Why You Need a Lawyer If You’re Appearing Before a Grand Jury… Even as a Witness

A grand jury is a group of citizens who are empaneled to investigate whether criminal activity is taking place or not and whether charges should be brought. If they determine that a crime has been committed, then they issue an indictment, which is the formal document which charges an individual or corporation with a crime. Unlike a trial jury, the work a grand jury performs is not done in a public courtroom. Rather, it takes place in a secure location which is not open to the public. You can’t just enter the room and observe the grand jury at work like you can with a trial in a courtroom. The only people who are permitted in the grand jury room are the prosecutor presenting the case, the court reporter who is keeping a record of the proceedings and the witness who is appearing to testify.

A grand jury has the power to subpoena witnesses to appear and give sworn testimony, or produce documents. This is a very powerful tool, which may have serious implications for a witness who is summoned. The decisions which a subpoenaed witness needs to make before appearing depend upon whether that person is the target of the grand jury, the subject of an investigation or merely a witness with information to share. A target is someone who will in all likelihood be charged. A subject may or may not be a target or a witness. Nevertheless, in all of these scenarios, a person who is subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury should always seek the advice of an attorney.

If you are subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, one of the biggest mistakes which can be made is to just show up on the designated date and time. A prosecutor is under no obligation to warn a witness of their classification as a target, subject or witness, nor are they obligated to tell you why the subpoena was issued. It is essential that an attorney contact the prosecutor in advance and get as much information as possible. In many instances, an attorney can arrange for the subpoenaed person to avoid appearing before the grand jury at all. And if by some misfortune you are the target or subject of the grand jury investigation, your attorney can negotiate for immunity, or other alternatives to being indicted.

There are various types of immunity, but the most common is “limited use immunity.” This means that the prosecution may not use any of the statements which you make during your grand jury testimony against you. They may however use your information to investigate people whom you identify, or obtain evidence which they learn exists based upon your testimony. Like many things in the law, there are exceptions to this immunity, which are beyond the scope of this summary. Less prevalent, but still available is “transactional immunity.” Transactional immunity guarantees that you can’t be prosecuted for crimes related to the testimony you give. Prosecutors are reluctant to grant this type of immunity, out of concern that the witness may admit to committing the very crimes which are being investigated, thus preventing that individual’s prosecution.
The grand jury process is complex and daunting, and an experienced lawyer is essential to navigate it successfully. If you or a loved one has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, please contact us immediately so that we can go to work on your behalf!

Written by Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

For 34 years, I have provided both State- and Federal-Level representation for those facing charges ranging from wire fraud, mortgage fraud, and healthcare fraud to identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, murder, DUI, domestic violence and numerous other criminal charges. In every case, it is my commitment to one-on-one service and support that has separated the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax from other criminal defense firms. When it comes to your future, you need a strong defense and the ability to make the right choices and regain control of your life.