An Introduction to Grand Jury Subpoenas: What You Need to Know

An Introduction to Grand Jury Subpoenas: What You Need to Know

A grand jury subpoena is a powerful investigative tool used by the government to gather evidence and information about a potential federal crime. Receiving one can be intimidating and worrisome, so it’s important to understand what it means and how to respond properly. This article provides a simple introduction to grand jury subpoenas and what you need to know if you receive one.

What is a Grand Jury?

A federal grand jury is a group of 16 to 23 citizens who listen to evidence presented by federal prosecutors and decide whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and to charge a person with that crime. Unlike a trial jury, a grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence – its role is only to evaluate if there is enough evidence to justify bringing criminal charges against someone. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret without a judge present.

The Two Types of Grand Jury Subpoenas

There are two main types of grand jury subpoenas:

  • Subpoena ad testificandum – Requires you to appear and testify before the grand jury at a specific time and place.
  • Subpoena duces tecum – Requires you to produce documents, records, or other tangible evidence to the grand jury at a specific time and place.

Both types of subpoenas are official legal demands that you must comply with or face potential contempt of court charges.

If You Receive a Grand Jury Subpoena

Receiving a grand jury subpoena means prosecutors believe you may have evidence or information relevant to a federal criminal investigation. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Consult an attorney – Get legal advice immediately about your rights and obligations. An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can help address the subpoena.
  • Carefully review the subpoena – Make sure you understand what specific testimony and/or documents are being requested. Note any deadlines.
  • Consider your status – Prosecutors may view you as a subject, target, or witness. This impacts your risks and legal strategy.
  • Prepare thoroughly – If testifying, understand the case and potential questions. Gather responsive documents neatly and logically.
  • Know your rights – You can assert your 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination if applicable. Other rights/privileges may also apply.
  • Do not ignore the subpoena – Failure to comply may lead to contempt of court charges. Even asserting 5th Amendment rights requires appearing before the grand jury.
  • Testifying truthfully is critical – Lying or obstructing the grand jury is a serious federal crime.
  • Maintain confidentiality – Grand jury proceedings are secret so do not disclose information about your testimony, documents produced, etc.

Potential Outcomes

After hearing all the evidence, the grand jury can take the following actions:

  • Return an indictment – If 12+ jurors vote to approve criminal charges, an indictment is issued. The case then moves forward to trial.
  • Return a no true bill – If fewer than 12 jurors vote for indictment, no charges are filed. However, prosecutors can present the case to another grand jury.
  • Ask for more information – The grand jury may request additional witnesses and evidence before deciding on an indictment.

Getting Legal Help

Being subpoenaed by a grand jury can be unsettling. Working with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is highly recommended to protect your rights and interests throughout the process. Some key attorney services include:

  • Reviewing the subpoena and assessing obligations
  • Filing motions to limit or quash the subpoena if appropriate
  • Preparing for testimony and/or document production
  • Accompanying you to the grand jury proceeding
  • Asserting privileges like the 5th Amendment on your behalf
  • Negotiating with prosecutors on your behalf
  • Guiding you on avoiding inadvertent missteps
  • Providing ongoing legal advice and representation if indicted

Don’t go it alone if a grand jury subpoena arrives. Consult a seasoned federal criminal defense lawyer right away for skilled guidance and advocacy. While the situation is serious, an attorney can help you navigate the process properly.