The Basics of White Collar Defense: "What is a Grand Jury?"

Federal grand juries play an important role in the criminal justice system. They consist of 23 members maximum, of which 16 need to be present to create a quorum. These juries meet at routine intervals and normally sit for an 18-month term.
Federal judges empanel and supervise grand juries, but don’t normally play a role in the investigations. The federal prosecutor is the primary government official responsible for leading grand jury sessions, although he or she may not be present during deliberations.
Federal grand jury subpoenas
Subpoenas issued by the grand jury can be for the following purposes:

  • testimony (ad testificandum)
  • documents or objects (duces tecum)
  • both

The recipient is subpoenaed as an individual or a records custodian for a corporate entity.
Get legal advice before going before a federal grand jury
If you or a loved one receives a subpoena to testify or bring documents before a grand jury, we highly recommend that you hire an experienced white collar defense attorney to protect your interests. It is important that you do so, even if you have only been called as a witness.
How your attorney can help you
Although your attorney may not be with you in a federal grand jury room, you are allowed to step out to consult with them after every question. You are also entitled to confer with your attorney for as long as you need, provided you are not doing so to delay or disrupt the process. Most jurisdictions permit you to take notes of questions asked during the grand jury session and share them with your attorney afterward.
Sometimes federal prosecutors call witnesses back for multiple rounds of testimony. Be careful, as you might inadvertently provide inconsistent answers and federal criminal law allows you to be prosecuted for committing perjury. Making contradictory statements under oath may lead a prosecutor to conclude that a witness committed perjury..
If you are called to reappear before the federal grand jury, your attorney will help you obtain a copy of the transcript of your original testimony, so you can refresh your memory and correct any mistakes. According to a recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, all federal grand jury witnesses are entitled to review a transcript of their earlier testimony.
Things to remember when testifying
If the subpoena calls for you to testify as an individual, you may invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions that could incriminate you.
Current case law does not allow business entity representatives to “plead the Fifth,” but the Supreme Court has ruled that corporate custodians are only required to answer questions related to how to subpoenaed documents were collected. If this applies to you, remember to limit your answers to the permitted category of questions.
If you’re being investigated by a grand jury – or even if you’re just appearing as a witness – you need to have an experienced white collar attorney on your team. Please contact us today to learn more!

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

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