Frequently Asked Questions
Does the U.S. Attorney's Office investigate crimes?
Investigations are generally conducted by federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We also frequently take cases from State and local agencies that participate in joint task forces with federal law enforcement agencies. In addition, the U.S. Attorney's Office works with referring agencies to provide direction and legal counsel during federal criminal investigations.
What are federal crimes?
There are many federal crimes. Some involve narcotics, bank robbery, fraudulent activity that affects interstate commerce, wire fraud, mail fraud,tax fraud, any crime in which the United States is defrauded, illegal gun crime, environmental crimes, and civil rights violations. Some crimes may violate both State and federal laws, such as bank robbery. In these cases, the U.S. Attorney's Office works closely with State and local law enforcement officials to determine where the case should be brought, based on where the public would be best served.
What kinds of cases does the U.S. Attorney's Office handle?
This office prosecutes federal criminal cases committed in the District of Minnesota. The District is comprised of the entire state. The U.S. Attorney's Office also defends the U.S. in civil suits brought against it and brings civil cases to recover money for taxpayers and ensure citizens' civil rights.
What is a federal grand jury?
Federal prosecutors charge most cases by presenting evidence to a federal grand jury, which is made up of 23 jurors, who are citizens of the District. The grand jurors serve two functions: They investigate cases by reviewing documents and hearing witness testimony, and they return indictments when they find probable cause that a person or entity has committed the crime charged. By law, grand juries operate in secret.
Why are the grand jury's proceedings secret?
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure require that grand jurors and federal prosecutors keep grand jury proceedings, including the existence of a federal criminal investigation, completely secret unless and until the grand jury returns an indictment against one or more of the accused. Witnesses, other than law enforcement officials, called to testify before the grand jury are not generally held to the same secrecy requirements. However, under most circumstances, it is illegal for prosecutors to reveal the details of grand jury deliberations. This is one reason the U.S. Attorney's Office does not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
What are the steps in a criminal prosecution?
Do you issue press releases in every case?
No. While we try to keep the public informed of significant case activity, the volume of cases precludes us from issuing releases in every case.
Why does the U.S. Attorney's Office frequently say, "No comment"?
In most instances, the U.S. Attorney's Office declines to comment on pending cases or investigations. This is for two reasons: First, any matter occurring before the grand jury is secret under the law, and we are prohibited from discussing it. Comments made in such an instance could compromise an on-going investigation or threaten officer safety. Second, Justice Department guidelines, rules of professional conduct, and rules of court, as well as considerations of fairness to defendants, require that we not make comments that could prejudice a defendant's right to a fair trial.
What information can the U.S. Attorney's Office provide?
We can and do provide information that is in the public record, either through documents filed with the court or statements made in court. We can also provide status information about a case, such as the next scheduled appearance.
What are other sources of information about the federal courts?
The most direct source of federal case information is the Clerk of Court's Office. Federal cases are filed and maintained there. Anyone may ask to see the public pleadings in a case. The Clerk's telephone number is (612) 664-5000.