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Grand Jury Subpoenas

What Do You Do When the Government Calls You to Testify Behind Closed Doors?

Before a federal prosecutor can bring criminal charges against an individual by way of indictment, the U.S. Attorney must first go through the grand jury. In the federal system, the grand jury decides whether the government’s evidence warrants issuing an indictment against someone for a federal offense. The grand jury process is therefore essential if the government wants to proceed with a prosecution.

The grand jury plays the role of an investigative body that hears evidence of alleged crimes. As part of the government’s investigation into crime, you could find yourself subpoenaed to appear and give testimony to the grand jury. How you respond to the subpoena is critical to protecting your rights if you get charged with a crime or even keeping you from being arrested in the first place. Legal advice is critical. You need a lawyer, and you need one right away.

If you have received a grand jury subpoena, call the Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman for immediate assistance. If you’ve been served with a grand jury subpoena, regardless of whether you think you are a target of the investigation or not, don’t hesitate to call for valuable legal advice from an experienced and successful Los Angeles healthcare and financial fraud criminal defense attorney.

A Look at the Grand Jury Process

Like juries in civil and criminal cases, grand juries are made up of people in the community, drawn from the voter registration rolls. However, the similarities pretty much end there. A trial jury, also known as a petit jury, might only have 6 or 12 members on it, but a grand jury is likely to be comprised of between 16 to 23 members. A trial juror only serves for one case, and the length of jury service concludes in a couple of weeks in most instances. A grand juror, on the other hand, will sit for months or even a year, hearing evidence related to several potential cases. A trial jury decides the facts in a civil or criminal case, determining whether a defendant is guilty or liable and what their punishment or damages should be. A grand jury, in contrast, decides whether the prosecutor has presented it with enough evidence to issue a criminal indictment.

The grand jury convenes in a secret proceeding. If you receive a subpoena to appear, you’ll be asked to come and answer questions put to you under oath by the U.S. Attorney in front of the grand jury. You might also be asked to bring documents with you, such as medical records, employee records, bank records, or records of cash payments to various people. This will be made clear to you in the subpoena. What won’t be made clear is whether you are being called to testify as someone with information about a possible crime or if you are actually the target of the investigation. Your attorney might be able to glean this information from the letter or subpoena requesting your appearance before the grand jury. You could receive a “target letter” which either implies or makes it quite clear that you are the subject of the investigation. Mr. Friedman’s decades of experience as both a federal prosecutor and defense lawyer can prove very insightful in figuring out where you stand with the government in the grand jury process.

Can You “Take the Fifth”? The Classic Lawyer Answer: It Depends

If you know anything about criminal law, you probably know that if you are arrested, “you have the right to remain silent.” What about when you are testifying as a witness, whether in a trial or grand jury? Can you “plead the fifth” and “refuse to answer on the grounds that what you say might incriminate you”? A criminal defendant cannot be compelled to testify in a trial or respond to police questioning. But as we’ve already seen, grand juries are different. The extent to which you can invoke the Fifth Amendment before a grand jury is not so easily understood. It is nuanced and complicated.

At a time like this, you’ll want to consult your attorney, but once inside the grand jury room, your lawyer is nowhere to be found. The only ones inside the grand jury room are you, the members of the grand jury, government lawyers, a court reporter, and an interpreter if needed. Your attorney isn’t allowed inside to advise you or participate by questioning you or other witnesses.

However, if you are concerned about a question put to you by the U.S. Attorney, you should be allowed to leave the grand jury room and consult your lawyer who could be waiting in the hall or available via phone. Don’t be afraid to exercise this right whenever you are confused about a question or unsure how to answer.

What About State Grand Juries?

So far we have been talking about federal grand juries. California uses the grand jury process as well, although in much more limited circumstances. While grand juries are required for all federal felony indictments, the vast majority of state-level felony prosecutions in California get started when the prosecutor files a “complaint” based on evidence gathered during an investigation. There are only limited circumstances when a county prosecutor would prefer to take the average felony case to a grand jury rather than use the preliminary hearing route.

For the most part, state grand juries in California perform the function of local government watchdog or hear cases related to public corruption or willful misconduct of public officials in office. However, you could still be called or subpoenaed to testify to a California grand jury, and the information provided above related to federal grand juries applies to California grand juries as well.

Summoned to Appear Before a Grand Jury in Los Angeles? Contact the Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman for Advice, Representation and Professional Assistance

The Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman can help you prepare for a grand jury appearance in numerous ways. We can look into what’s going on and hopefully provide some insight into why you are being called to testify. We can let you know what to expect and be on call if you have any questions while testifying. We might also be able to negotiate an immunity agreement before testifying to keep you from being prosecuted based on any information you divulge to the grand jury. These agreements can be complex and should only be approached with the help of a skilled and knowledgeable federal criminal defense lawyer.

If you’ve received a subpoena or been called to testify before a grand jury in Los Angeles, call the Law Offices of Stanley L. Friedman at 213-629-1500 for advice and help from an experienced and successful healthcare and financial fraud criminal defense lawyer.

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