In simple terms, a grand jury is a group of people who are charged with determining whether or not a person has committed a crime, and if so, they decide if charges should be filed against that person. A grand jury can be convened for either state or federal court, although in California, grand juries normally focus on oversight of government institutions at the county level, or below. For example, a San Diego County Grand Jury is made up of 19 citizens whose duties and powers are outlined in the California Penal Code.
Unlike typical jury trials, grand jury proceedings occur under a veil of secrecy. The prosecutor (either the State District Attorney or a Federal U.S. Attorney) presents evidence to the grand jury without the presence of a judge, the news media, or the public. You and your attorney have no right to be present at these proceedings unless you are subpoenaed as a witness.
The rules of evidence do not apply to grand jury proceedings as they do in regular jury trials that occur before judges. Also in a grand jury proceeding, you are not allowed your Constitutional right to cross-examine and confront the witnesses against you, nor are you allowed to put on any witnesses on your behalf. The Grand jury makes its findings without hearing both sides of the story, which means these proceedings are biased in favor of the prosecution.
If the grand jury finds that enough one-sided evidence has been presented to file a case against you, they will issue a formal indictment and you will then have the right to contest the charges in court.
A grand jury indictment is no laughing matter, but it is also no reason to panic. If you have reason to believe you are being investigated by a grand jury or have been notified of a grand jury indictment, you need to schedule a consultation immediately with a knowledgeable San Diego criminal defense attorney. Involving a qualified grand jury indictment attorney early in the process can sometimes make the difference in whether your case even makes it to a grand jury for investigation or whether charges are filed.
I offer a free consultation on your grand jury matter and can help you figure out the important next steps to take. Call Michael Berg today at (619) 239-2186.