20 Most Common Questions About a Grand Jury Indictment

A grand jury indictment is a formal accusation that initiates criminal proceedings against an individual or entity. This process involves a group of citizens, known as the grand jury, who review evidence presented by prosecutors to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. Unlike a trial jury, which decides the guilt or innocence of the accused, a grand jury’s role is to evaluate whether sufficient evidence exists to bring charges. This confidential proceeding plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system, ensuring that cases proceed to trial based on a foundation of solid evidence.

Here are the 20 most common questions people often ask about a grand jury indictment, along with their answers:

1. What is a grand jury indictment?

Answer: A grand jury indictment is a formal accusation issued by a grand jury stating there is enough evidence to charge someone with a crime.

2. How does a grand jury work?

Answer: A grand jury is a group of citizens who hear evidence presented by prosecutors and decide whether there is enough probable cause to charge someone with a crime.

3. How many jurors are in a grand jury?

Answer: A grand jury typically consists of 16 to 23 jurors, depending on the jurisdiction.

4. What is the difference between a grand jury and a trial jury?

Answer: A grand jury determines whether there is enough evidence to indict someone, while a trial jury (petit jury) decides the guilt or innocence of the defendant in a trial.

5. Can a grand jury indictment be challenged?

Answer: Yes, a defendant can file a motion to dismiss the indictment, often arguing issues such as lack of evidence or procedural errors.

6. Are grand jury proceedings public?

Answer: No, grand jury proceedings are typically secret to protect the confidentiality of the investigation and the privacy of those involved.

7. What happens after a grand jury indictment?

Answer: After an indictment, the accused is formally charged and will proceed to an arraignment where they enter a plea. The case then moves forward to trial unless a plea deal is reached.

8. Can a grand jury indict someone without enough evidence?

Answer: In theory, a grand jury should not indict without sufficient evidence. However, the standard of proof is lower than in a trial, requiring only probable cause.

9. Do defendants have the right to testify before a grand jury?

Answer: Defendants generally do not have the right to testify before a grand jury, although they may request to do so. Their attorney cannot be present in the grand jury room.

10. What role does the prosecutor play in a grand jury?

Answer: The prosecutor presents evidence, calls witnesses, and advises the grand jury on legal matters. The prosecutor has significant influence over the proceedings.

11. How long does a grand jury investigation take?

Answer: The duration of a grand jury investigation varies widely, from a few days to several months, depending on the complexity of the case.

12. Can a grand jury indict someone for any crime?

Answer: Grand juries can indict individuals for most felonies. For misdemeanors, different procedures are typically followed.

13. What is the standard of proof for a grand jury indictment?

Answer: The standard of proof for a grand jury to indict is “probable cause,” meaning a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed and the accused person is responsible.

14. Can a grand jury decision be appealed?

Answer: Generally, the decision to indict cannot be appealed. However, defendants can challenge the indictment in court through pre-trial motions.

15. Are grand jury members paid?

Answer: Yes, grand jury members receive a small stipend or compensation for their service, which varies by jurisdiction.

16. Can someone refuse to testify before a grand jury?

Answer: Witnesses can refuse to testify by invoking their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. They may also be granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

17. What happens if a grand jury does not indict?

Answer: If a grand jury does not indict (returns a “no bill”), the charges are dropped, and the accused is not prosecuted on those charges. However, the prosecutor can sometimes present the case to another grand jury.

18. Do all criminal cases go to a grand jury?

Answer: Not all criminal cases go to a grand jury. Some jurisdictions use preliminary hearings instead to determine probable cause.

19. How are grand jurors selected?

Answer: Grand jurors are selected randomly from the pool of eligible citizens in the jurisdiction, similar to the selection process for trial juries.

20. What is the difference between an indictment and an information?

Answer: An indictment is issued by a grand jury, while an information is a formal charge issued by a prosecutor without the involvement of a grand jury. Informations are often used for less serious crimes.

If you have any more specific questions or need further details, feel free to ask!