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Suspected of a Federal Crime? Keep Quiet.

  • Birdsall Obear
The pre-indictment process surrounding federal crimes is like an iceberg – very little above the surface, with most of the activity occurring below. If you have reason to believe you are under investigation for a crime, you should seek legal representation from a criminal defense attorney experienced in defending individuals suspected of federal crimes. Their first advice to you will likely be to invoke your right to remain silent during the pre-indictment process.

Grand Jury Investigations

In many federal cases, evidence is brought to a grand jury to make a case for an indictment. The case will only proceed if the grand jury concludes that there is probable cause to indict. Examples of federal crimes that could lead to an indictment by a grand jury include:


  • Drug trafficking
  • Conspiracy
  • Firearms offenses
  • Internet sex crimes
  • RICO


Grand juries operate in complete secrecy. The secretive nature of the process can make protecting yourself and your rights more challenging. The most important thing that you can do to avoid indictment by a grand jury is to refrain from saying anything without your attorney present.


While criminal trials are a matter of public record, grand juries are not. Grand juries may call witnesses to testify and order them to keep the jury's existence completely secret. Therefore, it would be best if you exercise great caution in what information you share and with whom.


If called to testify before a grand jury, your attorney cannot be present in the grand jury room. However, it is your right to ask to consult with your legal counsel outside of the room before you answer any question the prosecutor asks.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent Throughout the Pre-Indictment Investigation

If you believe you may be under investigation by a grand jury, remember that you have the right to remain silent and should not talk to law enforcement without a lawyer present. The 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees this right. Exercising this right is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from self-incrimination during a federal investigation.