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What Is a Grand Jury?


There has been a lot of information in the news and media lately concerning grand juries and their role in the criminal justice system. With the lack of indictments of law enforcement in the high-publicity cases in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, you may be wondering what a grand jury is and the role that it plays in the criminal justice system.

How does a grand jury differ from a traditional jury?

The purpose of a grand jury is not to find someone guilty or innocent of a crime, but rather to decide whether or not there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against someone accused of a felony crime. Like regular trial juries, those who sit on grand juries are randomly selected from their local communities and will listen to the evidence provided by the prosecution.

There are many ways that a grand jury differs from a traditional jury:

  • They only decide whether there is enough probable cause to have a trial
  • They deliberate on the outcome of the evidence in private instead of public
  • They can include illegally obtained evidence that is otherwise inadmissible in court
  • They can serve for a term lasting between 6 and 18 months
  • Depending on the crime, they can consist of 15 to 23 different people
  • They do not need to be unanimous to choose to indict someone of a crime

In a traditional case, a prosecutor will submit the charges and the evidence needed to secure an indictment to the grand jury. Witnesses and suspects may be called to testify, but this will be done in private and without the benefit of additional attorneys.

Why You Need a Lawyer When Facing a Grand Jury

Grand juries are considered to be prosecutor friendly, with jurors only seeing and hearing the information that the prosecution would like them to. While the prosecution is supposed to additionally show evidence that may prove the innocence of the defendant, there is nothing requiring that they do so. Since no other side is presented, it is easy to sway the jury the way the prosecution would like.

Take it from a former prosecutor—when a grand jury is involved, you need as much legal help as you can get. If you are facing criminal charges, take action to defend your freedom right away!

Call Derek A. Adame, Attorney at Law for a free consultation today.

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