FAQ: Why did I receive a grand jury subpoena?

If you have been served with a Grand Jury Subpoena, it means the government is compelling you to testify in a Grand Jury proceeding, or you must turn over certain documents. It does not necessarily mean you are being prosecuted, but it could mean you are or could become the subject of an investigation.

When a person is charged with a felony, an indictment must be secured by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury’s job is to vote on whether there is legally sufficient evidence to go forward on each felony charge. Only the prosecutor may conduct the proceeding, and defense attorneys are generally not permitted inside, even while their client testifies.

A witness compelled to testify before a Grand Jury receives immunity in exchange for their testimony. The immunity applies to what they say in the Grand Jury. Because of this, a witness may not refuse to testify based on their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. Refusal to testify can result in the witness being held in contempt of court.

However, in both federal and state Grand Juries, exceptions apply to the immunity rule. For example, if the witness commits perjury while on the stand, they are not entitled to immunity for the perjured statements. Additionally, the witness’s Grand Jury testimony can be used against him or her in a later trial to discredit the witness, such as if the testimony is inconsistent.

Because Grand Jury proceedings are legally technical matters, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you receive a subpoena. You should not contact the law enforcement agent or prosecutor under any circumstance.

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