If you are served with a subpoena as part of a federal grand jury trial this can have serious consequences, and you should contact a defense attorney immediately to discuss your rights and obligations. While a subpoena is used to gather evidence for the purposes of the investigation, it is not uncommon for witnesses to later be charged with criminal or civil offenses in connection with the case. If you are unaware of how to behave or what your rights and duties are, you may subject yourself unnecessarily to serious criminal charges.
What is a Subpoena?
A subpoena is a document that is “served” on a person that requires them to come to court or to attend a deposition as part of an investigation. Most of the time a grand jury subpoena is ad testificandum. This means that you are being asked to provide testimony. You may also be subject to a “subpoena duces tecum”, which means you are required to provide documentation. In some cases, you may be served with a subpoena for both testimony and documents. A subpoena does not mean that you are being sued.
There are three main reasons why you might be served with a federal grand jury subpoena:
- You are a “target”. This means that the grand jury has evidence linking you to the crime.
- You are a “subject”. This means that you are part of the investigation in some way.
- You are a “witness”. This means that you are not being investigated for a crime, but that you have personal knowledge of facts that matter to the investigation.
If the subpoena is because you are a target, it will tell you. If you are in charge of a business entity, you may also be served a subpoena on behalf of that entity, particularly in cases where you need to provide documents.
What is a Federal Grand Jury?
A federal grand jury is reserved for very serious crimes, and it involves a combination of a prosecutor, and a jury of 16-23 people.
The federal grand jury decides whether to bring an indictment or a criminal charge against a person charged with a federal crime. Their job is to determine whether there is “probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a certain Federal offense within the venue of the district court”.1 No judge is present in a grand jury trial.
What Are My Obligations?
One of the most important things to remember is that if you receive a federal grand jury subpoena, you have a legal obligation to respond. You can respond in two ways: compliance, or a motion to quash the subpoena. Compliance means that you will show up in court at the specified date and time to testify.
A motion to quash the subpoena is if you think that the subpoena is incorrect or invalid. It is best to appoint an attorney to file your motion to quash a subpoena. If you simply ignore the subpoena, you can be deemed in contempt of court.
Do I Need to Talk to Anyone Outside of the Trial?
You do not need to talk to any police officers, federal agents, court officials, or other lawyers before the trial begins. If you are asked to appear at the courtroom several hours before the trial begins, this may be a pre-trial interview. This interview will not be recorded, and without an attorney present you can be tricked or misled into saying something that may implicate you in a later case. You do not need to attend any pre-trial interview.
Can I Hire an Attorney if I Receive a Subpoena?
You should definitely hire an attorney if you have been served with a grand jury subpoena, as hiring an attorney to help you is critical in this situation.
Your attorney can advise you on how to prepare your testimony or documents, but they cannot come into the courtroom with you and you will be required to appear in front of the grand jury alone. It is important to carefully prepare your testimony, as even if you have been served a subpoena as a witness, prosecutors may ask you questions that can implicate you for later proceedings.
Remember that you maintain a privilege against self-incrimination at all times, which means you can refuse to answer. You also have the right to consult with your attorney after every question that you are asked.
How Should I Prepare?
- Hire an attorney as soon as possible. As noted above, an attorney can help you to prepare for the trial, and can ensure that you are advised correctly about how to respond to any questions.
- Determine what kind of subpoena it is: target, subject, or witness. This will change how you respond to the subpoena.
- Determine what the allegations are in the case as a whole, and whether you are likely to be implicated in any part of the crime.
- Preserve evidence, documents, or records. Do not destroy any evidence – you can be charged with a crime if you do this.
- Review any prior testimony that you have given, to make sure that you do not give inconsistent answers or incriminate yourself.
- Plan and consider what questions might be asked of you, and how to respond. When your attorney cannot be in the room with you, preparation for each potential question is critical.
Call Stechschulte Nell For Help with Subpoena Representation
If you’ve received a federal grand jury subpoena, the law office of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Don’t wait. Call our top-rated Florida law firm at (813) 489-5385 to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.