Grand juries are embedded into our constitution. Their purpose is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a federal felony was committed. A grand jury consists of 16-23 citizens from the community. If 12 of those jurors find there is probable cause, it is signed by the prosecutor which then becomes an indictment: a formal charge the government must prove at trial.
However, there can be several reasons why you may have received a grand jury subpoena:
- A grand jury felt there were enough evidence and probable cause and the prosecutor is going to move forward to indict you.
- You may be considered a witness. This does not mean you engaged in illegal activity. It could mean you may know something that the government thinks is important in its investigation.
- This falls somewhere in between a target and a witness. The government thinks some of your actions and behaviors were suspicious and that there is a risk you may have done something illegal.
Whether you are subpoenaed to produce documents and evidence (subpoena duces tecum) or subpoenaed to testify in court on a specific day (subpoena ad testificandum), both are mandatory. Ignoring a subpoena may result in you being held in contempt of court. The tricky part is that by law, a prosecutor is not required to tell you whether you fall into the target, witness, or subject category. Additionally, the only people allowed in the grand jury room are the Assistant United States Attorney, the jurors, a court reporter, and you.
That is why it is critical to hire an experienced attorney right away if you receive a federal grand jury subpoena. Although an attorney is not able to be in the grand jury room, they can be present. While you are testifying, you can excuse yourself to consult with your attorney before answering a question. Although it feels disruptive, it is what is best to ensure you understand your rights and that you get the best possible outcome.
If you or someone you love has been subpoenaed in connection with a grand jury proceeding, contact the law office of Michael B. Cohen today.