Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas

Federal grand jury subpoenas are one of the principal investigative tools at the disposal of federal prosecutors. The following guide explains the purpose of grand juries and the role that grand jury subpoenas play in federal investigations.

What is a grand jury?

A grand jury investigates crimes and initiates criminal proceedings. In the federal system, a grand jury consists of at least 16 residents of the federal judicial district in which it sits.

What does a grand jury do?

Grand juries have two main functions: (1) investigating crimes and (2) determining whether or not to indict. As a practical matter, prosecutors present to the grand jury evidence (e.g. witness testimony and documents) that the investigatory “target” has committed a crime. When the prosecutors have finished their presentation, the grand jury decides whether the evidence established probable cause to believe that the target committed the crime in question. If the grand jury determines that probable cause exists, it issues a “true bill” of indictment charging the target with the crime.

What is a grand jury subpoena?

A subpoena is a written order that compels an individual (or entity) to provide testimony or documents to the issuing authority. Grand jury subpoenas are issued to the individuals (or entities) believed by prosecutors to be in possession of information relevant to the grand jury’s investigation.

A grand jury investigating a financial crime, for instance, may use a subpoena to obtain statements and account information from the target’s bank. The same grand jury may also issue subpoenas requiring the target’s business partners and associates to appear and provide testimony regarding the target’s dealings.

What should I do if I receive – or believe I am going to receive – a grand jury subpoena?  

The answer to this question depends on your relationship to the person or crime that is under investigation. If you are the crime victim or a witness to the crime, a grand jury subpoena may be no more than an invitation to formalize (through sworn testimony) an account that you have already provided to law enforcement officers. Complying with the subpoena under these circumstances should be a straight forward task.

When compliance with a grand jury subpoena is anything less than straight forward, you should proceed with extreme caution. Federal law makes it a crime to intentionally mislead – or attempt to mislead – a federal investigator. For this reason, you should ask yourself whether you have any reservations about providing the testimony or documents that the subpoena demands. If the answer to this question is “yes,” you would be wise to retain defense counsel to evaluate your position and act on your behalf.

The Law Office of Jonathan Savella represents individuals and businesses who have received grand jury subpoenas. If you’ve received a grand jury subpoena, Jonathan will work with you to craft a response that protects your legal and personal interests.


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