Role of Grand Jury in IRS Criminal Investigations

by Robert Barnes 


The special role of the grand jury, and precariousness of parochial investigations and provincial tendencies in criminal tax matters, compels specialized supervisory approvals before use of the grand jury’s extraordinary powers can occur.

The Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.” United States Constitution at Amendment V. This historic proviso tasks the grand jury with investigation whether probable cause exists that any person committed a criminal violation of the federal laws. See United States v. Al Mudarris, 695 F.2d 1182, 1184 (9th Cir. 1983).


The role of the grand jury remains to serve the citizenry as a “protective bulwark standing solidly between the ordinary citizen and the overzealous prosecutor.” See United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 17 (1973). Grand juries protected colonists from British persecution during the revolution; the Framers intended it have the same effect in the new government. See 1 Sara Sun Beale & William C. Bryson, Grand Jury Law & Practice § 1:03 (1986). Intending this institution as a bulwark of protection for basic liberties, interposed in the law enforcement process to safeguard those core liberties. See United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 343 (1974). Grand juries function as an extension of the judicial branch, yet institutionally independent of any other of the tri-­‐part governmental Montesquian structure. See United States v. Chanen, 549 F.2d 1306, 1312 (9th Cir. 1977).

Prosecutors violate  that role of the grand jury  when they circumvent the independent or integrity of grand jury proceedings, undermining the autonomy and unbiased judgment of the grand jurors. See United States v. Al Mudarris, 695 F.2d 1182, 1184 (9th Cir. 1983). “If the grand jury is to accomplish either of its functions, independent determination of probable cause that a crime has been committed and protection of citizens against unfounded prosecutions, limits must be set on the manipulation of grand juries by overzealous prosecutors.” See United States v. Al Mudarris, 695 F.2d 1182, 1184 (9th Cir. 1983). Acts a prosecutor cannot take include any vouching for the credibility of a witness or, in any manner, depriving the grand jury of the opportunity to evaluate the credibility of a witness. See United States v. Samango, 607 F.2d 877, 884 (9th  Cir. 1979); see also United States v. Roberts, 618 F.2d 530, 533-­‐537 (9th Cir. 1980). Recent cases show IRS special agents “joking” to the grand jury that the IRS special agent was going to check and spy on the grand jurors’ tax filings and payment history. See United States v. Koch, 2009 WL 611860 (S.D.Cal. 2009).

Whenever any of the branches subvert the independence and integrity of the grand jury, one of the branches must remediate the wrong. See United States v. Everett, 692 F.2d 596, 601 (9th Cir. 1982). Remedies include releasing the transcripts of proceedings and dismissals of tainted indictments. See United States v. Basurto, 497 F.2d 781, 785 (9th Cir. 1974). Judges in this district completely rely upon the prosecutorial propriety, frequently advising and promising individual grand jurors they “can expect that the Assistant U.S. Attorney who will appear in front of you to present cases will be candid, and they’ll be honest and they’ll act in good faith in the matters that they present to you.” 

That is why, prior to grand jury involvement, “the special agent must prepare Form 9131, Request for Grand Jury Information.” See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). This request must incorporate “accompanying exhibits.” See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐ 2004). Criminal Tax Counsel must review and approve the request, drafting a Criminal Evaluation Memorandum in the process. See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). The Special Agent in Charge must separately and individually review the request and personally sign the request for grand jury approval. See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). Any sensitive investigation, as this one was, compels “the written concurrence of the Director, Field Operations.” See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). For the 9131 to be accurate and competent, it needs inclusion of all “contemplated charges,” “identification of individuals involved” and the evidence of “wrongdoing” sufficient to “support the contemplated charges.” See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). Furthermore, the request for grand jury involvement needs to identify “potential witnesses,” include “recommendations as to the testimonial and documentary evidence to be sought before the grand jury,” a full “summary of the investigation to date” and the policy importance of the matter. See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004).



Ultimately, “all grand jury requests involving potential tax and/or tax related violations” must be approved by the supervisory special agent, by Criminal Tax Counsel, by the Special Agent in Charge, by the Director of Field Operations in all sensitive cases, and then the Tax Division of the Department of Justice’s review. See Internal Revenue Manual  (11-­‐05-­‐2004). Equally, “in order to expand an existing tax and/or tax related grand jury investigation to include” any “additional subject” or additional “tax period” or additional “type of tax,” then the “attorney for the government must obtain DOJ, Tax Division approval.” See Internal Revenue Manual (11-­‐05-­‐2004). Indeed, “DOJ Tax must approve any pure Title 26 GJ request.” See Internal Revenue Manual, Grand Jury Approval Process, Exhibit 9.5.2-­‐2 (11-­‐05-­‐2004). If the case involves any exempt organization, then it constitutes a “sensitive” investigation requiring additional layers of approval, including the Director of Field Operations. See Internal Revenue Manual, Grand Jury Approval Process, Exhibit 9.5.2-­‐2 (11-­‐05-­‐2004).

These unique rules in IRS criminal investigations and special agent limited access to a grand jury are critical to the protection of your rights, as often IRS special agents try to get around these rules and equally often local United States Attorneys do not even realize these rules unique to tax evasion and IRS investigations even exist.  A knowledgeable IRS defense lawyer can assert, help enforce, and guard your rights in the IRS criminal investigation process at many stages of the case before it gets too far. While the past cannot guarantee the future, it is a resume worth knowing when choosing your tax defense lawyer. Barnes Law enjoys a 90% success in preventing the government from imprisoning its clients even when only hired after a fraud audit or IRS criminal investigation has commenced, while protecting your privacy in the process. Choose wisely: your freedom, your future, and your finances often depend upon it.