A Federal Grand Jury can be used by a United States Attorney to return indictments on cases presented through agents of various Federal investigative agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, AT&F, Secret Service, and other agencies charged with the enforcement of Federal Criminal Statutes. They usually meet once a month, to hear evidence from the Federal agent in charge of the case. The cases are presented under the direction of an Assistant United States Attorney.
I presented hundreds of such cases in my 12 year stint with the United States Attorney’s office in Houston. In these cases, evidence is presented in the form of “hearsay” testimony from a testifying agent with knowledge of the particular case. Many times in large jurisdictions such as the Southern District of Texas, over a dozen cases will be presented during a day’s session. I have seen cases where over 35 indictments were returned at one session. These sessions are recorded by a court reporter; however, the accused is not entitled to a lawyer in the room during the presentation of evidence and certainly not during the Grand Jury’s deliberation. The accused may request to be heard by the Grand Jury,but defense attorneys must wait outside. A helpful link to find a good outline of how a Federal Grand Jury works can be found at the University of Dayton’s website entitled Federal Grand Juries.
A second purpose of a Federal Grand Jury is to serve as an investigative tool of the United States Department of Justice. Local United States Attorneys, as well as Justice Department prosecutors based in Washington, D.C., can utilize the Grand Jury process to conduct investigations of complex “white collar” crimes involving public corruption, Federal Mortgage Fraud (involving Federal agencies such as HUD or FHA or VA), as well as Mail Fraud, Money Laundering, Bank Fraud, and Conspiracy. A Federal Grand Jury has broad subpoena powers to compel the production of documents such as bank records, corporate records, ledgers, computer hard drives, and other materials in addition to live witnesses. The Government can extend the life of the Grand Jury if necessary to complete a lengthy investigation. Some of the cases in which I was involved lasted over two years. Sometimes prosecutors find it necessary to empanel a brand new Grand Jury and then present testimony in summary form from the last Grand Jury, in order to keep the investigation going forward after the term of the previous Grand Jury has expired.
Any individual who receives a subpoena from a Federal Grand Jury should contact an experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney immediately.