Jury SystemWhat is a Grand Jury Indictment? (Ultimate Guide)

May 2, 20200

What is an indictment?

An indictment is an allegation which has been made against you that you have committed a crime. The indictment simply means that now you’ve officially been charged and the lawyer starts to defend you when you go forward and challenge the standards of probable cause. Someone has accused you of a crime and the matter has been taken to a grand jury.

It’s a very big gap to beyond a reasonable doubt where you are found not guilty at that point. So just because you’ve been indicted does not mean that you did anything wrong, you are cloaked with the presumption of innocence and you have the right to fight your case.

A grand jury, it’s not like what we see on television where both sides present their cases, a grand jury only has the prosecutor and the prosecutors witnesses and evidence there they present their case and then they simply ask do we have probable cause to indict this person.

It’s a very low standard; it’s not beyond a reasonable doubt that we see on TV and is what someone needs to be found guilty in a court of law.

What does a grand jury indictment mean?

Indictment is the formal charging document, if you’ve been indicted by the grand jury that means the neutral decision party, the members of the grand jury actually, have found probable cause against you. 

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

a jury or a judge has to review that evidence in advance and make sure that there’s probable cause to put you through that.

How long does a grand jury indictment take?

According to the previous law, the person could sometimes sit in jail so they’re only supposed to be held for six months than had to be indicted. Sometimes people were there longer. Now according to new bail reform within 90 days of being charged and waiting in the county you have to be indicted or the case has to be dismissed against you and that’s very good for a defendant.

When it comes down to the law recently changed. There’s new bail reform, it’s actually good for defendants because in the past before the bail Reform which recently took place prior to 2017.

What happens after the grand jury issues an indictment?

What happens if you are indicted?

 It seems very scary and people are in the system sometimes think that their case is now become more serious because a grand jury has indicted them. That is not necessarily the case.

What you have to do if you have been indicted?

What is gonna happen actually, the court will fix a date for your hearing and then you will have to appear before the court for the arraignment and the judge will determine whether you need to hire your private counsel or you need to have a public defender.

Then the judge will complete some information before the arraignment date and if you qualify for public defender then the court will assign a public defender for you.

Typically in custody, the person who’s going to be coming before the judge will go through the exact same proceeding as somebody who is out of custody.

The only difference being is the judge is not going to be handling any release conditions at that stage. Your person is going to remain in custody at that point in time.

Now if you have been indicted, it’s very important that you speak with an attorney to determine what route you want your case to take at this point. You may be determining that you want to go to trial.

You can also discuss with your counsel how strong the evidence is. And also how much it would be beneficial for you to accept a plea.

What does it mean when a case goes to a grand jury?

When a case goes to the grand jury, it means the grand jury is going to determine whether the state has sufficient evidence to prosecute you in a criminal trial or not.

If there is a lack of evidence against you then the grand jury is empowered to make the reference in your favour.

Sometimes, people think that when the case goes to the grand jury, it will indict you but it is not the proceedings actually. In the secret proceedings, if the prosecutor fails to prove the probable cause against you, the state will have no right to prosecute you.

I think 91% of the cases presented to a grand jury get indicted. So the 23 members, half of them which means 12, think that there might be some evidence, so then it gets indicted.

What does it mean when you’ve been indicted?

Perhaps you began in General Sessions Criminal Court and you either had a preliminary hearing or you did not have a preliminary hearing and you can leave your case. There’s a process where the district attorney’s office presents their evidence to a grand jury which is a body composed of men and women. Then they see the proof put together by the state and they decide whether it would be appropriate for the state to go forward in Criminal Court.

Now it’s very rare for a charge that’s presented to the grand jury not to be indicted.

Why is that?

Because it is at one silent presentation you’re not able to go to the grand jury hearing. You are not allowed to go to the grand jury hearing. It is only a one-sided presentation by witness’s law enforcement and the prosecution and they’re asking men and women in the community whether they should be able to go forward.

Now most people in the grand jury feel like they’re still going to get a trial in Criminal Court. So if we have just an idea that person may be guilty we’re going to go ahead and give the state permission to go forward.

Why am I asking this information? I’m telling you about this because people call me often and they say I’ve just been indicted. I don’t understand exactly what that means for you is you’re going to get indicted and you’re going to get a court date and you have to have a new attorney in Criminal Court.

It may be the one that you had in General Sessions or if you had an important turn, you make it a new maternity appointment but it’s a new proceeding and you’re going to have to get representation because you’re up in Criminal Court.


How do grand jury indictments work?

Indictment is the formal charge issued by the grand jury if there is probable cause of proceeding the trial is found against the defendant. When the grand jury recommends the indictment, the prosecution is duty bound to prove such accusations determined by the grand jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

How long between indictment and trial?

That actually depends upon the statute of limitations varies state to state but in general if you’re in jail, the trial will take place after the 10 days after your indictment. But if you’re on bail then it may take about 20 days to attend the preliminary hearings in the trial. 

How long does it take to get indicted?

According to the law of the United States, when you get arrested then the prosecution is duty bound to present its case before the grand jury within the 6 months for your indictment. However, the time period for the Federal level and State level is different. The statute of limitation provides the limit of 5 years for the Federal level and almost 3 years for the State level.

State level indictment in New Jersey

An indictment does not apply to municipal court charges. It only applies to indictable Superior Court charges.

After you get charged with a crime it doesn’t mean you’re guilty because you’re presumed innocent, however, if they have probable cause that you may have committed a crime you get a charge and the majority of states don’t have indictments on the state level but New Jersey is one that does it’s a process that’s supposed to protect the accused.


How does a Grand Jury work?

The option for charges for a prosecutor that he 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 to 23 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, you don’t get to go but you can ask to go and the grand jury will make a decision about if they want to hear from you. 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. 

So the grand jury hears the evidence which normally involves just a police officer or detective on the stand being questioned by a prosecutor and the only people in the room are the members of the grand jury.

A prosecutor, usually a cop or a detective of some type or other witness potentially and a court reporter. No defendant, no defense attorney, no judge and 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 advice 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 that whether there probable cause to indict 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 gonna 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. 

What actually is an indictment ?

What are the effects of it?

What does it mean? 

First of all an indictment does not apply to municipal court charges. It only applies to indictable Superior Court charges.  

After you get charged with a crime it doesn’t mean you’re guilty because you’re presumed innocent however if they have probable cause that you may have committed a crime you get a charge. The majority of states believe it or not they don’t have indictments on the state level but New Jersey is one that does. It’s a process that’s supposed to protect the person accused.

However in reality it is very easy to get an indictment. There’s a cliché saying that even a lousy prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich, it’s very easy getting indictment.

23 people from the community hear evidence. It could be hearsay evidence, the defendants were not allowed to be there, the defense attorneys were not allowed to be there and after hearing it if the jury thinks that there’s a possibility they may be involved which is almost in just about every single case.

An indictment is not evidence of a crime but it’s a step in a procedure that then brings it to the next level which is usually an arraignment status conference then you have to ultimately make a choice we’re going to take a plea or we are going to contest the trial.

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