Grand Jury Investigations

Did You Receive A Subpoena From A Federal Grand Jury?

Federal grand juries are given a substantial amount of leeway when investigating an individual regarding criminal behavior. The grand jury can:

  • Request that you produce specific documents (subpoena duces tecum)
  • Request that you testify before the panel of jurors (subpoena ad testificandum)
  • Request that you provide documents and testify

Handing over potentially incriminating documents or documents that contain trade secret information that may challenge the ability of your business to remain successful is no small matter. Limiting the scope of a grand jury request is difficult, but it is not impossible. A federal defense lawyer can discuss what steps can be taken, if any, to limit the extent of a subpoena that is burdensome or requests irrelevant documents.

Did You Receive A Target Letter?

If you are the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, you likely will have received a target letter from the involved U.S. Attorney's office. An example of a target letter is available here.

The target letter will provide notification that you are being called as a witness before the federal grand jury. You may also be informed that you will be requested to provide certain documents to the grand jury; you will be instructed not to destroy any documentation related to the investigation. Destroying evidence can lead to separate contempt charges.

The target letter should also describe the federal crimes that are the subject of the grand jury proceeding. The letter will also briefly describe your rights during the grand jury investigation and questioning.

The Federal Grand Jury Process

If you are represented by an attorney, he or she can accept service of the grand jury subpoena on your behalf. This may spare you the embarrassment of being served at work, in front of peers or in front of friends and family, as well as from any resulting questions. If you are personally served with a grand jury subpoena, you do not have to answer any questions posed by the federal agents; you may simply decline to answer until you have spoken with a lawyer.

When you are called to testify before the grand jury, your attorney is not allowed in the room during questioning. You are allowed to confer with your attorney outside of the grand jury room after every question if necessary and to "take the Fifth" on any question(s) that may result in an answer that tends to incriminate you.

If you are recalled to testify before a grand jury, you should first review your prior testimony. You may otherwise inadvertently contradict prior testimony or provide inconsistent statements that can be used to challenge your credibility.

When the investigation is complete, the grand jury will vote to return a no bill or a true bill. If a no bill is returned, the grand jury has decided that there is not enough evidence for the criminal case against you to proceed. If a true bill is returned, you have been indicted. An indictment by a state or federal grand jury is not a criminal conviction, but it is a good indication that the prosecution has a fair amount of credible evidence against you.

The prosecutor will secure a warrant for your arrest and federal agents or local police will be tasked with bringing you in. If you are represented by a criminal defense lawyer, you may have the opportunity to surrender yourself, avoiding an arrest scene at your home, work or other public location.

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.