Subpoenas

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a legal document that orders you (at risk of contempt of court) to appear in court to testify. In the context of a grand jury investigation, a subpoena is issued by a federal prosecutor to compel you to testify before a grand jury. If you are the target of a federal investigation (and have received a target letter) that means you have been subpoenaed.

Why Have You Been Subpoenaed?

If you have been subpoenaed, it is likely that you have been under investigation for weeks, months, or longer. At this stage, it is the prosecutor's goal to obtain an indictment from the grand jury, which will allow the prosecutor to formally charge you with a federal offense.

What Are My Rights When I Have Been Subpoenaed?

As part of the subpoena process, you may also have received a target letter from federal prosecutors. This letter generally informs you of your rights during grand jury proceedings.

The Fifth Amendment says:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury [...] nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law [...]."

Your rights: You have the constitutional right against self-incrimination, which means that while you may have been subpoenaed, you generally cannot be forced to testify against yourself. You also have the right to retain counsel to represent you.

Important: If you have received a subpoena in the context of a federal investigation, you are being called as a witness to testify before a grand jury. You do NOT have the right to know whether or not what you say will lead to your indictment. Because you do not have this right, and because federal prosecutors routinely bring charges for perjury committed during grand jury proceedings, it is wise to retain counsel.

What Are My Options?

A subpoena from a federal prosecutor is the prosecutor's effort to obtain information that can be used against you. Retaining counsel as early as possible can help improve the outcome of your case. A criminal defense lawyer can help to protect your constitutional right against self-incrimination and possibly prevent a grand jury indictment when you have been served a subpoena.

Request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts of Roberts Law Group, PLLC (based in Raleigh, North Carolina) at 800-760-9071 or use our online form.

Expert Tip: In some cases, an experienced attorney can make a motion to quash (or invalidate) a subpoena; for example, if the subpoena is so broad in scope that it violates the Fourth Amendment and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c), United States v. Reno, 522 F.2d 572 (10th Cir. 1975), or if compliance with the subpoena would violate the defendant's right against self-incrimination. United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000).

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.