Have You Been Indicted By The Grand Jury?
How many times have you watched Law and Order, truTV (formally Court TV), or some other legal show and heard the words “grand jury?” The concept of the grand jury is mysterious to a lot of people. I want to use this article to explain the purpose of the grand jury and its importance in our legal system.
United States Constitution
First, let’s look to the United States Constitution, the highest law in the land, to see what it says in regards to why grand juries are needed. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…” In other words, the grand jury must approve the prosecution of any felony charge against a person.
True Bill of Indictment
Let’s further break down the role of the grand jury. Before a felony case can be prosecuted, the accused person must be indicted for the crime. Typically, law enforcement charges a person with a crime and turns the case over to the District Attorney’s (DA) office. Then the DA presents the case to a grand jury, which decides if there is enough evidence (probable cause) formally to charge the person. If the grand jury thinks there’s probable cause to indict the person, it issues a true bill of indictment. If not, the grand jury issues a no-bill and the person goes free without further prosecution unless the grand jury indicts him on a lesser or different charge. Remember grand juries are only necessary for felony crimes, or crimes that involve jail time of a year or more; grand juries are not necessary for misdemeanor crimes.
Qualifications To Serve On The Grand Jury
The people on the grand jury, who review the evidence and decide if the accused person should be indicted, are local citizens. In Texas, jury commissioners select between 15-40 citizens of the county to be summoned as grand jurors. The grand jurors should represent the diversity of the county, considering the factors of race, sex, and age. Some qualifications the grand jurors must possess are:
- Be a citizen of both the state and the county in which they will be serving
- Be of sound mind and good moral character
- Be able to read and write
- Must not have been convicted or under indictment of misdemeanor theft or felony
As you can see, the grand jury’s role in our legal system is extremely important, as it determines whether a person is indicted and prosecuted for a felony charge.
Remember, I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice, so please call the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Corbett Law Firm at 214-725-0254 if you need legal advice or have questions about this article.