We all have heard of a grand jury, but how they work, the purpose they serve, and how they differ from a trial jury, is sometimes a muddled and confusing. The difference between being a witness versus a target requires is significant and requires different legal skills to best protect you. If you are a target, the Government is aiming their sites on you – you are the person they seek to charge with crimes. If you are a witness, the Government plans to compel you to testify against others before the Grand Jury. Naturally, this is precarious if the Government is fact-finding and they may later conclude you are a target too. You also have the right to assert the Fifth Amendment if you may be subject to criminal liability. It is imperative you talk to an attorney as soon as you are first questioned by any agents or if you receive a subpoena to attend and testify so you can best insulate yourself against liability. At the Shaw Law Group, we have experience in all of these situations at both County and State level Grand Jurys.
Grand juries are written into the U.S. Constitution under the 5th Amendment which serves to safeguard the accused of unwarranted charges by the government. The 5th Amendment declares, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury ….”
A grand jury is like a test jury, in that people from the community are selected to serve on the jury. However, a grand jury may serve much longer (18 months to two years) and meet only once a week, as opposed to daily. They may be considering multiple cases at the same time. The purpose of the grand jury is not to determine whether a person is guilty or innocent or whether they committed the crime in question, but whether there is ample evidence to bring forth charges for a crime. Even if the Grand Jury sitting on a matter does not vote to move forward with a criminal case, a prosecutor could still pursue charges through a preliminary hearing. Once a case is filed following a Grand Jury Presentment, it follows generally the same general process in Court as crimes filed without the use of a Grand Jury.
A grand jury has a wide range of power to issue subpoenas and call witnesses and physical evidence. It is done in secret. Witnesses have limited rights and can easily become targets.
In Pennsylvania, a grand jury can begin at the county level by a prosecutor who submitting an application to a presiding judge to summon a grand jury. It can also begin at a multi-county level (also known as state level) by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s request to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Our experienced attorneys have vast experience with Grand Jury proceedings both at the County and State level. Attorney William A. Shaw has litigated cases in the statewide Grand Jury for criminal and white-collar crime matters. Attorney Stacy Parks Miller convened and ran the first Centre County Grand Jury where she handled numerous cases including but not limited to the nationally known Tim Piazza hazing case at Penn State University. She also has represented clients in statewide drug enterprise cases and white-collar crime cases involving elected officials in the Statewide Grand Jury.
Types of crimes that may provoke a grand jury at the County level are any crimes where special tools of a Grand Jury are needed. Types of crimes that may be heard at the Statewide level include drug trafficking and political corruption crimes. At the Shaw Law Group, we have experience representing witnesses and people indicted under a grand jury in all of these scenarios. We can help defend your rights and guide you through the process while vigorously defending your rights.
A U.S. Federal Grand Jury and a state grand jury operate under different rules. Pennsylvania rules are different from Federal rules, even though Federal grand juries and courts operate inside Pennsylvania. Types of crimes that may be analyzed through a Federal Grand Jury include only crimes with Federal jurisdiction, including multi-state drug distribution organizations and Possession or Dealing in Child Pornography on the internet. If you are indicted under a Federal Grand Jury in Pennsylvania, the Shaw Group can defend you. Attorney William A. Shaw., Jr is licensed to represent you and practice law under the U.S. Federal Court system. Our attorney – Stacy Parks Miller – has previously been appointed to represent federal defendants in drug cases.
If you were indicted under a grand jury, you still have plenty of rights and options to explore in order to defend your rights and freedom. You may be able to assert your Fifth Amendment rights to avoid testifying depending on the facts. A presentment is not a conviction and you have the right and ability to fight back with the Shaw Law Group at your side.
It is imperative that you speak with one of our experienced Attorneys as soon as you know you are either a witness or a target to a Grand Jury matter —For a Free Consultation Call 814-762-0004.
The Shaw Law Group has successfully represented clients facing grand jury indictments can help you understand your rights and legal options. It is very easy to self-incriminate if you do not have an attorney present when speaking to a grand jury or prosecutors. Our lawyers provide a strong defense in all types of Grand Jury cases, whether you are a victim or a target.
