Can I Testify In The Grand Jury?
Being called to testify before a grand jury can be an intimidating and confusing experience. As a witness, you have certain rights and responsibilities that are important to understand. This article provides a comprehensive overview of what to expect if you are called to testify before a grand jury, your rights as a witness, whether you can refuse to testify, and more.
Why Might I Be Called to Testify?
There are a few reasons you may be called to testify:
- You witnessed a crime or event related to an alleged crime
- You have information relevant to an investigation, even if you don’t realize it
- You are an expert witness with specialized knowledge
- You are the target of the investigation
The prosecutor or grand jury may believe you have valuable information and want to question you under oath. Do not ignore a subpoena to testify – you are legally required to appear.
What Should I Expect if I Testify?
If you do end up testifying before the grand jury, here is what you can expect:
- You will be sworn in and have to take an oath to tell the truth.
- The prosecutor will begin asking you questions related to the investigation. Answer truthfully, even if it may incriminate others.
- The questions will pertain to events you witnessed, conversations you had with relevant parties, your relationship to the target, etc. Answer only what you know first-hand.
- You can ask to step outside the room to consult your attorney if you are unsure how to answer a question.
- Do not bring up hearsay or speculation – stick to facts you know directly.
- The prosecutor may present evidence such as documents or recordings and ask you to interpret or verify them.
- Grand jury proceedings move quickly – your testimony will likely last 1-2 hours.
- A transcript is made of your testimony that you can obtain if needed.
- After testifying, you are free to leave unless you are the target and were offered immunity.
Can My Grand Jury Testimony Be Used Against Me?
In general, yes – anything you say before the grand jury can potentially be used against you later if you are prosecuted. For this reason, be very careful in how you answer questions. Consider:
- If granted immunity, your testimony cannot be used directly against you. But it can lead to other evidence that may implicate you.
- Your testimony can be used to impeach or discredit you if you later make contradictory statements.
- Admissions you make can be used against you as party admissions.
- If you testify differently at trial than before the grand jury, your credibility can be damaged.
- Lying during your testimony can lead to perjury charges.
The key is to answer questions truthfully, but be careful not to provide unnecessary information that could later be used against you. An attorney can help advise what types of answers could be problematic.
If I’m the Target, Should I Testify?
If you are the target of the grand jury investigation, you do have a right to testify in your own defense. However, it is usually inadvisable to do so. Consider:
- You won’t know what evidence has already been presented against you.
- The prosecutor can use your testimony to fish for information.
- You open yourself up to perjury charges by testifying.
- Anything incriminating you admit to can be used against you.
- You have to waive your 5th Amendment rights by choosing to testify.
Your attorney may recommend against testifying unless there is a compelling strategic reason to do so. In rare cases, a target’s testimony persuades the grand jury not to indict. But it is often too risky.
Takeaways If Called to Testify
Being called to testify before a grand jury can be intimidating. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- Get legal advice – consult an attorney before testifying
- Understand your rights – you have certain limited rights as a witness
- Answer truthfully – lying can lead to perjury charges
- Stick to first-hand knowledge – avoid speculation and hearsay
- Carefully consider whether to testify if you are the target
- Your testimony can likely be used against you later
- An attorney may be able to get an improper indictment dismissed
With the help of an attorney, you can navigate the grand jury process while protecting your legal interests. Be sure to comply with a subpoena, but also assert your rights as a witness when warranted.