Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas – Part 1: What you can learn from the subpoena itself

Being served with a Grand Jury subpoena by federal agents, a government attorney, or both can be a frightening experience. While the initial inclination may be to simply explain to the government agent everything that you know about the investigation, it is important to keep in mind that any statements you make could be used against you (and/or your company) down the road. While the information may very well be transmitted to the government at a later date, an experienced white-collar criminal defense attorney can guide you through this process and help protect you and your rights until the matter is resolved.

The first thing after speaking with you, the attorney will want to review the federal grand jury subpoena itself and that is the focus of this blog post. The subpoena, which is defined as “a writ commanding a person designated in it to appear in court under a penalty for failure”[i], must be complied with or there can be consequences. It will tell you if you are being subpoenaed for in-person testimony, to produce documents, or both. Being subpoenaed for in-person testimony requires you to appear before a Grand Jury on a certain date to answer questions under oath that will be asked by a government attorney, who is referred to as the prosecutor. The Grand Jury is a secret process so while your attorney cannot be present during your testimony, they can wait outside and be available to you if you have questions during the process. More information on the Grand Jury process will be available in a later post in this Federal Grand Jury Subpoena series. If the subpoena is a request for documents (or both testimony and documents), it will also provide a description of the documents to be produced. This request for documents could be served to you individually or as a Custodian of Records for a company. Once you are served, you will need to preserve any and all documents related to the requests to review with your attorney.

The grand jury subpoena can also provide some initial information that will be helpful to both you and your attorney, especially if you are not aware of the pending investigation. It can tell you the jurisdiction or Court where the Grand Jury is being convened and the Assistant United States Attorney, or lead prosecutor handling the investigation. The prosecutor handling the case may also clue your attorney in to the type of investigation at issue, for example, if it is healthcare fraud, anti-trust, tax fraud, etc. If the subpoena includes a request for documents, the documents requested, and any time limitations on the document requests will also assist your attorney in gathering more information on the investigation and the various federal statutes at issue.

At this stage the attorney will then start assessing your involvement in the investigation and then work with you to develop a plan to respond to the grand jury subpoena until the matter is resolved. Part 2 of the Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas series will cover Assessing a Client’s Involvement in a Grand Jury Investigation and should be available in a couple of weeks.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you or your company need legal representation regarding a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena, please contact us for a consultation. Our attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in white-collar matters, including responding to grand jury subpoenas.

[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subpoena