Being a Grand Jury Witness

Who are witnesses?

Witnesses are people who have evidence about a crime, but did not commit the crime, such as the clerk who was held up in a liquor store robbery. If you are a witness to a crime or are subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury, contact an experienced South King County criminal lawyer for advice.


A witness’s goal should be to remain just a witness and not get involved criminally. This is usually as easy as telling the truth. However, telling the truth is not always easy. For example, telling the truth may be difficult when you don’t want to get the target of the investigation in trouble or when there is something that you don’t want to disclose but that you might have to, such as a criminal record or an extramarital affair.

In jurisdictions where indictments can be based on hearsay, prosecutors often rely only on hearsay in the grand jury. The prosecutor will call an agent to give an overview of an interview with the witness, rather than calling in the witness directly. If the prosecutor requires you to testify personally in such a jurisdiction, this may mean that the prosecutor does not believe you will tell the same story that you told in a previous interview when you are later called at trial. Your lawyer may ask if you are exposed to criminal prosecution in some way.

Pros and Cons of Immunity

Sometimes it’s difficult for a witness to decide whether to request immunity from prosecution. For one thing, a request for immunity might cause the prosecutor to pay more attention to your involvement in the case and to focus more on your actions. The prosecutor might choose to deny your request and change your status from mere witness to subject.

In addition, using the privilege and claiming immunity indicates some sort of guilt. Even though grand jury proceedings are secret, information about who testified and who received immunity is often leaked, especially if charges and a trial follow. Immunity might attract unwanted publicity, depending on your occupation and position in the community.

If you need advice from an experienced criminal lawyer, contact South King County criminal lawyer.