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January 25, 2010

New York Grand Jury Practice

By Michael H. Joseph

As a New York criminal defense lawyer, I have handled numerous felony cases which went into the grand jury. The decision on whether to put forward a case before the grand jury or preserve your case for trial is always a sensitive decision. Numerous factors must be considered.

As a Westchester criminal defense lawyer, I have won Assault cases and gun cases in the grand jury. The situation where clients tend to testify before the grand jury is when the client has a strong defense such as actual innocence, justification, self defense or alibi.

Usually, when clients elect to testify before a grand jury, there is usually some time pressure. For example, when clients are incarcerated and unable to make bail, the factors which weigh in favor of testifying before the grand jury outweight the risks of waiting for trial. Of course, when a client is fighting a charge while out on bail, this time pressure is not present.

The drawback in putting a client before the grand jury is that the attorney is not allowed to speak, object or otherwise participated in the proceeding except for advising the client. The Prosecutors will often do things which are improper, and ask improper questions which are aimed at unfairly prejudicing the client. Unfortunately, there is nothing the attorney can do during the proceeding. However, the Criminal Procedural law also gives a New York criminal lawyer, the right to move to dismiss the indictment if the proceeding was not done fairly.

While the lawyer cannot participate in the actual proceeding, the Criminal Procedure Law in New York, does give the defendant the right to testify and present evidence. That means, if there are witnesses that support the defendants’ position, the defense can proffer them and actual evidence can be proffered by the witnesses in a grand jury. Early investigation to discover favorable witnesses and evidence is essential to successful grand jury presentation and practice.

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