A grand jury is a 12-person panel of randomly-chosen individuals from the registered voters in the county in which a court presides. This is not the same type of jury that hears evidence and decides guilt or innocence in a criminal trial. The purpose of a grand jury is to decide whether there is probable cause that an individual committed a certain crime sufficient to proceed with felony criminal charges against that person for the crime. If the jury determines that probable cause exists, then they vote for an indictment, or a formal accusation of a crime. This means that the District Attorney will proceed with the prosecution of the case. On the other hand, if the jury determines that there is not probable cause, then they will vote for a no-bill, or no bill of indictment. In this situation, the District Attorney will dismiss the case and there will be no prosecution.
What’s a Grand Jury?
Grand jury proceedings are held in secret. The defendant, or the person who is accused of the crime, and his or her attorney are not permitted to be present during the grand jury proceedings unless the District Attorney allows the defendant to testify or make a written submission of evidence related to the case. The District Attorney explains the charges that they are seeking against the defendant, ensures that they understand the elements of the crime involved, and gives a brief run-down of the facts of the case and the evidence in support of probable cause.
To serve as a grand juror, you cannot have pending criminal charges and you cannot have a past conviction for a felony or any misdemeanor that involves moral turpitude. Grand jurors usually serve a term of about three months, during which they come to the courthouse for a couple of days each week to consider probable cause in various criminal cases.
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