Anyone who receives a subpoena to appear at a federal grand jury needs a lawyer. Even more, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. When you wait until a day or a week before your appearance, it can put you at a distinct disadvantage. Better to have a lawyer you may not need than not to have one you urgently need.
Knowing Why to Hire a Lawyer
The attorney representing the United States may provide details of your case to your lawyer who can let you know the options that face you. Grand juries have the legal authority to investigate and prosecute crimes, a situation you do not want to face alone. Even if it turns out that they wish to use you only as a routine witness, you still need professional help to guide you through the justice system. Some facts give you a reason to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. The National Law Review offers some best practices when you receive a subpoena.
1. Not Going It Alone
While you must face a grand jury alone, you can confer with your lawyer who can wait outside the room. You can go there to talk over every question, and it does not matter how long it takes. The stately judicial process does not allow you to cause any disruption, but you can quietly excuse yourself to tell your lawyer about the questions you received and the responses you gave. In most cases, you may write notes about the questions for discussion with your lawyer later.
2. Tips on Interviews
While the attorneys for the government may want to talk to you before your appearance before the grand jury, you do not have to agree. Even though your subpoena letter may request you to show up an hour or two early, your lawyer may remind you that you receive no advantage in talking to any representative of the government. In addition, a misquote of something you said can cause problems later. A recorded transcript of the grand jury proceedings prevents any misunderstanding about anything you say.
3. Observing Secrecy or Not
Your lawyer may make sure you know that the jurors, government lawyers and court reporters must keep everything secret. However, as a grand jury witness, you do not have to obey a rule that does not apply to you. Your lawyer may advise you to keep silent anyway, but you can speak your piece if you please. When you receive a letter that implies anything that raises concerns for you, make sure to discuss them with your lawyer. In some cases, a letter on legal letterhead can make prosecutors realize they cannot intimidate you.
4. Avoid Embarrassment
When you want to keep your private matters out of sight of curious observers, you can ask your lawyer to arrange to receive the grand jury subpoena for you. The thought of having FBI agents appear at your home or office may not appeal to you, and your lawyer can shield you from the embarrassment. The less contact you have with the authorities, the better.
5. Guarding Your Rights
Your lawyer can advise you of the need for honesty when you appear before a grand jury. However, you have a right to avoid self-incrimination. Even though a subpoena letter may regard you as a witness only and not as a subject or target, the designations can change quickly. When you want to reply to an inquiry with a truthful reply that may incriminate you, trouble may surely follow. You can refuse to answer to protect yourself.
6. Remaining Consistent
Your lawyer can request to review the grand jury transcript to advise you on your previous statements if you must return for more questioning. Consistency helps make your testimony authentic, and a lack of it raises questions. When you can refresh your memory of a reply you provided in the tense environment of a grand jury proceeding, you can avoid making an unforced error. Even if you do not receive a request to appear again, you still have a right to see the record of your statements.
7. Practicing for an Appearance
While it may cost some money, you may find it a worthwhile investment to rehearse a grand jury appearance with friendly participants. Your lawyer may find witnesses who already appeared, and they may agree to share their experiences. Their information may reveal the direction of the grand jury and help you learn what to expect. While the technique can displease the prosecutors, it can provide valuable information that prepares you ahead of time.
Criminal defense lawyers have the benefit of years of academic training and experience in the justice system, giving them the knowledge that others cannot know or understand. When you face the need to navigate unfamiliar territory, an investment in your future by hiring a lawyer may provide benefits for many years to come.
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