Federal Grand Juries
Federal grand juries are groups of between 16 and 23 citizens who meet together to determine whether probable cause exists to issue a charging document, which is also known as an indictment, against a defendant. Grand juries play an integral part in most federal criminal cases, so it is important for those who are being investigated for involvement in a federal crime to have a thorough understanding of their purpose and powers. If you want to learn more about your own indictment, you should consider speaking with an experienced federal crime lawyer about your case as soon as possible.
What Happens when a Grand Jury Meets?
Federal grand jury proceedings are usually initiated by an opening statement made by the Assistant U.S. Attorney, in which he or she will lay out the evidence against the accused. Afterwards, the prosecutor will call witnesses to testify against the accused, although in some cases, only the case agent responsible for investigating the crime will testify. Unlike in regular court proceedings, hearsay is admissible during grand jury proceedings, so case agents who investigate offenses are permitted to testify about what their research revealed. This often includes an explanation of the physical evidence collected at the scene, statements made by both the witnesses and the accused, and any other relevant information.
The evidence presented by the Assistant U.S. Attorney is usually much less extensive than the proof provided during a regular trial. This is because they are only required to establish probable cause to obtain an indictment and not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much more difficult standard to meet. The citizens who make up the grand jury are also permitted to question the witnesses directly, after which, they will deliberate and discuss the indictment before signing or refusing to sign it.
Who Can be Present During Grand Jury Proceedings?
Unlike regular trials, only the grand jurors, the prosecutor, a court reporter, and the witness called to testify are entitled to be in the grand jury room. This group does not include the person being charged or his or her criminal defense attorney. In fact, not even judges are permitted to be in grand jury proceedings. The result of all these rules is a one-sided experience for the prosecution who faces no opposition from the defendant’s legal team.
Why do Grand Juries Exist?
Grand juries are specifically charged with determining whether probable cause for a criminal charge exists, and if it does, issuing an indictment, which in turn, allows the case to proceed to court. This doesn’t mean that the accused has been found guilty, but that enough evidence exists to proceed with arrest and prosecution. Only when a defendant agrees to waive his or her right to an indictment for a federal felony charge can a prosecutor avoid taking a case before a federal grand jury.
Call or Send Us an Online Message
To speak with dedicated Miami federal crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. about your own potential indictment, please call 305-670-9919 or send us an online message today.