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Be Prepared for Your Testimony Before a Federal Grand Jury

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

If you have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury, you may feel a high level of anxiety. You cannot be certain whether you are being called to testify as a witness or as a suspect for possible indictment. In addition, it can be exceptionally stressful because the grand jury decides if someone should be charged with a crime. As long as the grand jury doesn’t violate certain testimonial and constitutional privileges of witnesses, it has broad power to ask for evidence and see and hear almost anything it wants.  

Five Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Testimony

Understanding your legal rights can help you better prepare for your grand jury testimony. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Take your attorney with you. While your attorney cannot be present while you testify, he can stand outside the room. You have the right to consult with him as many times as you need—even after each question is asked—before you testify.
  • Do not agree to pre-grand jury interviews. You may be contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office before your testimony in front of the grand jury. You are not required to be interviewed by a U.S. attorney, and it is never a good idea to do so. You could make a harmful admission or be accused of lying to a federal agent, which is a federal crime.
  • Keep your testimony secret. The government is not allowed to disclose any matter that occurs before the grand jury. This means it cannot be revealed that you are appearing or have been subpoenaed to appear. You have a right to insist that your testimony be kept secret. Some prosecutors don’t abide by this and tip off reporters about a person’s testimony or upcoming appearance.
  • Don’t testify if your answers are self-incriminating. You may be able to avoid answering certain questions by invoking your Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. You may need to invoke your right if an answer would or tend to incriminate you. If your attorney is outside the room, you can confer with him, and he can advise you when to invoke this right.
  • Review prior testimony. You may be required to reappear before a grand jury. If that happens, you want to review your prior testimony, so you don’t unintentionally give inconsistent testimony when you reappear.

If you have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for your testimony. Start an online chat to schedule a free consultation.


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