Prosecutors typically summon witnesses to appear before a grand jury because the prosecutor believes that the witness has information about a crime committed by someone else and wants to present evidence to secure an indictment. However, sometimes a witness is called to the grand jury because the prosecutor regards that witness as a target (a person suspected of crime) or because s/he believes that the witness knows something about the crime but isn’t telling anyone. In those situations, the witness is called to the grand jury because the prosecutor wants to develop evidence against the witness. What I have often seen happen during my years of practice is that the prosecutor calls a witness who has told police that he knows nothing about an incident and wasn’t there when it happened and then has that person testify to this under oath. The prosecutor then presents other evidence showing that the person was in fact there (maybe another witness testifies to that or there is a surveillance video showing him there) and then the witness is not only charged with the incident but also with perjury (lying under oath). This is a particularly common tactic in murder investigations. Perjury is a felony that can result in the imposition of long state’s prison sentences.
Most people don’t know that they have a right to speak to a lawyer before testifying before the grand jury and prosecutors take advantage of that lack of knowledge. If you have been summoned to testify before the grand jury and have some questions or concerns about your testimony, please contact me for a free consultation. Do not even meet with the prosecutor or detectives working on the case without speaking to a lawyer first if you have even a slight suspicion that you may possibly be a target. When I represent clients summoned to the grand jury, I meet with the client to discuss his situation at length and then do some digging to find out whether he is a potential target. If appropriate, I may advise my client to assert his 5th amendment right to refuse to testify and will represent this to the prosecutor. The prosecutor may choose to give the witness “immunity,” which is a binding promise not to prosecute that person in exchange for information or testimony. The witness can then choose to testify or face being found in contempt of court if he continues to refuse to testify. Being found in contempt of court can result in a sentence of up to a year in the House of Correction (county jail).
Whatever you choose to do, lying under oath is the worst thing that you can. Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your situation.