Many people don’t understand why some individuals are simply arrested and charged for crimes, while other cases are brought before the grand jury in order to decide if charges will be forthcoming and if a person will be indicted or not. It’s important to know why a grand jury is convened, how it works, and what you should expect.
What is a Grand Jury, and What is the Purpose?
A grand jury is similar to a typical jury; however, its purpose is to see if there is probable cause for a case to go forward rather than to decide if a person is guilty or not guilty during a trial. If the grand jury decides that there is probable cause, they will vote to indict the case.
If the jury decides there isn’t probable cause that a criminal offense has been committed, they will vote to issue what’s called a no-bill, meaning the case would typically be dismissed and the prosecutor would not be able to proceed with the case.
The purpose, therefore, is to see if the prosecution can move forward and bring a defendant to trial.
How Does The Grand Jury Work?
In Texas, there are typically 12 people in the grand jury. There’s no judge present; the prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury so they can decide if there’s enough evidence to indict and bring a case forward.
The defendant is not permitted to have an attorney present in the proceeding since it isn’t a trial, and not all of the constitutional rights granted during a regular trial will apply. Even more concerning is the fact that grand jury proceedings are private; the prosecutor is the only lawyer in the room.
Prosecutor Not Required to Present Exculpatory Evidence to the Grand Jury
Another very concerning factor in a grand jury proceeding is the fact that the prosecutor is not required to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.
This means that if the prosecutor has evidence that might tend to show the defendant isn’t guilty of the crime they’re trying to receive an indictment on, the prosecutor doesn’t have to provide this evidence to the jury, which is definitely worrisome. However, those are the grand jury rules.
Only 9 Jurors Required for Indictment
Finally, another important factor to note is that the jury vote does not have to be unanimous. To move forward from the grand jury to a regular trial, only nine members of the grand jury have to vote for an indictment in order to bring criminal charges.
When comparing this to an actual trial, it’s very different. In order to be found guilty at a standard trial, all jurors have to agree on the outcome.
Vinas & Graham, PLLC Is Here For You
If you or a loved one has been arrested and you’re wondering whether there will be a grand jury proceeding, what it means, and how to properly deal with it, Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. Any kind of criminal proceeding can be incredibly frightening, and they’re always here for you.
Both Attorney Vinas and Attorney Graham handle federal crimes as well and are both former felony chief prosecutors, which gives them a unique perspective on defending criminal charges. Call the law firm of Vinas & Graham today at 713-229-9992 for a consultation or fill out the online contact form for a callback. You can also follow them on Facebook to learn more about their firm and everything they do to help their clients.