When is a grand jury used? 28 Answers as of July 08, 2013

When is a grand jury called (instead of a prosecutor just filing charges directly)? Do they have grand juries in all states?

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Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider
Law Office of Peter F. Goldscheider | Peter Goldscheider
The District Attorney in California has the option of taking a felony prosecution to a criminal grand jury for the issuance of an indictment. The matter would then proceed directly to trial if it was not resolved. In the alternative, he can proceed by complaint filed in the court. The latter would require a judge to find probable cause that a crime was committed at a preliminary hearing to get to the same place in the process. There are several reasons why a Da would use a grand jury:he wanted to proceed in secret and not reveal the name of his witnesses right away; he wanted to prevent the defense from not only knowing the evidence but also from allowing the witnesses to be crossexamined. In sum, there is no advantage to a defendant being indicted with the exception that hearsay is not permitted at a grand jury proceeding but can be at a preliminary hearing. There are other restrictions and rules too numerous to be listed here All states and the federal govenments have grand juries. They are subject to different rules and guidelines though many resemble the Ca. framework.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 10/25/2011
Law Office of Richard Williams
Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
I beleive all stats have a grand jury. A grand jury is a collection of qualified citizens from the jurisdiction where the charges occurred summoned by the District Attorney or State Attorney's office. They would besome of the evidence prsented in a number of cases and members would asked to vote on whether toindict or not. Where they vote to indictment, an indictment is returned. If they vote no, the charges are "no billed".
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 10/17/2011
Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
In Michigan a grand jury is rarely used but could be used. It is always used in the federal system. As to when various states use a grand jury, you would have to look at each state's statutes.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 10/13/2011
The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O.
The Law Office of Eric R. Chandler, P.C., L.L.O. | Eric R. Chandler
I depends on the state. In Nebraska, grand juries are typically only used in federal court or for special prosecutions (i.e. when a police officer is charged with misconduct).
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 7/8/2013
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
Yes there are Grand Juries in every state. In most, if not all, a GJ is used if the charge is a Felony. In theory, a GJ acts as a safety valve to keep a DA from wasting money when there is no reason to bring someone to trial.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 10/12/2011
    Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
    Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
    Grand juries are used for felonies not for misdemeanors. Felonies are crimes for which the punishment is a posssible jail sentence of more than 1 year in jail. Misdemeanors the punishment can not be for more than 1 year in jail.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    When ever they want to.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/8/2013
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law | Jason Overton
    Ok, here's the process. You're arrested and charged with a crime. You're case now goes to District Court. If your crime is a misdemeanor, then it can be resolved by a guilty plea or a bench trial (a trial before the judge - no jury) in District Court. Felony trials are not done in District Court, but they can take guilty pleas on felonies. So if you're charged with a felony, you can plead guilty in District Court. If you don't want to plead guilty, you'll have a date set for a preliminary hearing in District Court. This is just a hearing to see if there is "probable cause" to continue prosecuting the crime. Sometimes your attorney will want to go through the actual hearing, and sometimes he'll just waive the hearing. After this hearing date, the case is sent to the grand jury. The grand jury is a group of citizens that decide if there is enough evidence to support "probable cause" to continue the prosecution. Since the only people allowed to testify to the grand jury are the prosecution's witnesses, there is almost always an indictment ( a finding that there is probable cause) - hence the saying "you can indict a ham sandwich." After the grand jury comes back with an indictment, the case is given a new case number and a setting in Circuit Court, where felony jury trials can be held. So the grand jury isn't really a choice of how the prosecutor proceeds, it's just a step in the criminal justice system.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Michael Breczinski
    Michael Breczinski | Michael Breczinski
    Grand Juries are used as a matter of course in Federal Courts and they are called in special circumstances in State courts.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    In New York State the prosecutor must run a felony hearing or present the case to a Grand Jury within three days or you must be released with out bail. In Manhattan they use the Grand Jury. In Buffalo they use a felony hearing and the Grand Jury, depending on whether they want the lawyer to be able to cross-examine the witnesses and give them immunity. You have the right to testify at either proceeding unless it is a secret Grand Jury and you are not arrested first and advised of your right to testify. If the charge is a misdemeanor the prosecutor does not have to hold a felony hearing or use the Grand Jury. They simply use a criminal complaint which must then be converted to an information with a signed statement by the complainant or the arresting officer if he witnessed the crime.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin
    Law Office of Daniel K Martin | Daniel K Martin