Other than having to respect the testimonial and constitutional privileges of the people called to appear before it, a Grand Jury can pretty much do what it wants in questioning witnesses and compelling the production of documents. Grand jury subpoenas are almost never quashed on grounds that they call for irrelevant information or go beyond the grand jury’s authority but in some cases, the information they seek may be subject to protections.
The Shaw Law Group will arrange with the prosecutor to accept service of the grand jury subpoena on your behalf. This spares you the embarrassment of being personally served by FBI or state or local agents at your home or in the workplace.
What if the agents don’t know or care that you have an attorney, and decide to serve you personally anyway? You should politely accept service, tell the agents that you have an attorney, and decline to answer any and all substantive questions about the case. Refer all questions to your attorney.
What if you don’t yet have an attorney when you are personally served with the grand jury subpoena? Politely accept service and tell the agents that you will decline to answer any substantive questions until you have had the opportunity to obtain an attorney. You are under no obligation to do anything other than accept service of the subpoena. If you say anything at all about the case to the agent you could be making dangerous admissions that may be used against you at a later time.
Grand jury subpoenas are for: (a) testimony (ad testificandum); (b) documents or objects (duces tecum); or (c) both. The face of the subpoena will inform you which type of subpoena you received.
You are under no obligation to talk to government agents before the grand jury process begins. Some prosecutors trick unrepresented persons into interviewing with federal agents prior to the beginning of the grand jury session. The letter accompanying the witness’ subpoena may ask or direct the witness to appear an hour or two early at the grand jury room or the prosecutor’s office. These pre-grand jury interviews are dangerous and ill-advised and the government has no authority to compel them. You may make a harmful admission during one of these interviews. In addition, you may be accused of lying to a government agent during the interview. Lying to government agents during an interview, like lying to the grand jury, is a federal crime. At the grand jury session, however, there will be an official recording and/or transcript of the proceedings, so there will be no dispute about what you say. The pre-grand jury agent interview will not be recorded. Law Enforcment agents will take notes of what you say and it will be their word against yours in the event of a dispute.
As mentioned above, if you are subpoenaed for testimony in your individual capacity, you may be able to avoid answering substantive questions by invoking the Fifth Amendment’s Privilege against Self-Incrimination. This is true even if you are not a target of the investigation. Keep in mind that even if a prosecutor designates you a witness or subject, rather than a target, this designation provides you with no rights or protection and can be changed at any time. The right to invoke the Privilege against Self-Incrimination is much broader than most witnesses and attorneys realize. If a truthful answer to a grand jury question would even tend to incriminate you, you can invoke the privilege and refuse to answer.
How can an answer tend to incriminate you? If it furnishes a link in the chain that might lead to your conviction.
Can a person who is totally innocent of wrongdoing invoke the privilege? Absolutely! The Supreme Court has ruled that the privilege protects the innocent as well as the guilty. Why would an innocent person want to invoke the privilege? To keep from being ensnared by a mistaken, incompetent, or unscrupulous prosecutor.
We will serve as your shield against the long arm of the criminal justice system. We will ensure that your rights are protected, evidence is tested and you do not incriminate yourself in any way.
We are advocates for our clients at every stage of a criminal defense matter, including grand jury proceedings, preliminary hearings, detention hearings, suppression of evidence hearings, plea negotiations, jury trials, bench trials and appeals.
We are known for our straightforward, aggressive approach to defending clients against serious crime charges and for our ability to effectively challenge the prosecution at every stage of a case. We draw on our expert resources and our legal knowledge to investigate and build the strongest strategic case that we can on your behalf. Our team of experienced attorneys knows the best defenses for each unique case, and we know how to challenge each part of the Commonwealth’s case at the preliminary hearing; through pre-trial motions, and at trial with a judge or a jury. We also have extensive experience in skillfully negotiating for better outcomes for our clients, and we have obtained the best results even in cases in which the Commonwealth has a great deal of evidence. Most importantly, our defense attorneys have a proven track record. If you or a loved one are under investigation or facing a grand jury, you need the best defense attorneys in your corner. Call us for a free strategy session to get immediate advice.
We offer free initial consultations to answer your questions and help you understand your legal rights and options. We know that clients need strong representation even if they cannot afford it, so we will work with you to create an affordable payment plan.
Contact us online or call 814-762-0004 to schedule your appointment.