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Navigating the complexity of the grand jury process

On Behalf of | May 31, 2023 | Criminal Charges

To comprehend the American legal system, understanding the grand jury process becomes imperative. Originating in England and adopted by the United States as part of its Constitution, the grand jury system serves as a protective measure against unwarranted accusations and unnecessary trials.

Grand juries decide whether probable cause exists to believe a crime occurred and if the accused individual committed it. Here is a short dive into what a grand jury does.

Roles within the grand jury

In a grand jury, 16 to 23 individuals serve as jurors, making decisions based on the evidence presented to them. A foreperson presides over the proceedings, ensuring the rules get followed, while a court reporter documents the proceedings. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses to the grand jury without any opposition present.

Grand jury deliberations and decisions

The grand jurors examine the evidence and determine if it suffices to justify a formal accusation, known as an indictment. At least 12 grand jurors must agree for an indictment to happen. This part of the process occurs in secret to protect the accused’s reputation if the grand jury does not indict and to encourage witnesses to speak openly and honestly.

Grand juries function independently from the courts and the prosecution, but they do not determine guilt or innocence.

Contrasts with a trial jury

A grand jury differs significantly from a trial jury. A trial jury consists of 6 to 12 individuals who determine the guilt or innocence of an accused person during a public trial.

Significance of the grand jury process

The grand jury process holds an important place in the criminal justice system. It shields citizens from unfounded criminal prosecutions by determining if sufficient evidence exists to proceed to trial. Although its proceedings remain secretive, they serve a special role in maintaining fairness and justice.

The grand jury process demonstrates the system’s devotion to balance and fairness, ensuring that no individual faces trial without credible evidence of probable cause.


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