The Texas Constitution guarantees that no one should face prosecution for a felony unless they are indicted by a grand jury. Although it might sound like juries exist to protect innocent citizens from prosecutorial abuse, the reality is far different. Grand juries are powerful bodies with broad authority to investigate crimes.
If you suspect that grand jurors are investigating you for committing a crime, reach out to Tad Nelson & Associates today. Our firm has provided criminal defense within the grand jury room to hundreds of people in Galveston and surrounding areas. When the prosecution convenes a grand jury, criminal charges are probably right around the corner. Let our firm advise you of your rights, including the privilege against self-incrimination. We can also prepare you if you are subpoenaed to testify or provide documents. Contact us today to speak with a grand jury trial lawyer.
What Role Does a Grand Jury Play?
Most people are familiar with juries. They sit to the side of a courtroom and listen to evidence presented at trial, then retire to deliberate. They typically vote to either convict or acquit a defendant.
But the law calls those juries “petit juries.” A grand jury is very different. Galveston grand juries are made up of individuals who meet to oversee the investigation into potential criminal activity. The grand jury meets in secret, and you might not know one is even meeting.
The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury in the form of documents, physical evidence, and witness testimony. If the grand jury believes probable cause exists that a person committed a crime, they can issue an indictment.
To be clear, an indictment does not mean a person is guilty. Instead, the grand jury believes there is enough evidence of guilt to warrant criminal charges.
Grand juries are used in both Texas courts and in the federal court system. The procedures in state and federal court are different, so you need an attorney with the relevant experience in both.
Grand Juries Are One-Sided
A hundred years ago, people believed that grand juries shielded the public from prosecutorial overreach. If the grand jury didn’t believe probable cause existed, they would not return a bill of indictment. The prosecutor would have to find more evidence and present it again if they wanted to file charges.
Today, however, most lawyers will tell you that grand juries almost always issue indictments. There’s a simple reason: grand juries are a one-sided affair. Unlike at trial, the person suspected of a crime cannot present their version of events. According to Article 20A.104 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a suspect’s attorney can’t even address the grand jury unless the prosecution agrees. For this reason, a former judge in New York once said that grand juries were so slanted that the prosecution could “indict a ham sandwich.”
Grand juries hear only one side of the story: the prosecution’s side. And prosecutors like it this way. They can almost always get an indictment if they want one.
What Role Do Lawyers Play in the Grand Jury Process?
Because grand juries are so one-sided, you might wonder why you need a lawyer. After all, your attorney cannot present any evidence or cross-examine witnesses. Should you just wait until you are indicted to reach out for legal help?
We think waiting is a mistake. It is still critical to reach out to a Galveston criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We can do the following:
- Review what evidence you know exists of your involvement in a potential crime.
- Meet with alibi witnesses who can place you somewhere other than the crime scene.
- Reach out to the prosecution to discuss the case to get a feel of where the grand jury stands.
- Highlight weaknesses in the state’s version of events.
If you are suspected of participating in a crime with a group, we might even request immunity in exchange for testimony against the other suspects. Essentially, the prosecutor will agree to not charge you if you come in and testify to the grand jury about the other defendants.
We can also help prepare you for your grand jury testimony. Again, the prosecution calls the shots in front of the grand jury, but we can help you understand what to expect.
Grand Jury Subpoenas
As part of their investigatory powers, grand juries can also issue subpoenas to obtain documents that are helpful in the investigation. For example, the grand jury might seek bank records or request physical evidence to inspect. Anyone could potentially receive a subpoena, including the target of the investigation or a third party like a bank or cell phone company.
Please contact our criminal defense lawyer at Tad Nelson & Associates if you receive either a state or federal grand jury subpoena. Many of these subpoenas request too much information and are onerous to comply with. We can work to get the subpoena narrowed, if necessary, or even get you out of having to comply at all.
Some common grounds to challenge a subpoena include:
- Information requested is not relevant to the government’s investigation.
- Our client does not have custody or control of the requested information.
- Subpoena is too vague to comply with.
