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.