DO NOT talk to anyone about your matter before communicating with an attorney. There are times where communication is the best way forward, but that decision should be made with the advice of counsel. If you wish to remain silent the most important thing to do is REMAIN SILENT – DO NOT TALK. If you do not wish to speak, you must invoke your right to counsel by saying something like, “I do not want to answer any questions without speaking to my attorney first.” You have to be clear, if you are not clear, say it over and over again until you get it right – and do not say anything else – REMAIN SILENT.
Following are the some of the statutes related to the grand jury in Louisiana. If you face a grand jury subpoena, or receive a ‘target’ letter that you are a target of a grand jury proceeding, or indictment by grand jury; be sure to hire an attorney that has experience in working through this stage of the criminal justice process. You have rights, even though limited, in these proceedings, and your attorney should fight before giving up those rights.
We here at the Ambeau Law Firm would be happy to sit with you and let you know what to expect and talk about what role we play in this process. The warning above may be applicable to you in a grand jury witness subpoena as well, you must consider consulting an attorney before making a decision to talk to law enforcement.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 431 – Oath of Grand Jury
The grand jurors shall take the following oath when impaneled:
“As members of the grand jury, do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will diligently inquire into and true presentment make of all indictable offenses triable within this parish which shall be given you in charge, or which shall otherwise come to your knowledge; that you will keep secret your own counsel and that of your fellows and of the state, and will not, except when authorized by law, disclose testimony of any witness examined before you, nor disclose anything which any grand juror may have said, or how any grand juror may have voted on any matter before you; that you will not indict any person through malice, hatred, or ill will, nor fail to indict any person through fear, favor, affection, or hope of reward or gain; but in all of your indictments you will present the truth, according to the best of your skill and understanding?”
The oath shall be read to the grand jury by the clerk, who shall then ask each juror: “Do you take this oath or affirmation?”
The oath shall be administered to every grand juror appointed to fill a vacancy in the grand jury and to every grand juror who was not present at the taking of the oath by the grand jury.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 433 – Person present during Grand Jury sessions
A. (1) Only the following persons may be present at the sessions of the grand jury:
(a) The district attorney and assistant district attorneys or any one or more of them;
(b) The attorney general and assistant attorneys general or any one or more of them;
(c) The witness under examination;
(d) A person sworn to record the proceedings of and the testimony given before the grand jury; and
(e) An interpreter sworn to translate the testimony of a witness who is unable to speak the English language.
(2) An attorney for a target of the grand jury’s investigation may be present during the testimony of said target. The attorney shall be prohibited from objecting, addressing or arguing before the grand jury; however he may consult with his client at anytime. The court shall remove such attorney for violation of these conditions. If a witness becomes a target because of his testimony, the legal advisor to the grand jury shall inform him of his right to counsel and cease questioning until such witness has obtained counsel or voluntarily and intelligently waived his right to counsel. Any evidence or testimony obtained under the provisions of this Subparagraph from a witness who later becomes a target shall not be admissible in a proceeding against him.
B. No person, other than a grand juror, shall be present while the grand jury is deliberating and voting.
C. A person who is intentionally present at a meeting of the grand jury, except as authorized by Paragraph A of this article, shall be in constructive contempt of court.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 434 – Secrecy of grand jury meetings
A. Members of the grand jury, all other persons present at a grand jury meeting, and all persons having confidential access to information concerning grand jury proceedings, shall keep secret the testimony of witnesses and all other matters occurring at, or directly connected with, a meeting of the grand jury. However, after the indictment, such persons may reveal statutory irregularities in grand jury proceedings to defense counsel, the attorney general, the district attorney, or the court, and may testify concerning them. Such persons may disclose testimony given before the grand jury, at any time when permitted by the court, to show that a witness committed perjury in his testimony before the grand jury. A witness may discuss his testimony given before the grand jury with counsel for a person under investigation or indicted, with the attorney general or the district attorney, or with the court.
B. Whenever a grand jury of one parish discovers that a crime may have been committed in another parish of the state, the foreman of that grand jury, after notifying his district attorney, shall make that discovery known to the attorney general. The district attorney or the attorney general may direct to the district attorney of another parish any and all evidence, testimony, and transcripts thereof, received or prepared by the grand jury of the former parish, concerning any offense that may have been committed in the latter parish, for use in such latter parish.
C. Any person who violates the provisions of this article shall be in constructive contempt of court.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 434.1 – Exceptions to grand jury secrecy
A. Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 434, the state may disclose to state or federal prosecutors or law enforcement officers, or to investigators on the staff of the district attorney or attorney general, or to expert witnesses, information and documents provided to a grand jury. Any person to whom such disclosure is made shall not engage in further disclosure of the material and shall use the disclosed material solely for purposes of investigation of criminal offenses and enforcement of criminal laws.
B. The district attorney shall also disclose to the defendant material evidence favorable to the defendant that was presented to the grand jury.
C. The district attorney may also disclose to a witness at trial, including the defendant if the defendant testifies, any statement of the witness before the grand jury that is inconsistent with the testimony of that witness.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 439 – Subpoena of witnesses to appear before the grand jury
Upon request of the grand jury or the district attorney, the court shall issue a subpoena for a witness to appear before the grand jury to testify when questioned by the grand jury or district attorney, or both, concerning an offense under investigation. Upon request of the grand jury or the district attorney, the court may also issue a subpoena duces tecum. The issuance, service, and return of a subpoena provided for in this article and the effect of the return and the enforcement of the subpoena shall be as provided in Articles 731 through 737.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 439.1 – Witnesses; authority to compel testimony and evidence
A. In the case of any individual who has been or may be called to testify or provide other information at any proceeding before or ancillary to a grand jury of the state, at any proceeding before a court of this state, or in response to any subpoena by the attorney general or district attorney, the judicial district court of the district in which the proceeding is or may be held shall issue, in accordance with Subsection B of this article, upon the request of the attorney general together with the district attorney for such district, an order requiring such individual to give testimony or provide other information which he refuses to give or provide on the basis of his privilege against self-incrimination, such order to become effective as provided in Subsection C of this article.
B. The attorney general together with the district attorney may request an order under Subsection A of this article when in his judgment
(1) the testimony or other information from such individual may be necessary to the public interest; and
(2) such individual has refused or is likely to refuse to testify or provide other information on the basis of his privilege against self incrimination.
C. The witness may not refuse to comply with the order on the basis of his privilege against self incrimination, but no testimony or other information compelled under the order, or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information, may be used against the witness in any criminal case, except a prosecution for perjury, giving a false statement or otherwise failing to comply with the order.
D. Whoever refuses to comply with an order as hereinabove provided shall be adjudged in contempt of court and punished as provided by law.
La. C.Cr.P. art. 442 – Evidence to be received by grand jury
A grand jury shall hear all evidence presented by the district attorney. It may hear evidence for the defendant, but is under no duty to do so.
When the grand jury has reason to believe that other available evidence will explain the charge, it should order the evidence produced.
A grand jury should receive only legal evidence and such as is given by witnesses produced, or furnished by documents and other physical evidence. However, no indictment shall be quashed or conviction reversed on the ground that the indictment was based, in whole or in part, on illegal evidence, or on the ground that the grand jury has violated a provision of this article.
IMPORTANT: This is not legal advice. I have provided this in an effort to inform you of what to expect, not to advise you on a course of action. Please consult with an attorney before making any decision that may affect your legal rights, liberty, freedom, or safety.