Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

I Have Received A Summons To Appear Before A Massachusetts Grand Jury – What Is THAT?

Well, the state court certainly wants your attention this week, doesn’t it?

Yesterday, the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog discussed your receiving a summons to go to court for an arraignment. Today, it is not so bad…but it is certainly cause for concern. You have received a summons requiring you to appear before a Grand Jury.

We have discussed Grand Juries before. In order to get an indictment and move a criminal case from district court to superior court, the Commonwealth presents evidence before a room full of jurors called a “Grand Jury”. After presenting that evidence, the prosecutor asks the jurors to return a “true bill”, or an Indictment.

The Grand Jury then votes to either return the Indictment as requested or not to do so.

Are you wondering what the chances are that the prosecutor will get his or her request?

Attorney Sam’s Take On Massachusetts Grand Jury Summonses

There is an old addage that answers that query. It is that a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwhich if he tried. In other words, at least in Massachusetts, it is rare that a Grand Jury does not does not return the charges requested by the prosecutor.

Now, back to YOU. You have been ordered to show up and, the government hopes, testify before the Grand Jury and help them in their efforts to get an indictment against someone.

“Do I have to actually show up?”

If the summons is valid, the answer is that you are compelled to show up. You may, however, be able to reach out (or better yet have your experienced criminal lawyer) reach out to the prosecutor and reschedule if necessary.

” Why do I need a defense attorney if I am just being summonsed as a witness?”

There are a number of reasons. It may be that this Grand Jury criminal investigation is about something that you have absolutely no knowledge about. This, however, is usually not the case. Whether or not you know what it is about, the Commonwealth may believe that you know something about it. As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, it believes that you have knowledge…you are presumed knowledgable.

Another possibility is that the prosecution wants you to simply cooperate as a witness and that they have no interest in charging you with any crime. Yet.

Your testimony, however, may change that.

You see, as we have discussed in the past, you could talk yourself into trouble without even knowing it. If you hire a lawyer to talk to the prosecutor, you will be in a better position to figure out what is going on. In fact, simply by hearing the facts from you the attorney may be able to advise you as to how you could get in trouble.

“What if my testimony might get me into trouble? Do I still have to show up?”

If indeed your testimony might tend to inculpate you, then you have a right, under the 5th Amendment of the Constitution, not to give that testimony. Your attorney could contact the prosecutor and relay that you intend to invoke said right not to testify. The prosecutor may then say that you needn’t show up or the prosecutor may challenge your 5th Amendment claim. Either way, you will need the attorney to handle the situation.

“What if I do not hire a lawyer and testify and I seem to be getting myself into trouble…won’t a judge intervene?”

There is no judge in the Grand Jury room. It is only the jurors, the prosecution and the witness. Your attorney may be allowed in…but if you have decided not to retain counsel, that consideration is moot.

Over a quarter century in the criminal justice system, I have witnessed the various scenarios that happen with Grand Jury testimony. Grand Jury testimony is serious. It is given under oath which means that, if it is later shown to be untruthful, charges for perjury could result. I have seen many people caught into a criminal justice web by feeling that they could outsmart the system.

Don’t fall into that trap. If you have received a Grand Jury summons, get counsel well before you are scheduled to appear. Feel free to contact me to be that counsel by contacting me at (617) 206-1942 and scheduling a free initial consultation.

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