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Last Updated on: 24th October 2023, 08:16 pm
What to Expect When Testifying Before a Grand Jury in DC
Being called to testify before a grand jury can be an intimidating and stressful experience. As a witness, you may be worried about what kind of questions you’ll be asked, how you should answer, and what your legal rights and responsibilities are. This article provides a helpful overview of what to expect and how to prepare if you are subpoenaed to testify before a DC grand jury.
What is a Grand Jury?
A grand jury is a group of citizens who listen to evidence presented by a prosecutor and decide whether there is probable cause to charge someone with a serious crime . DC grand juries typically have between 16 and 23 members, and meet for around 18 months . The job of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or innocence, but only to evaluate whether there is enough evidence to justify having a trial.
Being Called as a Witness
If you receive a subpoena to testify before a DC grand jury, you are legally required to appear. You will get a date, time, and location for when you need to testify. Make sure you arrange to be there and plan to stay for several hours, as you often have to wait a while before it’s your turn . If the date doesn’t work for you, contact the prosecutor’s office right away to request a different date.
When its your turn, a prosecutor will bring you into the grand jury room. There are usually around 20 grand jurors sitting around a table. The prosecutor will ask you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth . Then the questioning will begin.
What Kind of Questions Will You Be Asked?
The prosecutor will ask you questions related to the criminal investigation the grand jury is focused on. They will start with basic background questions about you and your connection to the case. Then they will move to more specific questions about events, conversations, documents, etc. Answer all questions truthfully with as much relevant detail as you can recall.
The prosecutor can ask you broad questions about what you know related to the potential crime under investigation. You may feel pressure to speculate or guess, but it’s important to make clear you are only stating what you directly observed or know first-hand .
The prosecutor may get aggressive and try to trip you up, but stay calm. Stick to the facts and clarify any confusion. Don’t be defensive if they doubt you or ask challenging questions. Getting upset or argumentative will just escalate tensions.
What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities?
You have certain rights and responsibilities when testifying before a grand jury in DC:
- You must answer all questions truthfully. Lying is perjury, which is a felony.
- You can refuse to answer questions only if you have a valid legal privilege, like attorney-client privilege.
- You have the right to consult with an attorney outside the grand jury room before answering tricky questions.
- You can request a break to step out and speak with your lawyer.
- You have the right to review any documents or transcripts to refresh your memory.
- You cannot refuse to testify just because you think it might be self-incriminating. You must answer and assert your Fifth Amendment right on a question-by-question basis .
Keep in mind you cannot discuss anything about the grand jury proceedings with anyone, even your lawyer. The proceedings are secret. Only discuss your testimony with your attorney, and even then, be discreet .
How to Prepare for Your Testimony
To get ready for your grand jury testimony:
- Ask the prosecutor ahead of time about the general subject matter, so you can refresh your memory.
- Review any documents, records, or communications related to the case.
- Make notes of important dates, conversations, meetings, etc. that may come up.
- If you don’t remember key details, be honest and say so. Don’t guess or speculate.
- Go over your background connection to the case so your story is clear.
- Hire an attorney so you can discuss the case and get advice on asserting your rights.
- Get a good night’s sleep beforehand so you are alert and thinking clearly.
Thorough preparation will help your testimony go smoothly. But even if you’re caught off guard by certain questions, stay calm and truthful.
What Happens After Your Testimony?
When the prosecutor is finished with their questions, they will end your appearance before the grand jury. Remember you are sworn to secrecy and cannot discuss your testimony with anyone except your attorney .
After hearing from all scheduled witnesses, the grand jury will deliberate in private and vote on whether to issue an indictment formally charging the target of the investigation. You will be notified if you need to return for additional testimony.
If an indictment is issued based in part on your testimony, you may have to testify again if the case goes to trial. So keep all your notes and records until the case concludes.
Testifying before a grand jury can be intimidating, but being prepared helps reduce anxiety. Be truthful, stick to the facts, and let your attorney handle the legal issues. With an understanding of the process and your rights, you can get through your testimony with confidence.