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I have been representing clients in white-collar and other federal criminal appeals for nearly 20 years, and it never ceases to amaze me how many people, laypersons and attorneys alike, are often mystified by this strange process. Why are federal criminal appeals so difficult to understand? Because federal appellate courts are deliberately designed to be cordoned off from criminal defendants, their attorneys, and the public at large. Federal appellate judges and their staffs work behind closed doors, except for the oral arguments that are held every week, month, or several times a year, depending on the court. Why the distance from the public? That's just one of the things I seek to explain in this article: "Federal Criminal Appeals: 10 Things You Should Know."
Federal grand juries have enormous power within our criminal justice system. Responding incorrectly to a federal grand jury subpoena for your testimony or documents, or your company's documents, can have disastrous consequences. Here are 10 critical things to know about federal grand juries and federal grand jury subpoenas.
Just what is a proffer and what are the perils of entering into a proffer agreement (also known as a proffer letter) with the federal government? Proffer or "queen for a day" letters are written agreements between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation which permit these individuals to tell the government about their knowledge of crimes, with the supposed assurance that their words will not be used against them in any later proceedings. (The individuals can either be witnesses, subjects or targets of a federal investigation, although it is subjects and targets who provide most proffers.)
Taking the Fifth Amendment in Front of the Federal Grand Jury in Order to Protect White Collar Defendants and Their Papers
One of the most delicate tasks for the practitioner representing a witness or subject in a white-collar investigation is the tactical decision of whether to invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination during the grand jury phase. This question can be even more complex in the case of grand jury subpoenas for documents. Two recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court, Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17, 121 S.Ct. 1252 (2001), and United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000), indicate that its current members share, for the most part, an expansive view of the Self-Incrimination Clause.