Do I have To Talk To A Federal Grand Jury?

Video Transcript

If you received a grand jury subpoena you’re likely concerned about what that means and whether you have to talk to the grand jury and if there are limits on what you can be required to talk to the grand jury about.First as a general rule, the general rule is that the government, that the grand jury is entitled to every person's evidence. So if you have evidence that's relevant to an investigation that the grand jury is involved in that’s relevant to something that’s in front of the grand jury, the baseline rule, the default rule is that you've got to go talk, you've got a tell them what you know.

There are exceptions though and those exceptions are privileges. So, there are a number privileges, the most important for grand jury purposes is the privilege against self-incrimination, your Fifth Amendment Rights. And so when you see on TV someone’s invoking the fifth what that means is their asserting their privilege against self-incrimination.

If the information that you would give to the grand jury could be used against you in the prosecution of a crime, of a charge, you have a right not to tell them. And it doesn't have to be a definitive statement. To take a crazy example, if it’s a murder it doesn't have to be, you know, yes I killed David Bowie, it can just be I was in David Bowie’s hotel room that night and that happens to be the night he was killed. It can be a piece in a mosaic that builds up enough to have a prosecutor ask a jury for a conviction.

So, there are other privileges that apply, marital privilege, spousal privilege, communications between husbands and wives have a special status in the law, attorney client privilege of course. Unless something falls within some recognized privilege if you're going to a grand jury, you have to answer the questions, you have to provide the information that they're asking for.