Attorney for Grand Jury Witnesses
As federal grand jury as witnesses, your testimony may have serious consequences. Federal criminal attorneys at Norman Spencer Law Group will advise and guide you throughout the process to make sure your rights are protected.
Prosecutors don’t have to notify grand jury witnesses that they are the subject of an investigation. In fact, the line between being a witness and a target is a very thin one. As a grand jury witness, you are only entitled to Fifth Amendment rights warnings. However, under a US Department of Justice internal policy, federal prosecutors will notify grand jury witnesses of their target status and issue Miranda warnings.
What Are My Rights If I Have To Testify At Federal Grand Jury?
Even though the prosecutor lets you know that you are a target, you may not have any enforceable rights under this policy. For example, a federal judge will not suppress your witness’ grand jury testimony just because a federal prosecutor did not notify you of your target status, as required by Justice Department policy. If you were adequately advised of your Fifth Amendment rights, a court will not suppress your testimony only because a federal prosecutor did not give you Miranda warnings.
Why the Prosecutor May Not Notify Grand Jury Witnesses of Target Status
Sometimes federal prosecutors do not follow this Justice Department policy for several reasons, defense attorneys will be aware that their client is a target. In many cases, however, defense counsel will be unaware of the charges. First, state prosecutions are unaffected by the Justice Department’s police. Second, the policy is not always followed by federal prosecutors. Third, a federal prosecutor may have suspicions about the defendant but not enough evidence to make him or her an official “target.”
The prosecutor may make an ambiguous declaration of intent at this point, such as “I cannot say at this point that your client is not a target.” If the investigation reveals anything incriminatory, counsel should interpret this statement as an admission by the prosecutor of an intent to indict.
The nature of the documents sought by a grand jury subpoena duces tecum can reveal a client’s status as a grand jury target in some cases. In any case, unless the prosecutor states that the client is not a target, counsel should treat any statement as if the prosecutor is seeking to indict.
Getting ready for the Grand Jury Appearance with the “Target” In the absence of a clear statement from the prosecutor that the witness is not a target, the witness’s attorney should proceed as if an indictment is likely. It’s unusual for a witness to testify before a grand jury and talk his or her way out of an indictment. A witness will almost certainly only harm himself or herself and complicate future trial strategy.
As a result, we almost always advise the witness to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The prosecutor’s simple failure or refusal to tell the witness whether or not he or she is a target justifies this approach.
A good defense lawyer should emphasize to the client the broad definitions and vague nature of many economic crimes when explaining the right to remain silent. Many economic crimes, such as mail fraud, the Travel Act, and securities laws and regulations, are prosecuted under broad federal statutes.
Our federal lawyers make sure that the client understands that the term “crime” does not only refer to behavior that is definitely and clearly criminal. When defending such cases, our federal defense lawyers always address the psychological barrier that causes the putative white-collar defendant to carelessly waive the privilege against self-incrimination, in addition to bridging the cognitive gap.
It is important to note that respectable business people or professionals who are facing a grand jury appearance recoil at the prospect of being pitted against the law enforcement system. Such clients aren’t used to having their reputations and characters blemished, and the prospect of “taking the Fifth” is anathema to them.
If we represent grand jury witnesses, we always try to make sure we accompany the witness throughout their appearance. Grand jury witnesses in New York, for example, are automatically granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Witnesses who waive their immunity, on the other hand, are entitled to the presence of counsel in the grand jury room under the law.
Anyone who appears as a witness in a grand jury proceeding and signs a waiver of immunity has the right to an attorney. Such a witness may be represented by a retained attorney or, if he is unable to afford counsel, by an attorney appointed by the superior court that appointed the grand jury.
In some jurisdictions, such an assigned attorney must be assigned to the same plan and in the same manner as counsel is provided to people charged with crimes. The witness’s attorney may be present in the grand jury room with the witness. The attorney may advise the witness but may not participate in the proceedings in any other way. The superior court that appointed the grand jury has the same authority to remove an attorney from the grand jury room as it does with an attorney in a courtroom.
Federal criminal attorneys with Norman Spencer PC provide aggressive and competent nationwide representation to clients in all stages of federal grand jury proceedings and investigations. Please call us today to speak with a federal criminal lawyer.