What Happens During The Texas Grand Jury Process

grand jury

Under Texas criminal law, defendants have the right to have all felony criminal cases presented to a grand jury to determine if a felony criminal case may be formally charged. A Texas grand jury does not determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. It only determines if sufficient evidence exists to move forward with a formal criminal case and trial of a specific defendant for a specific crime. People who are the subject of grand jury proceedings have the right to have the attorney of their choice represent them throughout the grand jury process.

Grand Jury Proceedings Are Conducted In Private

Witnesses, members of the grand jury, prosecutors, and other participants are not allowed to discuss or reveal publicly any part of the testimony, the evidence, or the general existence of the proceedings . Secrecy over grand jury proceedings is intended to promote the willingness of witnesses to freely testify and to protect the privacy and reputation of potential felony case defendants before formal charges are authorized.

What Is The Grand Jury And How Does It Function?

Texas Grand Jury proceedings are controlled by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Prosecutors must follow the rules governing grand jury proceedings at all times.

Similar to ordinary trial jury duty, the members of the grand jury are chosen at random for grand jury service from the roll of registered voters in the county where the grand jury is to be seated.

What Happens During The Grand Jury Hearing?

The prosecutor has control of the conduct of the grand jury hearing. A defendant has a right to have an attorney present at the hearing, but only if a request is made of the prosecutor and the prosecutor allows the defendant’s attorney to present evidence at the hearing.

The prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury by explaining the proposed criminal charge and what the state has to prove in order to convict the defendant of the crime. The prosecutor can present statements from police reports, written evidence, and recordings. The grand jurors are allowed to ask questions of the prosecutor, and they can also formally request production of other evidence if they think it is needed. Because the hearing is not a trial of the defendant’s guilt, the prosecutor does not have to present any evidence that would be exculpatory or prove innocence.

The prosecutor can also call witnesses to offer live testimony about the alleged crime. Under normal circumstances, a grand jury hearing is completed in less than a day.

Should A Defendant Ask To Make A Presentation At The Grand Jury Hearing?

When it is possible, a defense presentation during the grand jury hearing can be very beneficial to a defendant. Depending on the situation, a defense presentation may be best made in writing rather than through testimony and statements. Grand jurors are allowed to ask defense attorneys questions, so when a strong argument can be made at the hearing, an indictment might be avoided altogether in some cases. Other times, an effective defense presentation can result in a lesser charge than the original felony sought by the prosecutor.

A defendant’s attorney is not normally allowed inside the grand jury hearing with the defendant but can be present nearby to advise and instruct the defendant.

What Are The Possible Outcomes Of A Grand Jury Proceeding?

If the grand jury determines that there is probable cause that a specific defendant committed a specified crime, they issue a written indictment. The indictment is the formal charge of a specified crime and leads to the beginning of the trial process on the charge.

If the grand jury declines to issue an indictment, they can enter a “no-bill” which declines to issue the indictment requested by the prosecutor. The grand jury may also indict the defendant on a lesser felony charge or a misdemeanor charge.

Contact An Experienced Criminal Attorney For Help With Your Grand Jury Case

When grand jury proceedings result in a felony indictment, a defendant must mount a defense against a criminal case that can result in a wide range of penalties, including imprisonment and fines. If you are called before a grand jury, you have the right to be represented by the attorney of your choice during the entire process.

The attorneys of Vinas & Graham, PLLC, are experienced in representing clients during all parts of the grand jury process. Contact the firm today if you have been called before a grand jury or are the subject of a grand jury investigation at (713) 229-9992. Please also follow our firm’s page on Facebook.

When Is Robbery A Federal Crime?

FEDERAL CRIMES

The crime of robbery is a type of theft crime. According to current law, robbery is considered to be a class of theft that includes some act of violence or the threat of violence against one or more persons while committing the theft.

In the American legal system, robbery is typically handled in state court as a crime against a particular state. Every state and other jurisdiction of the United States has a local state-level robbery law that enables prosecution of robbery in a state court. In addition to state-level robbery, under federal law, there are certain classes of robbery crimes that are prosecuted in federal court as crimes against the United States federal government.

The General Elements Of The Crime Of Robbery

The general elements of the crime of robbery are consistent throughout the United States. To be found guilty of robbery, the government must prove that a defendant:

  • Took property belonging to others,
  • With the intent to steal the property,
  • Directly from the other person or persons or in their presence,
  • Against the other person or persons’ will,
  • Using violence or the threat of violence.

Depending on the actual statute a defendant is charged under, the state may have additional elements of the charged crime that must be proven in court.

The key distinction between robbery and other theft crimes is the requirement that the theft is accomplished through direct personal violence or the threat of direct personal violence. Because violence is the core element of the crime, all robbery crimes are serious and carry significant penalties on conviction. The violence used in committing the crime does not have to be deadly violence.

ROBBERY

A jury can find that the government has proven the violence requirement if enough violence was used or threatened against a victim to force the victim to give up their property against their will. Every situation is different, and every jury must weigh the facts in evidence to determine if violence was used or threatened.

Federal Robbery Crimes

The United States has enacted a number of statutes that provide for certain robbery crimes against the federal government.

The following situations, in addition to the normal elements of the crime of robbery, can lead to prosecution under federal law:

  • Committing robbery by stealing any property belonging to the United States
  • Bank robbery (Banks are considered to be bank buildings and any building where a bank is located, for example inside a grocery store or big-box retailer)
  • Committing robbery against a federal employee or agent (for example, a postal employee)
  • Committing robbery of a controlled substance from any person registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency as a distributor of controlled substances (for example, robbing drugs from a pharmacy)
  • Carjacking any vehicle that can be used on interstate highways (this statute applies to a robbery of any vehicle that is used on the public roadways)

Federal robbery statutes can legally apply when the victim of the crime is a federal officer or someone registered to handle federal property or controlled substances under the law, or when the items that are stolen are either federal property or used in interstate transportation or commerce.

Sentencing And Penalties For Federal Robbery

Federal robbery crimes carry from ten years up to the death penalty under certain circumstances (for example, bank robbery resulting in death) per conviction.

FEDERAL CRIMES

Following a federal conviction, sentencing is always conducted by the federal trial judge. Unlike the Texas state court, there is no provision under federal law for the jury to conduct any sentencing. Federal sentencing is governed by sentencing guidelines under federal law and is very different than sentencing under state law. Understanding the multiple layers of federal sentencing is an essential tool for an effective federal criminal defense attorney in properly representing and advising a client facing a federal robbery case.

Contact An Experienced Federal Criminal Attorney To Defend You Against Federal Robbery Charges

A robbery charge under federal law involves all the complexities of the federal criminal court system. Defending against federal crimes involves criminal statutes and sentencing guidelines that are entirely different from the Texas state criminal court system. Effective defense of charges in federal court requires the help of an attorney who is experienced in the federal system.

It is also essential that you consult with an experienced federal criminal attorney as soon as possible when you have been arrested or questioned in connection to a federal robbery case. Moving quickly is key to protecting your rights, preserving essential evidence, and developing an effective defense to a federal case.

Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC, today if you or a loved one has been charged with robbery in federal criminal court at (713) 229-9992. You can also follow us on Facebook.