15 Sep 23

What to Do When You Receive a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena

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Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 05:09 pm

What to Do When You Receive a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena

Getting a federal grand jury subpoena can be scary. You may feel anxious, confused, or overwhelmed. But don’t panic! This article will walk you through what to expect and how to handle it.

What is a federal grand jury subpoena?

A federal grand jury subpoena orders you to provide testimony or documents related to a criminal investigation. Federal prosecutors use subpoenas to gather evidence to determine if there is probable cause that a crime was committed. Subpoenas can demand:

  • Testimony – You have to go before the grand jury and answer questions under oath.
  • Documents – You have to turn over business records, emails, financial statements, etc.

You are legally required to comply with a valid subpoena. If you don’t, you could face civil or criminal contempt charges. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

Get legal help immediately

The moment you receive a subpoena, contact a criminal defense lawyer. An experienced federal attorney is key to protecting your rights and interests. They can advise you on how to respond and represent you if needed. Don’t wait!

Understand what information the subpoena seeks

Review the subpoena closely to understand what information federal prosecutors want. Subpoenas can request a wide range of documents and testimony related to the investigation. Your lawyer can help interpret what is being asked for.

Get an extension if needed

If the subpoena deadline doesn’t give you enough time to comply, your lawyer can request an extension. But don’t delay too long – courts expect reasonable diligence.

Assert your Fifth Amendment rights

You can refuse to provide self-incriminating testimony under the Fifth Amendment. Tell your lawyer if you have concerns about self-incrimination. They can file a motion to protect your constitutional rights.

Review documents carefully before producing

Thoroughly review any documents you plan to hand over. Your lawyer can identify privileged or irrelevant information to withhold. Never destroy or alter subpoenaed documents – that could constitute obstruction of justice.

Consider asserting other privileges

Besides the Fifth Amendment, other privileges may apply that allow you to withhold certain information, like:

  • Attorney-client privilege
  • Marital privileges
  • Clergy-penitent privilege

Your lawyer can review the applicability of any privileges and file motions to quash if appropriate.

Get advice about testifying

If the subpoena orders you to testify, your lawyer can prep you on how to handle questioning. Things to remember:

  • Always tell the truth
  • Answer only the question asked
  • Don’t volunteer extra information
  • Assert the Fifth Amendment for any self-incriminating questions

Your lawyer may be allowed in the grand jury room with you for support and guidance.

Don’t try to impede the grand jury

As frustrating as it can be, never take steps to improperly influence or impede grand jury proceedings. That could lead to obstruction charges, like:

  • Lying or misleading testimony
  • Withholding or destroying subpoenaed evidence
  • Attempting to influence a grand jury witness

Your lawyer can help ensure you stay within legal bounds.

Don’t talk to others about the subpoena

Grand jury proceedings are secret. It’s illegal to reveal anything about the subpoena or investigation to anyone else. That could undermine the proceedings and result in criminal contempt.

Consult your lawyer before each step

Work closely with your lawyer throughout the process. Contact them immediately about any new subpoena requests or changes. Never provide testimony or turn over documents without your lawyer’s guidance.

Getting charged is still possible

Even if you fully comply, you could still end up being charged if prosecutors believe they have evidence of a crime. Having an experienced federal defense lawyer provides critical protection and advocacy.

Violating a subpoena has serious consequences

Never ignore or defy a federal grand jury subpoena. The potential penalties are severe:

  • Civil contempt – Fines and imprisonment until you comply
  • Criminal contempt – Up to 6 months jail time
  • Obstruction of justice – Up to 20 years in prison

In addition to fines and jail time, a contempt finding can lead to reputation damage and professional sanctions.

This process won’t last forever

While it may feel overwhelming now, grand jury investigations do eventually conclude. With an experienced lawyer guiding you, you can get through it. Stay calm, know your rights, and let your lawyer handle the details.

Getting a federal grand jury subpoena is serious, but not necessarily devastating. By understanding the process, asserting your rights, and seeking experienced legal counsel, you can effectively respond and put yourself in the best position.