Federal Grand Juries: The Law in a Nutshell [May 7, 2015]   [open pdf - 187KB]

"The federal grand jury exists to investigate crimes against the United States and to secure the constitutional right of grand jury indictment. Its responsibilities require broad powers. As an arm of the U.S. District Court which summons it, upon whose process it relies, and which will receive any indictments it returns, the grand jury's subject matter and geographical jurisdiction is that of the court to which it is attached. Ordinarily, the law is entitled to everyone's evidence. Witnesses subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, therefore, will find little to excuse their appearance. Once before the panel, however, they are entitled to the benefit of various constitutional, common law and statutory privileges, including the right to withhold self-incriminating testimony and the security of confidentiality of their attorney-client communications. They are not, however, entitled to have an attorney with them in the grand jury room when they testify. Unless the independence of the grand jury is overborne, irregularities in the grand jury process ordinarily will not result in dismissal of an indictment, particularly where dismissal is sought after conviction. The grand jury conducts its business in secret, although witnesses are not bound and the rules permit disclosure of matters occurring before the grand jury under limited circumstances with court approval. Citations for the quotations and statements in this report may be found in CRS [Congressional Research Service] Report 95-1135, 'The Federal Grand Jury,' from which this report has been abridged."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS20214
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