- Request is too broad and will be burdensome to comply with
Further, the evidence requested might be privileged. For example, the attorney-client or doctor-patient privilege might protect it from disclosure. You should share these concerns with your lawyer because laws shield this information from disclosure, even to a grand jury.
We can raise these objections to the prosecution in a meeting. For example, an overly broad request could take months of work to comply with, which might be a problem if the prosecution is hoping to use the evidence soon. In other cases, the prosecution won’t voluntarily narrow their subpoena, in which case we need to file a motion to quash with the court.
If you must comply with the subpoena, you typically need to appear on the assigned date with the documents requested. You may or may not have to answer questions.
Our firm seeks all avenues to protect your privacy and lower the costs of complying with a subpoena. Anyone receiving a subpoena should meet with Tad Nelson first. We will want to review any privileged information or evidence. Once you turn information over, it’s hard to claw back. You will also waive any privilege if you turn over protected documents, so you must proceed carefully.
Federal grand juries also use the subpoena power as part of their investigations. Often, this is the first clue that you are on the FBI’s radar as a suspect. Anything you tell prosecutors from that point forward could come back to be used against you in a criminal trial. You should consult with an attorney immediately to determine what steps to take.
The Fifth Amendment & Grand Juries
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from testifying against themselves, that is, from being forced to reveal self-incriminating evidence. This privilege against self-incrimination exists during the grand jury stage as well.
Our lawyers can discuss how to respond to a subpoena to testify or produce documents. If you are asked questions as a witness, you should work closely with your lawyer to anticipate what questions will be asked. You should also prepare answers that do not reveal too much. You only need to answer the question asked, not volunteer information.
If you believe you are the target of an investigation, we will advise you to invoke the Fifth Amendment. We can also make sure that you do not turn over evidence that you don’t need to. Any inadvertent disclosure can make defending yourself later at trial much more difficult.
Preventing Criminal Indictments
Avoiding an indictment is our top priority. If successful, you can derail a prosecution before it ever gets off the ground. Some prosecutors will rethink their evidence and pursue other leads.
Even if you are indicted, hiring a lawyer allows them to aggressively begin defending you once the grand jury hands down its indictment. If you wait until you are before the judge, evidence can disappear, and it’s harder to begin building a defense.
Why You Should Choose Tad Nelson
Tad Nelson has the experience in both state and federal courts that allow him to provide the highest level of service to clients. Finding out you are the subject of a grand jury investigation is terrifying. Suddenly, the possibility of being dragged into court becomes very real. You owe it to yourself to hire a lawyer as soon as possible
Tad Nelson has handled all types of felonies. His broad experience ranges from sex crimes to white collar crimes and violent felonies. He understands what elements the state must prove to secure a conviction, and he can get to work right away finding helpful evidence to use in your defense.
Tad Nelson knows how prosecutors think for one simple reason—he has worked as a prosecutor himself. He can size up a case and identify when a prosecutor is bluffing that their evidence is stronger than it really is. You benefit from having a lawyer who can stand in the prosecutor’s shoes and see the evidence from their perspective.
Grand Jury Proceeding FAQs
Will I be told if I am the subject of a grand jury investigation?
No. The first sign is if you receive a subpoena. Of course, many people receive subpoenas and that does not mean they are the focus of the investigation. You might be called in because you have possibly helpful evidence. But a subpoena is a sign you are on the government’s radar.
Do grand juries have to be unanimous?
No. Under Texas law, only nine members of the grand jury need to sign and present the indictment to the court.
What information is privileged from disclosure?
Texas recognizes many privileges. Some of the most important are attorney-client, doctor-patient, and communications to clergy. There is also a spousal privilege, as well as others.
Contact Our Galveston Grand Jury Proceedings Lawyer
Our law firm is committed to helping criminal suspects defend themselves. Everyone deserves a fair trial, and no one should be railroaded on shaky evidence. We take to heart the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Everyone also deserves an aggressive defense on their behalf.
Please contact our law firm as soon as possible to discuss your case. We can offer frank, confidential advice about the charges and the type of penalties you are facing. We can also immediately begin reviewing any grand jury subpoena, as well as analyze whether a privilege applies.
Contacting us will only take a moment of your day
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