Crash Course in Federal Grand Jury Issues for Dallas Area Witnesses
One of the most powerful tools the federal government has when it comes to investigating possible Medicare fraud allegations in Dallas, or elsewhere, is the federal grand jury system. Federal grand juries sit in each federal district within the United States. There are four districts in Texas. Most of us are familiar with “petit juries,” the kind that sits in open court, hear evidence, and render a verdict after being charged by a judge.
Grand Juries Sit in Secret
Like petit juries, grand juries are drawn from the public, but unlike the “little” juries, grand juries sit secretly, consisting of 23 jurors. Grand jurors generally serve one or two days each month, usually for a term of 18 months. Unlike petit juries, grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence; they decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person to be charged committed it. Importantly, grand juries have subpoena power. They can compel the presence of witnesses. If you are called as a witness before a grand jury, there are a number of things that you should keep in mind, including the following:
Witnesses Must Appear Without Counsel
While your attorney can be just outside the federal grand jury room, he or she cannot be with you during the questioning. You can take whatever time you need to confer with counsel, as long as you do so outside the jury room and as long as you do not disrupt the federal grand jury system.
You Have No Obligation to Allow Pre-Grand Jury Interviews by Prosecutors
While they will sometimes infer to the contrary, you are not obligated to speak to the prosecutor before the federal grand jury process actually begins. Generally speaking, you should never speak with the prosecutor outside the grand jury room. Pre-grand jury statements are not recorded. It is your word against two or more prosecutors. It’s best to keep your mouth shut.
Secrecy is the Rule, but Not Necessarily for the Witness
The grand jurors, the court reporters, and the prosecutors are all sworn to strict secrecy with it comes to any matter coming before the jury. The witness has no such obligation. As a witness, you may discuss the questions and answers with anyone your attorney, certainly, but also the press or any other potential witness. Some federal prosecutors leave witnesses with the impression that secrecy applies to the witness; it does not.
Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Can Be Quite Broad
Grand jury subpoenas can be (a) for your testimony; (b) for documents or (objects;) or (c) for both. The subpoena itself should say what sort of testimony or document production is required. Note that one can be subpoenaed individually or as a custodian of records for a corporation or other business entity. Individuals have the 5th Amendment Privilege Against Self-Incrimination. Corporations (and their representatives) do not. If you are subpoenaed as a custodian, it is vital that you limit your testimony only to matters that relate to the business entity.
Discuss Your Testimony Before Hand With an Attorney
It is vital that you discuss your potential testimony beforehand with your attorney. If you have been subpoenaed in your individual capacity, you may be able to avoid answering substantive questions by invoking the 5th Amendment, even if you are not a target of the investigation. The right to invoke the Privilege against Self-Incrimination is much broader than most witnesses realize. Bear in mind that you need experienced counsel to protect your rights.
Aggressive Counsel is Important to Protect Your Rights
With so much at stake, an aggressive defense is a must if you have received a federal grand jury subpoena. The Criminal Defense Firm has successfully represented clients in all sorts of federal fraud proceedings, including Medicare and Hospice Fraud. Among the firm’s attorneys are former federal prosecutors who understand the system and what it takes to develop a successful defense strategy. Located in Dallas, Texas, The Criminal Defense Firm is a team of lawyers and courtroom warriors. The firm has the resources to provide the best defense possible. If you choose to work with us, we will use our decades of experience to help protect your vital interests. To start building your defense today, call 866-603-4540 or contact us online now.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.