When we think of being charged with a crime, we typically think of a district attorney or other prosecutor making the decision to bring charges against a criminal defendant. A grand jury, however, is comprised of citizens who are called to make the determination as to whether prosecutors should pursue a criminal case. What a grand jury is, how it works, and what it means if you are being investigated by one remains a mystery to most people.
Investigation to Indictment
Prosecutors use grand juries to investigate suspicions of criminal activity. If the grand jury determines there is enough probable cause to file criminal charges, it has the power to return an indictment. In this way, individuals can be charged with a crime without being arrested or caught breaking the law.
Federal grand juries have a maximum limit of 23 members, however, the law only requires 16 for a quorum. Additionally, 12 or more federal grand jurors can return an indictment. Similarly, in Mississippi state court, only 12 grand jurors who believe sufficient evidence has been presented to support an indictment are needed to return what’s called a “True Bill.”
For the most part, grand juries operate completely independently, although they are closely controlled by the prosecutor and the agents who present the evidence in order to secure an Indictment.
Grand jury proceedings are conducted without the usual due process requirements guaranteed by the Constitution. Instead, they are completely secret and use a so-called “ex parte” process, which means all evidence is presented without defense counsel appearing or presenting evidence in favor of the accused. Federal prosecutors use grand juries to investigate allegations to build a future case against the defendant. If you are called to appear before a grand jury, you may not even know you are the target of an investigation. Because the grand jury only hears one side of the case, it is no surprise that they often return unfounded indictments.
Contact an Attorney Immediately If You Are Under Investigation
Prosecutors often use grand jury proceedings to compel both people and corporations to turn over documents or testify against the accused. Suspects can be summoned to offer testimony or surrender documents, but they have no right to testify or be present before the grand jury. If you get caught up in one of these secret proceedings, you could incriminate yourself without even knowing it.
If you discover that you are under investigation by a grand jury or have received a grand jury letter, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Mississippi criminal defense lawyer immediately. Not only can a lawyer advise you how to proceed and how to protect yourself, they may also be able to negotiate with prosecutors as to whether you may be allowed to appear and may even be able to dissuade them from proceeding.
Rushing & Guice, P.L.L.C: Mississippi and Gulf Coast White Collar Criminal Defense Lawyers
At Rushing & Guice, experienced and aggressive white collar criminal defense, public corruption defense, and representation during investigations is a phone call away. Call us at (228) 374-2313 or fill out our online form to arrange for a free, limited initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you, and look forward to the opportunity to serve as your attorneys.