Tampa Grand Jury Lawyer
In the federal criminal legal system, the grand jury process is used in all felony cases. The U.S. Attorney brings evidence to the grand jury about a possible crime, and the grand jury decides whether the evidence is sufficient to issue an indictment. In other words, no federal felony case moves forward unless it has gone through the grand jury first.
As part of the case the U.S. Attorney presents to the grand jury, the government will bring in witnesses to testify to the grand jury. Witnesses could be people who observed a crime in progress or have knowledge about a crime or the persons alleged to be involved. A witness could even be someone the government wants to prosecute.
What do you do if the government calls you into a grand jury? Do you have to go and testify? Can the government use your testimony against you in court? These are complex questions that not every lawyer knows the answer to. If you are being asked to appear before a grand jury after receiving a target letter or subpoena, you need to get advice from an experienced Tampa federal grand jury lawyer who understands federal criminal law and the ins and outs of the federal grand jury process. In Tampa, Scriven Law, P.A., is the law firm to call on for knowledgeable, practical advice and effective representation in federal criminal law matters.
What Is the Grand Jury Like?
Like a jury in a civil or criminal trial, jurors are selected from the pool of registered voters; they are your peers in the community. However, instead of sitting through a single trial that might last a day or week or two, grand juries often sit for months and hear evidence concerning numerous different cases where the prosecutor is seeking an indictment. Grand juries are also larger than trial juries and consist of 16 to 23 members, instead of just six or 12 members.
The grand jury meets in a conference room in a federal building, such as the United States Courthouse on Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa. You may be asked to testify, which involves answering questions asked by a lawyer from the U.S. Attorneys Office. You may also be asked to bring documents with you, such as company financial records. The only persons allowed in the grand jury room are attorneys for the government, the witness being questioned, interpreters if needed, a court reporter, and the members of the jury. Your attorney will not be in the room and will not be allowed to question you or other witnesses or object to your questioning.
It can be hard to know when called to the grand jury if you are being called as a witness, a person with knowledge (such as an accountant who works in a corporation accused of fraud), or a suspect. If you are a suspect, this fact might be made clear or implied in the target letter you receive, which requests your appearance before the grand jury. You might also receive a subpoena, which is a court order requiring you to appear and possibly to bring certain documents with you.
Can I Refuse to Answer Questions in the Grand Jury?
If you’ve watched a police procedural television show or courtroom drama in the past 50 years, you probably know you have “the right to remain silent.” This right comes from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This right is commonly known as the privilege against self-incrimination.
The Fifth Amendment can be invoked by a defendant who refuses to answer questions in a police interrogation or declines to testify in a trial. However, the extent to which the Fifth Amendment applies or doesn’t apply to grand jury appearances is a complex matter. Once in the grand jury room, your ability to refuse to answer questions may be limited. Unlike a trial or deposition, you don’t have your lawyer sitting next to you who can advise you whether to answer a question or not or object to an improper question.
Inside the grand jury room, you may find yourself at the mercy of the U.S. Attorney. You should, however, be given a reasonable opportunity to step outside and confer with counsel before answering a question. Your defense lawyer can wait outside the jury room and advise you as best he is able. While he can’t be in the room with you, it is still vital to review your case with an attorney and have him present at any grand jury proceeding.
Your attorney can also help you prepare for a grand jury appearance by investigating the background and determining the likely reasons you are being called to appear and the questions you are likely to face. Your lawyer might be able to discern whether you are a target of the investigation or not, which can be extremely helpful as you prepare your testimony. Additionally, your lawyer might be able to negotiate a grant of immunity in exchange for your testimony, so that any statements you make cannot be used against you in any prosecutions that derive from the grand jury appearance. If you have been subpoenaed or asked to appear before a grand jury in the Tampa Division of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, you are strongly urged to call the law office of federal criminal defense attorney Bryant Scriven for advice.
Does Florida Use Grand Juries?
While the federal government uses a grand jury for all felony indictments, grand juries are used much more sparingly in Florida state-level offenses. Florida prosecutors generally only use grand juries to issue indictments in capital crimes, such as murder, or for high-profile statewide cases like those involving public corruption. Most Florida prosecutions proceed on the filing of a charging document by the county prosecutor known as an “information.” If called to a Florida grand jury, the matter is most certainly serious, and you should get advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
Call Scriven Law, P.A., for Help With Grand Jury Proceedings in Tampa
If you have received a target letter or subpoena requesting your presence before a federal grand jury in Tampa, call Scriven Law, P.A., at 813-226-8522 for practical, strategic advice and representation geared toward protecting your rights and achieving a positive outcome in your case.