    Very good question. All federal cases begin with a grand jury so most states have at least a federal grand jury. The law allows that criminal cases can begin with an indictment by a grand jury however many states have elected to use a complaint system instead of using grand juries. In California at least 98% of all criminal cases begin with the prosecutor filing a complaint instead of a grand jury indictment. When a case begins with a complaint instead of an indictment, defendants are entitled to an extra level of protection. They get a preliminary hearing within ten days of being arrested if they do not waive time. In California grand juries are used to perform a complete different function. They are used by counties to investigate and make recommendations about things like county spending and county practices. They can actually be very powerful because their power to investigate is nearly limitless. In rare situations a prosecutor may request a special grand jury to hear evidence and return a criminal indictment. Sometimes prosecutors use indictments for political reasons. For example, there may be a very influential person that is accused of a crime. The prosecutor can avoid risking potential political backlash for filing a complaint against someone if they end up not being convicted. I had a case once a few years ago where the prosecutor obtained an indictment because the three defendants were masters at dragging a case out. After four years of trying to do a preliminary hearing the D.A.'s office obtained an indictment and skipped the preliminary hearing all together.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
    GJ used when the DA decides to proceed , for whatever reason, in that manner. DA may want to avoid defense counsel questions, especially if he has a thin case or there are numerous defendants. Don't know if GJs are in all states as I do not practice in any state but California. Believe they do.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC | Patrick J. McDonnell
    A grand jury is composed of 16 to 23 people who sit to hear the prosecution's evidence and whether there is enough evidence to charge someone with a felony offense. That's their only job. A person cannot be forced to defend himself on a felony charge unless he or she has been indicted by a grand jury. It is a secret proceeding. The defendant has a right to testify, but in almost ALL cases, that would be stupid. It's a prosecutorial proceeding. Defense counsel, nor anyone besides witnesses, are allowed in. If the grand jury finds no credible evidence against an accused, they issue a "no bill" and he or she is off the hook. If they find any credible evidence to prove at trial, the "indict" the accused to stand trial. But the old saying is, "You can indict a ham sandwich."
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg
    Law Office of Eric Sterkenburg | Eric Sterkenburg
    Grand juries are used when the prosecution does not have enough evidence to convince a judge that the subject should be held to answer for a crime. It is also used when the prosecution is trying to charge more than two subjects. In a grand jury the jury only hears one side, the prosecutions side. The defendant is not allowed to present any evidence or cross examine the witnesses. The defendant is not allowed to be present and cannot be represented at the grand jury hearing. This lowers the bar so much that the prosecution almost always gets an indictment.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
    Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
    A Grand Jury is used in every state of the US. It consists of 16-21 people and it is used as a screening instrument when the prosecutor is about to charge someone with a felony. In fact, in order to be formally charged with a felony, every felony case must go before a Grand Jury to make sure there is reason to believe a felony has been committed and there is reason to believe that the subject of the presentment actually committed the felony. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C.
    Dennis Roberts, a P.C. | Dennis Roberts
    I would guess without knowing for sure that each state (and the feds) have grand juries. Why do they use them: It lets them avoid a preliminary hearing so they don't have to lay out part of their case. The feds do it in virtually every case. California rarely does it. In 46 years I have had about 5 cases go to the grand jury. Another reason (and I am doing this case right now) is that there are 10 defendants involved in various aspects of a marijuana grow some are connected and some are not. The DA, who really doesn't understand the case, would like to get a grand jury indictment and hope she can pressure some of these guys to plead.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Harden Law Offices
    Harden Law Offices | Leonard D. Harden
    All felonies require indictment by a grand jury in NH. Felonies can be started by complaints in district court, but only bind a person to the superior court.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 10/12/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    I believe that they do have grand juries in all states. A grand jury is used to lodge felony charges. A defendant can waive his or her right to be indicted by a grand jury.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    The prosecutor will decide to use a grand jury or file a complaint or other charging document.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Anytime they need to indict felony charges.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    No, they do not have grand juries in all states. Each state has its own requirements for calling a grand jury.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    Washington does not use Grand Juries in ordinary criminal cases. The prosecuting attorney in every county has the authority to charge a defendant using an information or citation. It is only the prosecutor and his deputies who can file and drop charges.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    I presume they have grand juries in all states, however, I know for a fact Illinois has them. Grand juries usually are used as a convenient tool in establishing a felony case, approving it for a trial to be held, this called a "true bill" The alternative is what is called a preliminary hearing, which is held before a judge, where he finds probable cause,or no probable cause, if the latter is the ruling, the prosecutor can still advance the case for trial by taking it to the grand jury. Clever, isn't it?
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    Every state has grand juries. They are usually used only in the most serious cases, particularly homicides or large financial theft/fraud cases.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    Generally, unless a person waives indictment, the prosecutor must present each felony case to the grand jury. Also, federal prosecutors generally use grand juries to help in the investigation of federal offenses. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 10/11/2011
    Levine & McHenry LLC
    Levine & McHenry LLC | Matthew McHenry
    Grand juries are used in felony cases. A district attorney can file a misdemeanor charge without a grand jury, but needs to get grand jury clearance on all felonies, unless the defendant waives the right to grand jury. The vast majority of states use this process.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 10/11/2011
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