Federal Grand Jury Investigations

While grand juries are sometimes described as performing accusatory and investigatory functions, the grand jury’s principal function is to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that one or more persons committed a certain Federal offense within the venue of the district court. Thus, it has been said that a grand jury has but two functions—to indict or, in the alternative, to return a “no-bill.”

Subpoenas in Federal proceedings, including grand jury proceedings, are governed by Rule 17 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Grand jury subpoenas may be served at any place within the United States. Under Rule 17(g) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a failure by a person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon him or her may be deemed a contempt of the court.

It is the policy of the Department of Justice to advise a grand jury witness of his or her rights if such witness is a “target” or “subject” of a grand jury investigation.

A “target” is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant. An officer or employee of an organization which is a target is not automatically considered a target even if such officer’s or employee’s conduct contributed to the commission of the crime by the target organization. The same lack of automatic target status holds true for organizations which employ, or employed, an officer or employee who is a target.

A “subject” of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.