A grand jury is a group of impartial citizens who hear only the state/government side of a case to determine whether there is enough evidence for a person to be brought to trial for a crime. The standard of proof in a grand jury is probable cause - an articulable set of facts indicating someone has committed a crime. A grand jury does not provide a verdict. The decision of the grand jury is an indictment, which is a decision that the defendant should prosecuted for the offense charged.
Important facts about grand jury proceedings
- Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public - they are held in secret by law
- Defendants and their attorneys do not have the right to appear before the grand jury but may be able to make statements when a DA agrees
- A grand jury typically consists of 12-16 people
Is an indictment a conviction?
No, a grand jury indictment is not a conviction. If you are indicted by a grand jury, you will have the opportunity to present your case to the court, or jury, before a determination of guilt or innocence is made.
A conviction requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. The indictment process does not require this level of proof and can instead rely on circumstantial evidence or even hearsay statements from witnesses who are unknown to the defendant. It is important for anyone facing a grand jury indictment to learn as much as they can about what happens during the trial process so they're better prepared when it comes time for their day in court.
An indictment by a grand jury is also called a True Bill. If the grand jury does not find sufficient probable cause, the grand jury will return a No Bill. If you are indicted by a grand jury, it is imperative to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Crimes That Will Trigger a Grand Jury Indictment
In Louisiana, a grand jury reviews the evidence in certain felony cases, all where the possible punishment is death or life in prison. The Fifth Amendment requires a grand jury indictment for federal felony prosecutions.
Some of the most common charges heard in front of a grand jury are:
- Armed Robbery
- and many felonies where there is a significant question as to the evidence
This is not an exclusive list, as there are other felony crimes. Understanding the types of crimes that are sent to a grand jury, however, gives you a better idea of how the system works.
What To Expect After Indictment
A grand jury is different from a regular trial in that the prosecutor only needs to convince the jury members there is enough evidence for a finding of probable cause.
We hope this article has assisted you and informed you on what to expect. However, if you are facing an indictment, it's best to consult with an attorney who specializes in criminal defense. A criminal defense attorney is your best option for how to handle a grand jury indictment in Louisiana.
If you find yourself under an indictment in the state of Louisiana, call The Ambeau Law Firm today.