A grand jury is a powerful part of the criminal justice system. If you are dealing with a grand jury investigation or have been subpoenaed to testify before one, it is important to know how the system works and to have adequate representation before placing yourself at the mercy of this legal body.
If you are facing a grand jury investigation in the Pennsylvania area, call Brian Manchester, an experienced grand jury investigations defense attorney in Pennsylvania. Call today. It is important to start working on your defense right away.
Grand Jury Investigations in America
Grand juries are an ancient legal institution, used for centuries as a way to investigate criminal allegations before they reached the courts. The grand jury provides a populist filter, allowing ordinary citizens to determine whether the government has enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges. This traditionally took the form of indictments, criminal charges that issued from the grand jury itself. But grand juries have fallen out of use in most places around the world. The federal government still uses them, as do most of the states, including Pennsylvania. But in a number of places, grand juries no longer issue indictments. This includes Pennsylvania, where grand juries use their investigative powers to help prosecutors rather than charge defendants.
Grand Jury Investigations: The Grand Jury and the Investigation in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s “investigating grand juries,” as they are known, are made up of 23 people, with between seven and 15 alternate members — much larger than the typical jury in a criminal or civil case. They serve by county and they are called into service at the initiative of each county’s district attorney or, in some cases, the state attorney general’s office. Investigating grand juries serve for 18-month terms, with one six-month extension possible if a majority of the members believe they haven’t completed investigating relevant matters. Generally speaking, a Pennsylvania grand jury has the power to investigate any alleged crime brought to its attention by the district attorney or the court. This can include any fact learned during witness testimony.
Grand Jury Investigations: Legal Hazards in Pennsylvania
The investigating grand jury has subpoena power and the power to apply civil and criminal contempt penalties, so it can compel testimony to the same degree a court can. This is why it is essential to obtain counsel if you have been subpoenaed as a grand jury witness. Your attorney is allowed to accompany you into the grand jury room. Without this legal advice, you may inadvertently incriminate yourself before the grand jury, a body that has the power to conduct a sweeping investigation into your affairs once you have given it evidence of a crime. Grand jury testimony is sealed, so if you are a witness you cannot share it with anyone other than your lawyer. The district attorney, on the other hand, can reveal relevant grand jury information to law enforcement for use in their concurrent investigations, so whatever you let slip during your testimony may end up in a police investigation as well.
Grand Jury Investigations: Criminal Charges in Pennsylvania
Although Pennsylvania grand juries cannot issue indictments, they can issue something called a “presentment.” This is essentially a recommendation that prosecutors charge a person with a crime. If the district attorney agrees, she must then file a formal criminal complaint on her own initiative and proceed as she would against any other defendant. Alternatively, grand jurors could issue a report without recommending charges. If this report is critical of an unindicted person, that person has the legal right to respond for the record.
If you or a loved one are in the Pennsylvania area and are facing a grand jury investigation, call Brian Manchester, an experienced grand jury investigations defense lawyer in Pennsylvania. He can help you build the defense you need today.