Most people understand what a jury is, but few people have a good understanding of a grand jury and its role in the criminal justice system process.
Keep reading for a full guide to the grand jury process in Texas.
What Is a Grand Jury?
A grand jury, like a trial jury, is made up of 12 citizens. In Texas, they must be citizens of the county where the grand jury sits. They also need to know how to read and write and can’t be currently facing any criminal charges.
There should be a broad range of people on the jury, not just a group of similar people.
The most common task the grand jury has is to listen to facts of the case and then to determine if there is probable cause for the charges the defendant is facing.
The grand jury also has an investigative function. They can assist the district attorney in finding evidence to support charging a defendant. They can also investigate matters on their own without the district attorney directing them.
How Is a Grand Jury Selected?
Grand jurors are selected much like trial jurors. The jury pool is created from a list of all registered voters in the county where the grand jury will be presiding.
You can’t have any prior felony convictions or misdemeanors involving moral turpitude (like theft or lewdness).
How Does a Grand Jury Work?
Once a grand jury is impaneled, they serve for approximately 3 months. Unlike trial juries, grand juries serve for a longer period of time, coming to the courthouse a few days a week. Trial juries hear one case and they are done, but grand juries might make decisions to indict a defendant on many different cases.
Another big difference between grand juries and trial juries is that grand juries don’t decide guilt or innocence; they only decide the probable cause.
If they think that there is probable cause, then they vote to indict the defendant. An indictment is a charging document for a felony offense. In Texas, 9 of the 12 grand jury members must vote affirmatively to indict a defendant.
All of the grand jury proceedings take place in secret; not even the defendant or their attorney can be present unless the district attorney allows it.
If the grand jury decides that there is probable cause and they support indicting a defendant, it is known as a true bill.
If they do not believe there is probable cause, it is no-bill. The prosecutor can try again in the event of a no-bill, however, although often times this means that the case will be dismissed.
Are you Facing a Grand Jury?
Have you been charged with a felony and are facing the potential of a grand jury hearing your case? Contact us today to see how we can help.
We have a number of different practice areas, including robbery, DWI, domestic violence, gun and drug charges, murder and manslaughter, and unlawful arrest or search and seizure.