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What is the Process of a Grand Jury Subpoena?

June 24, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

A grand jury is one method prosecutors can use to bring criminal charges against you. The grand jury is a large group of citizens that reviews evidence and listens to witness testimony. While similar to a trial, you will lack many of the rights at these hearings compared to a traditional jury trial. In fact, a grand jury could take place without you knowing it.

If you believe you are the target of a grand jury or have been subpoenaed to testify at one, it is vital that you speak with skill legal counsel right away. In the meantime, understand the process of a grand jury can aid you in preparing for what might come next.

The Grand Jury Process

For most people, the grand jury process begins when they are served with a subpoena to appear. At the outset of this process, the prosecutor will instruct a police officer or federal marshal to deliver a subpoena to a person they want to appear at the proceedings. This subpoena could request that they simply come to testify or require them to bring documentary evidence. This evidence could belong to them personally, or they could be asked to testify in some sort of official capacity.

Appearing at a grand jury is mandatory, and failure to do so can result in contempt charges. There is a third option outside of appearing or simply not showing up, however. If you believe the request for you to appear before the grand jury is inappropriate or unnecessary, your attorney could argue to the court that the subpoena should be quashed. In limited instances, the court may agree and cancel the subpoena requiring your appearance.

The process of having a subpoena quashed is not simple. It requires hiring an attorney to file a motion to quash the subpoena on your behalf. The court will not declare a subpoena null and void without proper grounds, and it is not enough that you do not want to participate. These motions often address unreasonable requests, like the prosecutor seeking thousands of pages of documentation in a matter of days.

Target vs. Witness

Before you appear at a grand jury, it is vital that you understand your role in the case. In some cases, you could be the target of the grand jury. In other cases, you might be called as a witness in a case against someone else. That does not mean you are not in jeopardy, as your testimony in a grand jury investigating another person could result in future charges against you.

One way your attorney can help is by determining from the prosecution if you are a target or witness of a grand jury. In some cases, the prosecution might be so keen on having you testify against someone else they might offer you immunity in exchange for your testimony. This often involves transactional immunity, which is the name for testifying in exchange for immunity for any crimes related to the subject of the testimony. The other type of immunity is known as use immunity. While use immunity does not prevent a person from facing criminal charges related to the grand jury in the future, it does bar the government from using anything they say during their testimony.

Right to Counsel

Another major difference between a grand jury and a trial is the right to legal counsel. Unlike a trial, you are not entitled to the assistance of legal counsel when you testify at a grand jury. Grand jury proceedings are closed to the public, and witnesses may not have their representation present. That does not mean your attorney will not play a role. Preparation is vital prior to grand jury testimony, and your attorney can work to ensure you are as prepared as you can be. What’s more, your attorney can remain in the courthouse in case the court allows time for the witness to seek counsel. This advice could be crucial in helping a person avoid incriminating themselves during grand jury testimony.

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