. This means you can exit the room to seek legal advice from your attorney if needed.

How can an attorney help if I receive a federal grand jury subpoena?

An attorney can play a vital role in helping you navigate your testimony in front of the federal grand jury. Here are several ways an attorney can assist:

  • Legal Guidance: An attorney will provide legal guidance on complying with the subpoena and what to expect during the process.
  • Document Preparation: If the subpoena requires document submission, an attorney can help identify and prepare the necessary documents, ensuring they are organized and submitted correctly.
  • Representation: Although attorneys cannot be present in the grand jury room, they can represent you outside of it, advising you before and after your testimony and during breaks.
  • Protection of Rights: An attorney can help protect your rights, advising you on how to respond to questions and when you might invoke your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
  • Negotiation: In some cases, an attorney can negotiate the terms of compliance with the issuing authority, potentially reducing the scope of documents requested or modifying the conditions under which you testify.

What should I do if I believe the subpoena requests privileged information?

If you believe the subpoena requests information protected by privilege (such as attorney-client privilege), it is imperative to consult with an attorney. Your attorney can file a motion with the court to quash (dismiss) or modify the subpoena to protect such privileged information from being disclosed.

Federal grand jury subpoena

Can I ignore a subpoena if I think I've done nothing wrong?

Ignoring a subpoena is not advisable, regardless of perceived guilt or innocence of any offense. Compliance is mandatory, and failure to comply can lead to legal consequences. If you have concerns about why you received a subpoena, consulting with an attorney is the best course of action.

What happens after I comply with the subpoena?

After complying with the subpoena, you may or may not be contacted for further information or action. The grand jury process is confidential, and outcomes are not typically shared with witnesses. You could receive another subpoena if the grand jury believes more information is needed.

Can compliance with a subpoena incriminate me?

While a subpoena is intended to gather evidence, you have constitutional protections against self-incrimination. This includes the right to refuse to answer questions that could incriminate you. An attorney can advise you on when and how to assert this right effectively.

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

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