A grand jury is a unique panel of jurors whose role is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute a crime. Instead of determining guilt or innocence like a trial jury, the grand jury merely determines whether or not criminal charges should move forward in the court system.
Function Of The Grand Jury
Who serves on a grand jury? Jurors who serve on a grand jury are local citizens just like trial jurors. However, grand jurors serve for an extended term—anywhere from one month to one year. Grand juries typically meet once a week for a couple of hours.
How is a grand jury different from a trial jury? Grand juries differ from trial juries in a number of ways. First, the role of a grand jury is to consider the evidence and determine whether or not charges should be filed; the role of a trial jury is to consider the evidence and determine guilt or innocence. Second, grand juries typically have more members than a trial jury. A grand jury can have up to 24 members, whereas a trial jury usually consists of six or 12 members. Third, unlike a trial jury, a grand jury is not required to reach a unanimous decision. A simple majority can be sufficient. Finally, grand juries only meet in secret; although trial juries deliberate in secret, they serve in trials that are open to the general public.
Awaiting A Decision Of Probable Cause
What do grand juries do? Because grand juries meet behind closed doors, their proceedings are cloaked in secrecy. The defendant and his attorney are not allowed to be present; only the prosecuting attorney and any subpoenaed witnesses are authorized to attend the proceedings. At the start of each case, the prosecutor will give the grand jury a bill of indictment containing all of the criminal charges against the defendant. The prosecutor will present witnesses and other evidence to support the charges. After all of the evidence has been presented, the grand jury will determine if there is sufficient evidence (“probable cause”) to support the charges. If the grand jury finds there is probable cause to support the charges, they will issue a true bill indictment. Alternately, if the grand jury finds there is not probable cause to support the charges, they will issue a no bill indictment.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact an attorney today to help you navigate the criminal justice system.