subpoenaed. If I don't go what can happen to me?
|Response: You can be held in contempt - typically, the court that
supervises the grand jury which issued the subpoena will issue an order holding you in
civil contempt, which means you will be sanctioned (usually by being incarcerated) until
you are willing to comply with the subpoena. As an alternative, you could be held in
criminal contempt, which means you would be fined or incarcerated for failing to obey the
subpoena; prosecutors usually prefer civil contempt, though, because it's more effective
in coercing the witness to comply with the subpoena.
Can I be forced to answer questions if I invoke the Fifth
Amendment privilege against self-incrimination?
Response: If you validly invoke the Fifth Amendment privilege (which
you can only do if answering a question would provide evidence that could be used to
convict you of a crime), the prosecutor cannot force you to answer unless he/she gives you
immunity. Once you have been given immunity, you can be forced to answer, since you no
longer have a Fifth Amendment privilege. (That is, the Fifth Amendment only protects you
from being forced to give answers that can be used as evidence against you in a criminal
case; by giving you immunity, the government promises not to use your answers against you,
so you don't need the privilege. . . .Or so the
What other rights do I have under the Constitution, that I
should be aware of?
Response: That depends on your situation. You need to get a lawyer to
advise you with regard to the subpoena. If you can afford one, ask your local bar
association to recommend a good private attorney; if you can't afford private counsel,
contact the court that supervises the grand jury (it's the district court mentioned on the
subpoena) and/or the local Federal Public Defender's Office to see about getting appointed
You absolutely should get a lawyer - everything I said above is general advice,
and the best route for you to take depends on the specific facts of your situation.