How Is A Federal Grand Jury Determined?
By Dan Noll on September 5th, 2014 in
A grand jury in the federal court normally will consist of 23 people. At a minimum they have to have 16 and a majority of those individual have to vote for a True Bill. That is really how a person is charged in a federal court system.
Often times we will represent people be it in Springfield or Champaign-Urbana or Peoria, we will represent them if they are witnesses in front of the grand jury. Being a witness in front of the grand jury can be a very stressful situation for people.
Sometimes individuals are brought in front of the grand jury in order to produce documents. Other people come in and have to provide testimony. Sometimes a grand jury is used to basically freeze people, potential witnesses, potential defendants.
We have seen defendants brought in to the grand jury, at least invited in, given a grand jury subpoena. In those cases usually, unless our client is given some type of fifth amendment protection, that is a right not to testify against themselves or immunity, which is quite often given to federal grand jury witnesses, we will not have the person testify.
Grand jury proceedings are presented for purposes of returning a True Bill. That’s the term that the federal authorities use. True Bill meaning they voted, a majority of the people think there’s a probable cause to proceed forward, that the crime was committed and that the individual stated in the indictment committed that crime.
Those various propositions are presented by the US Attorneys Office. They will call the witnesses. They will present the documents. They will often times have the case agent assisting them, that might be an FBI agent, a DEA agent, (ATF) Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm agent, individuals of that nature to assist them in presenting the cases.
Often times the cases are extremely complex. We’ve had cases in Springfield at the federal court in Springfield where the grand jury actually meets for two or three years before they return an indictment. Maybe a very complex white-collar fraud case or a tax evasion case. Those are the types of cases that require the grand jury to really do an analysis.
They’ll have CPAs testify before the grand jury. They will have a variety of different witnesses testify before the grand jury. All the while those individuals, when they do testify, are being transcribed. Their testimony actually is being transcribed. The grand jury is a very, very important process and it’s a matter of death.
We do a lot of representation in the grand jury or seeking to quash, that is to block grand jury subpoenas. When you hear the grand jury or you’re being subpoenaed for the grand jury, you ought to call our office and find out what your rights and obligations are.