Juries in the United States decide innocence or guilt in criminal cases. However, a grand jury is a panel of individuals who decide whether the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove probable cause for an indictment. They do not decide whether the person is guilty or innocent. The grand jury only decides whether the evidence justifies criminal charges. If you are under suspicion of committing a white collar crime, you need a Washington white collar crime attorney immediately to protect your legal rights.
The Role the Grand Jury Plays in a White Collar Criminal Case
In the United States, there are federal grand juries and state grand juries. According to Washington’s Criminal Investigatory Act of 1971, grand juries in Washington consist of 12 people. Federal grand juries may consist of 16 to 23 people.
Grand juries do not meet in public. The only individuals permitted at a grand jury hearing are:
- Witness under examination
- The attorney for the witness
- The public attorneys
- A court report
- An interpreter, if needed
- A public servant guarding the witness
- Corporation counsel or city attorney
The attorney for the witness cannot participate in the proceedings. The attorney may only advise their client concerning their right to answer or not answer a question. The client can come out of the grand jury room to consult with their attorney at any time, even while testifying. No other person is permitted in the room when the grand jury deliberates and votes.
In a white collar case, the grand jurors examine and investigate the evidence provided to them by the state. Grand juries have broad powers to hear and see almost any evidence they deem relevant to a case.
After completing their investigation, the grand jury decides whether to issue an indictment against the suspect. At least three-fourths of the jurors on a Washington grand jury must be convinced there is probable cause to believe the suspect is guilty of the white collar crime to issue an indictment. The grand jury may also prepare a grand jury report that contains their conclusions, suggestions, and recommendations.
A prosecutor can still pursue white collar criminal charges even if the grand jury fails to issue an indictment, if they are able to prove their case to a judge during a preliminary hearing. However, in the Western District of Washington, the vast majority of cases are pursued by indictment rather than by proof at a preliminary hearing. In either case, you need legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your rights.
How Do You Prepare for a Grand Jury Investigation in a Washington White Collar Case?
If you are under investigation for a white collar crime, you are not obligated to speak with law enforcement agents or government agents. You have the right to remain silent during all interrogations. You also have the right to legal counsel. Do not agree to interviews with law enforcement or to testifying before a grand jury without legal counsel. You have the right to know if you are just a witness or are a target of the investigation and you should get clarification on this before making any statements to anyone about the case.
The actions and statements you make before and during a grand jury investigation could hurt your defense if you are charged with a white collar crime. Therefore, it is vital that you speak with a Washington criminal defense attorney as soon as you believe you could be under investigation or suspicion of committing a crime. The best defense is to be proactive, regardless of whether you are charged with embezzlement, fraud, forgery, public corruption, or any other white collar crime.
Witnesses before the grand jury should also seek advice from a criminal defense lawyer. The prosecutor often subpoenas witnesses that could have some exposure for self-incrimination. Prosecutors also often subpoena documents from witnesses or third parties (like banks or cell phone providers) in order to build their case. Grand jury witnesses need to understand their legal rights and how to protect themselves during a grand jury investigation. An attorney can help you move to quash a subpoena for documents that you do not possess or do not wish to produce.
Schedule a Consultation with a Washington Criminal Defense Attorney
The best way to prepare for a grand jury investigation is with the help of an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney. Contact Jennifer today to schedule a consultation to discuss your criminal charges or a pending criminal investigation.
DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.