Common Questions Regarding Federal Court & Federal Investigation

What Is The Role Of A Grand Jury In These Types Of Cases?

In Federal Court, a grand jury is held to determine if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed a crime. It is composed of sixteen to twenty-three people. Of course, the federal grand jury, they meet in a secret location. The defendant and their attorney do not have a right to be present at the grand jury hearings; it is just the grand jurors and the federal prosecutors. Prosecutor's present evidence to the grand jury and the grand jury must return a vote whether they have a true bill. If they have a true bill, that means that they believe that there is probable cause to believe that this individual committed a crime or not. If they do not, then the person will not get indicted.

How Does Cooperating With The Federal Government Actually Work?

When any federal agency is investigating a federal crime, and believes that they will get information that is useful to their investigation or useful in prosecuting or arresting another individual who they believe is more involved, they will offer individuals the opportunity to cooperate. Most of the times, it is done after someone is arrested and that person will then be offered the opportunity to engage in what is called proffers.

Proffers are meetings between the defendant, prosecutor and the defense attorney. They occur either in the office of the Department of Justice or in a jail cell. That is where the prosecution will question that individual to see what information he knows and what information he can provide. Even before the proffers, most attorneys will have you sign what is called the proffer agreement. The proffer agreement states what immunity the defendant is going to receive. It just states the parameters of the proffer and when that is signed, that is when the proffers can actually start.

The federal criminal system is very unique as opposed to the state system where if an individual cooperates, he can get a substantial reduction in sentence. He can get a substantial reduction in charges. Sometimes, he can actually be released and the charges can be dismissed depending on the information. It is a very good way for someone to cooperate. Of course, they have to cooperate truthfully. They have to answer truthfully. All that is spelled out in the proffer agreement, but it is a great opportunity for someone who is not involved on a grand scale to a conspiracy to provide information and to get leniency.

If You Do Make The Agreement, Then Is That Final? Can They Change Their Mind Later On And Take Away Your Immunity If They Find More Information?

As mentioned earlier, the proffer agreement is signed before any discussion or any proffers go on with the defense attorney, defendant and the prosecutor. There are several sections there: if it is found that the defendant has not been truthful or has lied, or has purposely provided misleading information that can void the proffer agreement. It can cause the defendant to be charged with the crimes he was already charged with or other crimes, because lying to federal prosecutors are another crime in itself. Therefore, it is a binding contract but it can be violated, but it is usually violated by the defendant himself.

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