REPRESENTATION DURING A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
The government often investigates individuals for criminal activity well before charges are filed or an arrest is made. At this stage of a legal case, representation by an experienced and aggressive attorney is crucial to avoid being overcharged and potentially missing out on the best possible negotiating position.
Usually a client becomes aware they are being investigated when they are either approached by law enforcement, receive a letter from a prosecutor, or are subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. For their own protection, we strongly advise our clients not to engage in discussions or interviews with the government outside of our presence, under any circumstances. If that has already occurred, contact us as soon as possible.
Securing representation during an investigation can lead to a very favorable outcome. In many cases, negotiations at this stage of a criminal case result in full or partial immunity, or minimal charges, for our clients. We guide our clients through grand jury proceedings when necessary and make sure you understand all of your rights under the law. If charges are filed against you, we gain a distinct advantage in the case if we are involved from the beginning.
GRAND JURY REPRESENTATION
The government issues subpoenas for grand jury testimony for a variety of reasons. An individual receiving a grand jury subpoena could have information that may be helpful to the government in an investigation. This is called being a "material witness." (An individual receiving a notice of jury duty for the grand jury does not need representation, and should contact the court clerk's office about their jury service.)
A federal grand jury is composed of 23 individuals from the community, who attend jury duty for several days. During any grand jury meetings, at least 16 jurors (a quorum) must be present. The government calls witnesses to testify about matters within their scope of personal knowledge. After presenting their case, which can take many days, the Assistant United States Attorney will ask the jurors to return an Indictment (a formal charge). In order for an Indictment to be returned by the grand jury, at least 12 jurors must agree that there is probable cause for an Indictment. Once the Indictment is filed with the court, an arrest warrant is issued for the defendant. At trial, however, the government must prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – a higher standard than probable cause. Thus, indicted individuals are innocent until and unless a court finds them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A Virginia grand jury operates much like a federal grand jury, however, there are between five and seven jurors at the meetings. Four of the jurors must agree there is probable cause to return a “true bill” indictment.
It is important for any grand jury material witness to clearly know his or her rights, and have an attorney available to consult with, before appearing to give testimony. We will coordinate these matters with federal and state prosecutors. Before allowing our clients to testify we meet with the prosecutors and if possible, question the detectives or agents involved in the case, in order to fully understand the scope of the legal issues. If necessary, we perform our own investigations.
In some instances, it may be proper for a witness to invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination while on the stand. This may lead to offers of immunity from the government in exchange for their testimony. However, an experienced attorney should review any immunity offers to ensure the agreement provides adequate protection to the witness, at the time and in the future. Failure to do so could have disastrous effects on the witness's liberty at some point. In some cases, a federal judge may end up ordering testimony or finding a witness in contempt. We offer a calming presence, and guide clients with expertise through the grand jury process in order to ensure they are fully protected and all their questions are answered.