What is A Grand Jury?

  • A grand jury is a group of people that convenes for the sole purpose of deciding whether probable cause exists to prosecute a felony case
  • Grand juries are completely different than trial juries
  • Grand juries are impaneled in both federal and state courts

Federal Grand Jury – Essential Information:

  • The sole purpose of the grand jury is to determine whether or not probable cause exists in the matter at hand
  • It is the judge’s role to both select and swear in the members of the grand jury – lawyers have no input
  • The number of grand jurors varies between 16 and 23
  • Unlike trial jurors, grand jurors are not screened for bias
  • Grand jury proceedings take place in complete secrecy
  • Unlike other proceedings, rules of evidence do not apply
  • Only the U.S. Attorney presents the evidence to the grand jurors and no judge is present during the proceedings
  • Defense attorneys are not allowed in the courtroom during proceedings, nor can they present a case or evidence
  • Proceedings that transpire in the grand jury proceedings may not be revealed outside of the courtroom

Federal Grand Jury Procedure

  • There must be at least 16 of the 23 members present to proceed; this is known as a quorum
  • If there are less than 16 grand jurors, the court must break
  • Witnesses may testify in the proceedings
  • Witnesses are questioned by the prosecutor – as well as by the jurors
  • Evidence is submitted to the jurors for their review
  • The person who is the subject of the investigation may testify but may not be forced to testify against himself, as he is afforded the constitutional protection against self-incrimination
  • After all evidence is admitted and all testimony is given, the grand jurors will privately deliberate as to whether probable cause exists in the matter at hand
  • There must be a minimum of 16 present jurors and 12 voting to indict

Serving on A Grand Jury

Grand Jury Service Time Varies:

  • A grand juror may be required to serve for up to 18 months; this may be extended for another 18 months
  • Each state has varying time requirements
  • Grand juries sit only on particular occasions, depending on when the needs and circumstances involved
  • Grand juries may convene once a week, once every two weeks, once a month or otherwise, depending on the caseload

Grand Jury Reform:

  • Colorado statute allows legal defense counsel to be present in grand jury proceedings
  • Colorado also requires that counsel be appointed to witnesses who are unable to afford private counsel
  • New York is one of the few states that also requires “the appointment of counsel to targets, subjects, or witnesses” during grand jury proceedings

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law