Don’t Evolve from a Grand Jury Witness to a Grand Jury Target

If you are ever subpoenaed to appear in a federal grand jury investigation, it will likely either be as a witness, a subject (person of interest), or a target, but many people do not realize that there is a fine line between these three statuses. Even if you think you are just a witness, you have to be very careful in how you approach your involvement in a grand jury proceeding.
A federal grand jury works differently than a traditional  trial jury. A federal grand jury is a legal body that is called by the prosecution and empowered to conduct official legal proceedings such as questioning a witness and presenting evidence to the grand jury, in order to help the prosecution decide whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges in a traditional court.
There is less formality and the jury has more power to compel the production of evidence such as sworn testimony by a witness or documents relating to the case. The grand jury serves both an investigatory purpose for the alleged crime as well as an accusatory purpose where they will determine  whether there is probable cause to bring criminal charges.
If you are subpoenaed to appear before a  federal grand jury as a witness, there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, you have likely been called for one of three reasons:

  1. the prosecutor believes you were witness to a third party’s crime and wants to gather your testimony as evidence, or
  2. the prosecutor believes you are involved in the commission of a crime and wants to determine if you ought to be  charged, or
  3. the prosecutor believes that have committed a crime and want to gather testimony And evidence to make the case against you.

Based on what you say in your testimony, you could quickly evolve from a witness, to a subject, to a target of the investigation. And unfortunately, your lawyer is not permitted inside the grand jury proceedings, much to most people’s surprise.
It is for this reason that, even if you believe you are only considered a witness by the prosecution, you should always seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you are ever subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.
However, a defense lawyer can speak with the prosecution ahead of time to help find out whether they consider you to be a witness, subject or target in the case. Furthermore, your lawyer can remain in a nearby hallway or room during the grand jury proceeding, and you can request to confer with your lawyer before answering  any questions. It may be in your best interests to invoke this right before answering every single question asked by the prosecution, but your lawyer can advise you as to the wisdom of this tactic based on your specific situation.
Your defense lawyer may also be able to work out a deal for immunity with the prosecution prior to your grand jury appearance.
If you have been or believe you will be subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury for any reason, please call Weisberg Kainen Mark to make sure you are protected. Don’t risk self-incrimination, let us work to defend your rights.

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

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