What You Want to Know About a Federal Grand Jury

Scale of justice depicting Federal Grand Jury

Have you or has someone you love received a subpoena to appear before a Federal Grand Jury?

If so, you want to know all you can about what to expect. You are doing a wise thing, learning about your situation. What you choose to do or say – or not – can impact the rest of your life.

This is why hiring an attorney with years of experience with the federal court system can make or break your case. The earlier you call my office for a free consultation, you start advocating for yourself.

I will be with you every step of the way, ready to explain the intricacies of a federal case. I will give you the tools you need to make the right decisions for your life. 

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What is a Federal Grand Jury?

A grand jury is the jury before the jury. Sometimes before a trial and before the federal prosecutor brings charges against you, you may have to appear before a grand jury.

A grand jury consists of 16-23 of your peers called to serve in this jury in the same way a court trial jury is called to serve. However, this jury works with a prosecutor and is responsible for deciding if the prosecutor’s evidence should result in criminal charges against you. 

It should be noted that grand juries almost always decide to bring charges. Even though federal prosecutors aren’t present during deliberations, they lead grand jury sessions. The jury is, in essence, their investigative body.

Since this procedure happens to determine charges, it’s one of the first things to happen in a criminal case.

Your appearance as a witness could happen at any point during the 18 months of a grand jury term. The grand jury will meet at regular intervals to hear testimony during this time. They will return an indictment by a vote of 12 or more members.

Called to a Grand Jury Interview

Three things you need to know if you are called to be interviewed by a grand jury:

The proceedings must be kept secret. 

Secrecy rules apply to everyone involved in bringing charges: grand jurors, court reporters, and federal prosecutors.

They are under strict rules to keep the proceedings – or the fact that you’ve been subpoenaed or appeared before a grand jury – a secret to protect your reputation, should the grand jury decide not to indict. They could face criminal sanctions if they don’t keep it a secret. 

However, several things prosecutors do to skirt these rules are: getting sloppy and outright revealing when people or companies have been subpoenaed or inviting witnesses to waiting rooms outside the grand jury room and tipping off members of the press to see who comes in as a witness.

Your lawyer should be vigilant in defending you against these tactics and warning the prosecution not to engage in them. 

You may receive a cover letter with your subpoena stating that you, as a witness, must keep proceedings a secret, but no such rules apply to witnesses.

However much you may want to keep proceedings a secret, there are some ways in which legally revealing some information to other witnesses or obtaining information from them about their grand jury testimonies may help your case. 

No lawyers can be present in the room.

While it’s true that the grand jury can ask any questions it wants to ask, and that it is supposedly self-directed, the federal prosecutor is highly involved.

He or she may be somewhere outside the room, directing things. You have the right to have your attorney in the next room and leave after every question, if necessary, to confer with your lawyer. 

You have the right not to incriminate yourself.

It’s a crime to lie to federal agents, and it is a crime to lie in grand jury proceedings.

No law gives you the right to lie. However, our constitution has a much more powerful law: you do not have to answer any questions that would incriminate you.

Federal agents could attempt to lure you into a pre-testimony interview. You should never consent to this interview or speak with agents even “informally” before a grand jury appearance. 

During proceedings, if the answer to a question even tends to incriminate you, if it gives the other side a link in a chain of evidence that would lead to your conviction – you don’t have to answer it.

Here is another reason to invoke your 5th amendment right: if you are innocent. That’s right; you should stay silent in some cases if you are innocent. A mistake can ensnare even an honest person. 

Experienced Federal Defense Attorney in Michigan

It’s never too early or too late to hire an experienced federal defense attorney. Call my office today and get started on your vigorous defense. 

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