A Grand Jury Indictment Explained

A Grand Jury Indictment Explained

March 16, 2020

You’ve probably heard of a grand jury before, but many people don’t know how they work, when they might be used and what makes them different from regular criminal complaints—or that they’re very different than a trial jury.

So, what is a grand jury indictment in Lubbock, TX? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a grand jury indictment?

Grand juries are one way a prosecutor may choose to file charges against a criminal defendant. In regular state court criminal cases, prosecutors would decide whether there’s probable cause to file a complaint, or “the information”—a list of charges—to which the defendant pleads guilty, not guilty or no contest. Legal proceedings may then continue depending on their plea. A preliminary hearing is usually the next order of business, which operates similarly to a grand jury: the prosecution must show that there’s enough evidence, through witness testimony and other evidence, that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and the defendant is the person who did it.

In federal felony cases, probable cause must be determined by a grand jury, unless the accused has already waived that right. State prosecutors may also opt to use grand juries if they so choose.

While in normal state court proceedings, a prosecutor makes the initial probable cause determination and simply files the paperwork with the court, a grand jury is almost like a mini-trial. Jurors (usually between 16 and 23 people) are chosen from the local jury pool, and they will hear testimony and evidence to determine whether the government has probable cause to indict (charge) the defendant. Unlike preliminary hearings, grand juries are private proceedings, and the defendant usually doesn’t have the right to appear or to cross examine witnesses. Grand juries may also hear evidence that would be inadmissible at trial. The idea behind this is to make witnesses feel safe enough to speak freely, while protecting the defendant’s image and reputation if the grand jury decides there’s not enough evidence to indict.

Grand juries tend to indict defendants more often than not, although the government isn’t required to prosecute even if they do. However, even if the grand jury votes not to indict, the prosecutor can still bring charges after they have presented probable cause to a judge. Similar to preliminary hearings, many prosecutors use grand juries as trial test-drives, hoping to see how others react to the strength of their case and the evidence.

Although grand juries are good test runs for prosecutors, and most grand juries vote to indict, that does not guarantee a conviction, which is why you need a lawyer for the rest of the proceedings.

Fight grand jury indictments in Lubbock, TX

If you’ve been on the receiving end of a grand jury indictment in Lubbock, TX, you need a skilled lawyer fast. The Law Office of Rob Biggers provides zealous, skilled legal representation when you need it. From criminal to family law, our team is dedicated to fighting for you in and out of court. Call us today to set up a consultation.

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