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Can Congress Subpoena Private Citizens?

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick Oberheiden
Congress Subpoena Private Citizens
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The reach of the government encompasses the public sphere such as public transportation, governmental agencies, district attorney offices, police stations, universities that receive federal funding, etc. However, the private sphere has always been more insulated from the intrusion of the government.

You are a private citizen. You do not work for the government nor is your business entwined with the affairs of the federal government. However, you just received a subpoena. The main question running through your head is: Can Congress subpoena me – a private citizen?

The answer?

Yes, it can.

If you’ve received a congressional subpoena, get in contact with a defense attorney immediately. A congressional subpoena is issued when a committee in either the Senate or the House of Representatives is investigating you. And a congressional investigation can have devastating consequences for you and your business.

At Oberheiden, P.C. we will simultaneously help you respond to the congressional committee’s subpoena and make sure your rights are protected!

About Oberheiden P.C.

Congressional investigations are laced with bureaucratic rules, divisive politics, and complex laws. At Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys are highly experienced in defense, litigation, and compliance work. Oberheiden, P.C. is a leader in defending clients against intrusive governmental inquiries and handles such cases nationwide.

We understand that you worked hard to get where you are today. Getting a subpoena from the government can soon destroy everything you built. When you receive a subpoena, you must act quickly to preserve your and your business’s reputation. Any negative publicity could shatter the public image of you or your business.

Our law firm is made up of many former U.S. attorneys and former federal agents. Thus, our team has an extensive background in federal investigations and how the government operates behind the scenes. We have experience in all types of cases with different types of clients, including high-stakes investigations.

We can protect you from the snares of Congress. We understand that the initiation of many congressional investigations is rooted in politics. The topics of investigations usually depend on which party has the majority in Congress. Don’t worry. At Oberheiden, P.C. we are aware of this and will make sure you and your business don’t get caught in the crosshairs and become a casualty of rival politics.

As your counsel, we will guide you during all the stages of a congressional investigation.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Receiving a Subpoena

A congressional subpoena is an order requesting either the production of specified documentation or testimony or both. Each committee and subcommittee in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have their own rules regarding how they conduct their investigations, including how they issue subpoenas.

You just received a congressional subpoena. You’re probably wondering why?

You received the subpoena pursuant to a congressional investigation. While the power to commence congressional investigations is not in the United States Constitution as one of Congress’s enumerated powers, practice over time and Supreme Court rulings have labeled such investigations as an indispensable power of Congress

There are two main reasons you received a subpoena. The first is that the congressional committee is investigating you. In other words, you are the target of the investigation they are conducting.

The second reason is that you are a witness in the congressional investigation. As a witness, the congressional committee believes that you have valuable information that could aid the committee in their investigation of the target, whomever that may be.

A congressional subpoena reads similar to this:

“You are hereby commanded to produce the things identified on the attached schedule before the [name of committee] of the [house of Congress] and bring them to [location] at [time].”


“You are hereby commanded to appear before the [name of committee] of the [house of Congress] at [location] at [time] to testify on matters of the inquiry.”

Subpoenas for Private Citizens

Yes. Congress can issue subpoenas to private citizens. However, the Supreme Court has held that this power is not absolute. Congress cannot simply open investigations and intrude into the private lives of individuals.

Rather, when Congress opens an investigation into private individuals it must be operating under a “valid legislative purpose.” Congress cannot intrude or expose the private affairs of individuals without a reasonable basis rooted in its legislative powers.

Congress has a list of enumerated powers. It cannot deviate from those powers. Thus, when it investigates private citizens, naturally, the basis of that investigation must take root from one of its enumerated powers.

Further, Congress cannot subpoena an individual to look for wrongdoing. It cannot act as law enforcement – those powers are given to the judiciary and the executive branches. Lastly, investigations motivated solely to enhance the power of the members of the congressional committee or to punish the private citizen are unjustifiable.

Rights as a Private Citizen

The Supreme Court has stated that Congress must abide by the same constitutional constraints that the other branches of government must abide by. This includes any limitation imposed by the Bill of Rights.

  • First Amendment – Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion, and Assembly – Although not absolute, the Supreme Court has held that Congress is bound by this right.
  • Fifth Amendment – Right Against Self-Incrimination – The Supreme Court has held that this right is available when you are testifying before Congress. Therefore, you will not be forced to answer a question that would incriminate you in a criminal investigation. However, you must exercise this right out loud to the congressional committee.
  • Fifth Amendment – Due Process – The topic of the congressional investigation must be made known to you. Therefore, you will not have to start answering questions without knowing the context of Congress’s investigation.

The law surrounding these constitutional protections is complicated. A skilled defense attorney will be able to examine your case to make sure Congress is not trampling on your constitutional rights.

Contact the Congressional Subpoena Attorneys of Oberheiden, P.C. Now

It will never be you against the entire congressional committee. Our attorneys and professionals will provide a buffer between you and the congressional committee investigating you. We will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the investigation.

 Get in touch with Oberheiden P.C. today and speak with one of our defense attorneys in a free consultation.

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