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Common Questions And Answers About New York Grand Juries

Many people are familiar with the work of jurors in criminal trials, but less is known about grand juries because they largely operate out of public view. Nonetheless, if you are under criminal investigation or are even tangentially related to one, it is critical to understand how and why grand juries do what they do.

On this page, we’ve provided answers to common questions prospective clients ask about grand juries. After reading, you can contact The Law Office of Jeffrey Chabrowe to ask us your own questions and receive case-specific guidance during a free initial consultation.

How do I know if I’m a witness or a target?

Those summoned before a grand jury can actually fit into three categories, ordered here by increasing level of suspicion: witness, subject or target. You can certainly ask prosecutors which category you fit into, and they may tell you. Sometimes, targets are informed of their status by receiving a “target letter.”

However, you should know that prosecutors are not legally obligated to give you this information. Moreover, your classification can change at any time. This is particularly true if you are a subject, which is someone whose behavior is seen as suspicious but not necessarily indictable. What you say before and during testimony could change your status.

The best way to determine where you stand is to contact an experienced attorney like Jeff Chabrowe right away. As a former prosecutor who saw hundreds of subpoenas during his time with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Chabrowe knows what to look for when examining both the subpoena and the details of the case. He can ensure your rights are protected at every step in the process.

When should I talk to an attorney?

You should be contacting an attorney at the first sign of trouble. If you are aware of an investigation, you can reach out to a lawyer before subpoenas are issued. At the latest, however, you should contact an attorney like Mr. Chabrowe immediately upon receiving a subpoena or upon learning that a grand jury may be convened. Being proactive allows us to maximize your legal options, including seeking a plea deal before an indictment is issued.

Why does a case go before a grand jury?

In order for New York prosecutors to charge someone with a state or federal felony, they must secure a grand jury indictment (unless the targeted individual has agreed to cede that decision to a judge). Therefore, grand juries play a crucial role in federal criminal proceedings.

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. Instead, its job is to decide whether one or more people should be charged with a crime based on the evidence and testimony presented.

What is the standard of proof for a grand jury in New York?

The grand jury must determine whether there is sufficient probable or reasonable cause to conclude that an individual or group of people have committed a criminal offense. Note that this is much lower than the standard required to convict someone of a crime: Proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Because of this lower standard of proof, prosecutors have a lot of power to shape a narrative and influence a grand jury’s decision. That’s one of many reasons why you need an experienced defense attorney by your side who is ready to tell a compelling counter-narrative.

Contact Us At The First Sign Of Trouble

At The Law Office of Jeffrey Chabrowe, we offer clients more than two decades of criminal law experience. If you have questions about a grand jury investigation or have reason to believe you will be named in one, contact us immediately and discuss your concerns during a free initial consultation. You can reach out online or call our Manhattan office at 212-235-1510.