When many Florida residents think of having criminal charges brought against them, they think of standing trial in front of a judge and jury. While this scenario is certainly often the case, many steps take place first, including the decision to formally indict someone on charges. If police have arrested you for a crime, a grand jury may need to make the decision whether to move forward with an indictment.
A grand jury differs from a trial jury in many ways, and a grand jury may not necessarily play a role in your criminal case. In fact, the use of a grand jury typically occurs if authorities have charged a person for a serious felony.
What does a grand jury do?
As mentioned, a grand jury decides whether to indict an accused person on a serious charge. This jury can consist of 16 to 23 people in the federal criminal justice system. These individuals do not have to witness the prosecution and the defense going back and forth, and they also do not have to appear before a judge. Instead, the members of the grand jury only hear from the prosecutor.
The prosecutor's role in this part of the process is to explain the applicable area of law, present testimony and gather evidence. The presentation of information to a grand jury does not have to comply with the strict rules that the presentation to a trial jury does. Additionally, the grand jury proceedings are not open to the public, which works to protect witnesses and the defendant alike.
Is the grand jury's decision final?
Grand jury proceedings are important parts of serious criminal cases, but the decision the members come to may not necessarily be final. For instance, if a grand jury decides not to indict you on criminal charges, it does not mean that the court will absolve you. The prosecution could still move forward with trial if a strong enough case exists. In this scenario, the prosecution must present evidence to the trial judge as to why the case should move forward.
After facing a charge for a serious felony, you will likely benefit from gaining as much information about your ordeal as possible. In addition to understanding grand jury proceedings, you may wish to obtain knowledge about the specific charges you face, other steps in the legal proceedings and your options for defense.