In either state or federal court, testifying before a grand jury is a serious business, and you must not take it lightly.
Talking with a qualified Nebraska criminal defense lawyer who can advise you about your rights and options can help you stay out of trouble.
Contact Nebraska criminal defense attorney Tom Petersen today if you received a grand jury subpoena.
Tom and his team will explain your rights as a witness before the grand jury. He will also discuss your options, including whether you have a right not to testify.
Without his help, you could incriminate yourself in a crime or find yourself in contempt of court.
What Is a Grand Jury Subpoena?
A grand jury subpoena is a legal document compelling your attendance before the grand jury. A subpoena can command you to testify.
Grand jury subpoenas can also demand that you bring certain records or tangible evidence. You have to appear at the grand jury at the time and place directed on the subpoena.
Not showing up could leave you in contempt of a court order, meaning you could face arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. And you could face criminal charges if you lie before the grand jury.
What Is the Difference Between a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury?
Grand juries in Nebraska and at the federal level are investigative bodies. They listen to the evidence and vote on indictments.
The grand jury decides if the prosecution presented enough evidence to charge the suspect with a crime.
On the other hand, trial juries listen to the evidence presented by the prosecution and defense and vote on guilt or innocence in criminal cases.
Public safety and the integrity of grand jury proceedings require secrecy. Therefore, grand jury presentations are not open to the public until the grand jury votes.
Only at that time can the public review evidence and read transcripts of the testimony before the grand jury. Conversely, criminal trials are open to the public.
In Nebraska state court, a grand jury has 19 jurors who listen to evidence from witnesses called by a prosecutor.
Grand jurors have the opportunity to ask witnesses questions because they are investigators. A district court judge appoints a special prosecutor to conduct the grand jury inquiry.
Otherwise, the county attorney conducts the grand jury proceedings. After the presentation, the prosecutor will ask the grand jury to vote on the evidence.
What to Know About a Grand Jury Subpoena
Nebraska law allows the prosecutor to include certain rights in your grand jury subpoena.
According to Nebraska Revised Statutes § 29-1409, the notice of your rights on your subpoena should look like this:
(a) You have the right to retain an attorney to represent you and to advise you in regard to your grand jury appearance.
(b) Anything you say to the grand jury may be used against you in a court of law.
(c) You have the right to refuse to answer questions if you feel the answers would tend to incriminate you or implicate you in any illegal activity.
(d) If you cannot afford or obtain an attorney, you may consult with the public defender’s office, or request the court to appoint an attorney to represent you.”
While you can still face a perjury charge if you lie when testifying before a grand jury—you cannot face any other charges if your subpoena does not include these rights.
However, the prosecutor can use all testimony that incriminates you if your subpoena contains this information.
Grand Jury Subpoena Tips
In many instances, receiving a grand jury subpoena means the prosecution wants you to testify as a witness concerning a specific event.
For example, you might have witnessed an armed robbery of a bank the prosecutor is investigating. The prosecutor will ask you questions about what you saw and heard.
In that sense, you are a fact witness, and you have to testify truthfully.
Your testimony might help identify the robber and bring that person to justice. Sometimes appearing before a grand jury as a fact witness is dangerous.
However, testifying is not without its potential pitfalls. Let’s look at an example. Suppose the bank robbery suspect called your phone number right before and right after the robbery.
The prosecutor may call you in to testify about what the robber said to you. That’s one way many people get into trouble when called before a grand jury.
You may not anticipate a certain line of questioning, and when it happens, it can throw you. Answering such questions “off the cuff” and on the record can get you into trouble.
Prosecutors do not go into a grand jury presentation blindly. They understand the evidence and where it might come from. They will try to lock you into your story, so you cannot change it later on at trial.
No matter why the prosecutor sends you a subpoena, contacting a Nebraska criminal defense attorney is the best way to protect your best interests.
If you have questions or concerns, you should not contact the prosecutor’s office first. Let your lawyer do that.
Furthermore, your attorney can prepare you by going over potential questions before your appearance.
They can advise you about the possible need to “plead the Fifth” and not answer certain questions. And it’s helpful to know that your lawyer can accompany you to the grand jury room—but might not be allowed to go in.
If that happens, the prosecutor must give you time to talk with your attorney.
Remember: your lawyer’s responsibility is to protect you from legally hurting or incriminating yourself.
Call Our Office Today if You Received a Grand Jury Subpoena
Nebraska criminal defense attorney Tom Petersen and his staff with Petersen Criminal Law can answer all your questions and advise of your rights.
Contact us online or call us today at 402-509-8070 to learn more about how we can help.
Tom has decades of experience representing over 6,000 clients, and he can help protect your rights when you are called to testify before a grand jury.