Q. What is a Grand Jury?
A. A “Grand Jury” is a group of nine to 12 people, who meet and hear details about felony cases and decide whether there is sufficient evidence to continue the prosecutions of those cases. Unless at least nine of the grand jurors vote that there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a case, the grand jury foreperson issues a “no bill” and the charge is usually dismissed. Legal rules of the Texas grand jury system are very technical and it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney, particularly an attorney with experience successfully defending against sexual assault charges, before testifying or presenting evidence to a grand jury.
Q. What should I do if I get a Grand Jury Letter?
A. Consult a lawyer immediately. Felony charges are the legal equivalent of cancer on your life. A grand jury packet may or may night be the right strategic move in your case based on variables in your case. Only a qualified criminal defense lawyer can properly diagnose these types of issues.
Q. I just got a Grand Jury letter. What does that mean?
A. Prosecutors cannot charge someone with a felony merely because they want to. A grand jury is a body of citizens empaneled by a District Judge for a particular county that convenes regularly to hear cases and decide whether or not to issue a “true bill of indictment” or a “no bill.” To issue a “true bill,” the grand jury must vote that there is probable cause an offense occurred. Once the “true bill” is issued, a felony case is filed against the person. If you received a grand jury letter telling you that you have a matter being heard by a grand jury, then you are under criminal investigation.
Q. What happens at a Grand Jury?
A. Though a grand jury meeting is secretive by law, the grand jurors typically hear testimony and see evidence from cases and decide whether the evidence and law merit indictment (if there’s probable cause). A prosecutor typically presents the evidence to the grand jurors and makes their recommendation. Some prosecutors will allow defendant’s to submit a “grand jury packet” consisting usually of a legal brief, affidavits and/or evidence or exhibits for the grand jurors to also consider.
Q. What are my rights with regard to a Grand Jury?
A. Neither a criminal defendant nor their attorney has the right to be present for grand jury proceedings. While these rules seem extremely one-sided and unfair, understand the rationale behind a grand jury is that it’s very existence – in and of itself – is a crucial safeguard of the citizens from over-zealous prosecutors who would be made to clear the grand jury hurdle prior to indicting someone.
Q. Is there anything I can do if I’ve got a case going to the Grand Jury?
A. A defendant may be allowed to present to the grand jury what is known as a “grand jury packet.” This packet typically consists of a legal brief, affidavits under oath and/or evidence or exhibits for the grand jury to consider. Also, defendants can make themselves available to testify before the grand jury in their own defense, however, the grand jury is under no obligation to allow a person to testify in their own defense. In Collin County, the district attorney will not deal directly with people under grand jury investigation and will only deal with their attorneys to negotiate a “grand jury packet” or voluntary grand jury testimony.