After police arrested you for suspecting that you had involvement in a crime, you likely knew that you would have a difficult road ahead of you. However, whether formal charges come against you may depend on a number of factors, including the outcomes of a presentation to a grand jury.
If you think that a regular jury and a grand jury have the same duties, you do not have the right information. While the two juries do work on criminal cases, they differ in many ways. In fact, a grand jury may decide whether authorities should file formal charges against you for a specific crime.
Deciding on charges
In order for a grand jury to decide whether a case warrants formal charges, the prosecution will present evidence to the jury. While this action is similar to what takes place during a criminal trial, the grand jury does not weigh in on guilt or innocence. Instead, the grand jury hears the evidence and convenes privately to discuss that evidence and to determine whether to indict you on the proposed charges.
While a regular jury typically consists of six to 12 jurors, a grand jury can utilize up to 23 jurors. Additionally, a regular jury's decision regarding guilt or innocence commonly needs to be unanimous, but a grand jury only needs a majority vote to determine whether authorities should formally charge a person. Grand juries do not serve on public trials, and neither you nor your attorney would be present during any grand jury proceedings.
True bill or no bill
When presenting to a grand jury, the prosecution provides a bill of the charges. When making their decision, the jury members will either return a "true bill," which means that they believe you should face indictment, or a "no bill," which means that the jury does not believe you should face charges. However, even if a grand jury returns a no bill, the prosecution could return to the grand jury with new evidence in hopes of obtaining a true bill, or the prosecution could request a new grand jury.
Additionally, even without a true bill, or indictment, the prosecution could still file criminal charges against you. If this happens, a preliminary hearing would take place in order for the prosecution to present evidence to a judge to show that the case warrants a trial.
Even if authorities have not indicted you and though you play no role in grand jury hearings, you would still benefit from obtaining help from the moment authorities suspect you of a crime. Having a Louisiana attorney on your side could help you understand these preliminary steps and how any jury outcome or hearing could affect your case.