Grand Jury Indictment – What It Means

Let’s talk about what a grand jury indictment is grand jury indictment is. Grand Judy indictment in Arizona is the other option for charges for a prosecutor. Prosecutor can either file a direct complaint which will lead to the preliminary hearing or they can take your case to the grand jury. Grand jury is going to be 12 citizens who sit on the grand jury it’s a secret proceeding. You don’t have a right to be there. You don’t have a right to present any evidence you don’t get to go your defense attorney doesn’t get to go you can ask to go and the grand jury will make a decision about if they want to hear from you that’s if you know about the grand jury process but you will not be told that the case is going to be brought to a grand jury most of the time.

So the grand jury hears the evidence which normally involves just a police officer or detective on the stand questioned by a prosecutor the only people in the room are the members of the grand jury, a prosecutor usually a cop, and or a detective of some type or other witness potentially and a court reporter, no defendant no defense attorney no judge.

At this particular proceeding what happens is the grand jury listens to the evidence, they can ask questions if they want and they usually do they get advised about what the law is and then they deliberate, they discuss among themselves the evidence that they just heard they’re not to determine whether you’re guilty or not guilty but the purpose is—is there probable cause to indict an indictment, an indictment is the official charging document.

And so as long as nine of those twelve members of the grand jury say yes we want to indict they will then make a decision about what charges are going to be brought. They can add charges, they can subtract charges, they don’t have to follow what the prosecutor presents and they return what’s called a true bill–which means that the grand jury has indicted then you’ll see an indictment and that indictment is the formal charging document. If you’ve been indicted by the grand jury that means that the neutral decision party, the members of the grand jury, have found probable so you won’t get a preliminary hearing.

In the federal system all cases will proceed by grand jury indictment unless you waive your right to a grand jury. In the state system it’ll either be a grand jury indictment or you’ll get a direct complaint and you’ll have a right to a preliminary hearing. But in essence think about it as it’s the finding of probable cause. So, this is a protection that you have under both the federal constitution and the state constitution that in essence amounts to before you’re forced to defend against a felony prosecution which is a big deal somebody neutral either the members of the grand jury or a judge has to review that evidence in advance and make sure that there’s probable cause to put you through that. That’s what the grand jury is about.