Ohio professionals who are subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury may find the upcoming testimony frightening and something to avoid if possible. Naturally, if you are in this position, you want all the legal protection possible so that you do not land yourself in hot water by testifying. According to the American Bar Association, there are ways a person can minimize legal risks if called upon to testify before a grand jury.
Many people are familiar with “pleading the Fifth” and may assume that they can invoke it in front of a grand jury. However, a court has recourse to compel a testimony from you if it wants by granting you immunity, using statutory immunity through the court or immunity by letter, also known as “informal immunity.” These forms of immunity, while they do lessen the risk of self-incrimination, do not eliminate the possibility of a perjury charge.
Some attorneys can help their clients avoid testifying before a grand jury completely by working out an arrangement with the prosecutor to interview their client in an informal setting. This interview does not protect the client completely from a perjury charge, since the client could still be prosecuted for making a deliberately false statement. On the other hand, attorneys are allowed to assist their clients in an informal interview, so a client has legal counsel on hand while being questioned.
Some people will opt to proffer information to the government. FindLaw explains that prosecutors and people under criminal investigation can enter into agreements called proffer letters which allow a person to divulge to prosecutors what they know about a crime. Generally, proffers are given by subjects or targets of an investigation, although grand jury witnesses can also use proffers.
However, proffers do not offer a guarantee that the government will provide immunity in exchange for the information. Most proffer agreements will even state that the government possesses no obligation to provide immunity. In fact, people who proffer can still be indicted later on if the prosecutor is not satisfied with the testimony. Some prosecutors may have no intention of offering immunity in the first place.
Because testifying before a grand jury involves a number of possible legal pitfalls, consultation with a professional white collar crime attorney is crucial if you are to avoid them. If testifying before a grand jury turns out to be your best option, an attorney can help you prepare for the testimony and advise you how to best avoid perjury and other legal problems that may result from testifying.