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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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How to Handle a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena: Dos and Don’ts

By Spodek Law Group | October 18, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 19, 2023)

Last Updated on: 19th October 2023, 02:02 pm


How to Handle a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena: Dos and Don’ts

Getting a federal grand jury subpoena can be intimidating. But don’t panic! Here’s a plain English guide to help you through the process, with tips on what to do (and what not to do) if you find yourself on the receiving end of one of these legal documents.

What is a Federal Grand Jury?

First things first – what exactly is a federal grand jury? A federal grand jury is a group of citizens who decide whether there’s enough evidence for someone to be indicted (formally charged with a crime). Grand juries are involved in complex or serious federal criminal investigations. They meet in secret to hear evidence presented by federal prosecutors.

After hearing the evidence, the grand jury decides if there’s probable cause to charge someone with a federal crime. If they think there is, they’ll vote to return an indictment.

What is a Grand Jury Subpoena?

A federal grand jury subpoena commands you to provide information to the grand jury. This could include testimony, documents, records, or physical evidence.

Some key things to know:

  • You are legally required to comply. These aren’t optional requests – subpoenas carry the force of law.
  • The subpoena will tell you what information you need to provide, and when and where to provide it.
  • If you fail to comply, you could face civil or criminal contempt charges.

What Should You Do if You Get a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena?

Don’t panic, but also don’t ignore it! Here are some dos and don’ts:

DO: Read it carefully

Make sure you understand exactly what information you’re being asked to provide, and any deadlines. If anything is unclear, consult a lawyer.

DO: Contact a lawyer

Speaking of lawyers – you should absolutely contact one as soon as possible after being served. An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can advise you on how to respond.

DO: Assert your Fifth Amendment rights

If there’s any chance your testimony could be self-incriminating, tell your lawyer you intend to assert your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Your lawyer can file a motion to quash the subpoena.

DO: Comply within the time limit

If you don’t have valid grounds for quashing the subpoena, you must comply – but be careful not to provide more information than necessary. Work closely with your lawyer so you don’t accidentally incriminate yourself.

DON’T: Try to avoid service

Never, ever ignore a federal grand jury subpoena. Avoiding service won’t make it go away – it will just make things worse. The court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

DON’T: Lie or obstruct justice

Lying to federal agents or the grand jury, hiding or destroying documents, or obstructing justice in any way can lead to additional criminal charges. Be truthful in your testimony.

DON’T: Talk to anyone without your lawyer present

Do not discuss your testimony or anything related to the investigation with anyone except your lawyer. Federal agents may try to question you – insist on having your lawyer present.

What Happens if You Don’t Comply?

If you ignore, avoid, or refuse to fully comply with a federal grand jury subpoena, the court can hold you in contempt. This can lead to:

  • Fines or imprisonment for civil contempt, intended to coerce you into complying
  • Prosecution for criminal contempt, which can result in more fines or jail time

In other words, don’t mess around when it comes to federal grand jury subpoenas. Work with your lawyer to determine the best course of action.

Being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury is scary. Your freedom and reputation are on the line. The right legal strategy is critical.

While the government has sweeping powers to compel information in criminal investigations, you also have important constitutional and legal protections. Lean on your experienced attorney to ensure your rights are protected while you comply with the law.

With the proper preparation and guidance, you can get through this difficult process. The above tips will help you avoid common missteps and safely navigate the complex legal territory around federal grand jury subpoenas.


Grand Jury Subpoenas – Justice Manual

How Federal Grand Juries Work

Responding to a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena


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