Someone asked me today what he should do about a letter he received "inviting" him to appear at a federal grand jury. To appear or not appear, that is the question. Not really! When a federal prosecutor has you in his or her sights, you may get a "target" letter, letting you know that your liberty is in the balance. You are a suspect. You are the "target" of a federal investigation. They want to question you under oath and without a lawyer. And whatever you say "can and will be used against you in a court of law." Translation: you are in a world of hurt. Under the US Constitution, a federal felony charge arises when a secret grand jury returns a "true bill" requiring you to appear and defend against federal criminal charges. So if invited, should you go to the party? No – unless your criminal defense attorney has a really great reason for you to play along. That happens occasionally. It did for me once this past year, when I went along and watched a really great "suspect" tell his story to the satisfaction of the grand jury. Mind you I was not in the room. No defense attorneys are allowed and the witness is literally on his or her own. But once in a while – a really great while – there is a suspect who has the inherent ability and preparation that allows the story to be told and not end in indictment. Such was the case with my client – who just happened to not be guilty of any crime.
Invited to appear? Get an experienced lawyer fast. Nothing good comes from federal grand juries in the usual circumstances. So do not assume that you can talk your way out of trouble. It’s like they say – you have the right to remain silent, but can you keep your mouth shut? A buddy of mine tells clients that an invitation from the feds to appear at the grand jury is the "rainy day" you’ve been saving for. Put away a little money for a rainy day? Get it out. If the feds are inviting you to their party – it’s pouring. Time to invest in a good criminal defense lawyer.