What is a Grand Jury and what does it do?

| Feb 18, 2021 | Firm News

I recently attended a bond hearing for a client where the court set a bond and conditions for release. Once the client posted the bond, he called me and asked “So what is the next step?” I told him that his case would now be sent to the Grand Jury for review of possible felony charges. He then asked “What’s a grand jury and what does it do?” Great question. In plain English, a grand jury is a legal body composed of ordinary citizens that determines whether there is enough evidence to file formal criminal charges. State grand juries are usually composed of 6 to 12 people, while federal grand juries are typically composed of 16 to 23 people. In a grand jury, a prosecutor presents an accusation and supporting evidence which may include witness testimony or documents. The grand jury then votes on whether there is probable cause to file criminal charges. Unlike other court proceedings which are open to the public, grand jury proceedings take place in secret. Neither an accused nor their defense lawyer appears before a grand jury. The grand jury is designed to be a check on the power of the Government and the prosecutor, by making certain that there is probable cause for the filing of criminal charges. If the grand jury votes in favor of charges, an indictment containing those charges is then issued.