What Is a Federal Grand Jury?
A federal grand jury is made up of 16 to 23 people. The grand jury is tasked with deciding whether to indict an individual on criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney through a Bill of Indictment.
A grand jury determines whether it is likely, based on the evidence available, that you committed the federal offense for which you have been charged. The grand jury does not determine whether you are innocent or guilty of the crimes charged, just whether there is enough evidence that tends to prove that the crime alleged was probably committed and that you were probably involved in the commission of that crime.
The Grand Jury Process
The grand jury hears only evidence presented by the government. Even though it is your future on the line, you do not have the right to be present at a grand jury hearing or during grand jury deliberations.
The federal prosecutor will include a list of witnesses on the Bill of Indictment that may be called during the grand jury investigation. At the end of deliberations, the grand jury will return either:
- A "no" bill. The grand jury has voted not to indict you and the case against you will not proceed at this time.
- A "true" bill. The grand jury has voted for indictment.
An indictment is the formal accusation by the grand jury of criminal charges. Once you have been indicted, the federal case against you will proceed.
Should You Be Worried About A Grand Jury Investigation?
If you are under investigation by a grand jury, you should be concerned. If you received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office, you should be concerned. More often than not, a grand jury will return a true bill, meaning if you are under investigation you are likely headed for indictment.
Expert Tip: Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(d), only "attorneys for the government, the witness being questioned, interpreters when needed, and a court reporter or an operator of a recording device" may be present while the grand jury is in session. Nonetheless, witnesses in front of a grand jury maintain their 5th amendment right against self-incrimination. United States v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27 (2000) ("In sum, we have no doubt that the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination protects the target of a grand jury investigation from being compelled to answer questions designed to illicit information about the existence of sources of potentially incriminating evidence"). An experienced defense attorney can advise you regarding when to invoke your 5th amendment right.
It would be wise to talk to a lawyer about your rights and options. Call 800-760-9071 or send an email to request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts. Learn more about Patrick Roberts here. Roberts Law Group, PLLC is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.