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Any kind of legal case, whether a civil or a criminal matter, is likely to take time to complete. The process of hearing and deciding on a case may take weeks if not months or years. Part of this process may involve a specific procedure known as a grand jury. Unlike some other types of juries, the purpose of the grand jury is not to find out if the person who might be accused of a crime is innocent or guilty under the laws of the state. Instead, the grand jury is designed to determine if there is enough evidence to begin the process of charging the person with felony. A felony is a very serious crime.
People who have been convicted of a felony may face all sorts of restrictions on their lives. A felony conviction may prevent someone from voting. It can also prevent them from owning or using any kind of firearm. Many states allow employers the automatic right to refuse to hire a convicted felon even if that person has the qualifications to fill the job. The possibility of being accused of a felony can also smear a person’s reputation in the public eye.
In addition, it can be very costly to try someone of such a crime. This is why many prosecutors want to make sure they have a case. Enter the grand jury. The grand jury process allows the prosecutor to determine if can probably get a guilty verdict. For certain crimes, heading to a grand jury is actually a requirement under the American constitution. This process is taken very seriously by many prosecutors. They will present their case in front of a group of people that can be as small as sixteen or as large as twenty-three in number depending on the venue. The grand jury is not used in many states. It is only applies to federal felonies.
Getting a Subpoena
You might be called to speak in front of a grand jury for several reasons. One of the most common is that you might later be accused of a crime. Another reason that you might be called in front of a grand jury is that you are a witness to a crime. The prosecutor wants you to present evidence of what you’ve seen in front of a group of people who otherwise have no knowledge of the issues that might surround any wrong doing.
When you get that summons, now is the time to talk to a lawyer if you have not done so before. In general, the law requires that you must present what you know to the prosecutor and all members of the grand jury. If you don’t, you may be in violation of many laws. If you have evidence, you must be willing to hand it to grand jury when get that notification. At the same time, as is the case in many legal issues, there are certain exceptions to the rules that might apply to you personally during this process.
The American constitution offers residents many specific legal rights. One such right is what is known as privileged information. By law, there are certain things people do not have to do legally. One of the most important of such rights is the right to avoid self incrimination. Essentially this means that all people in the United States are not obligated to give statements that might cause them to be charged with a crime. This is popularly known as taking the fifth or citing the fifth amendment to the Bill of Rights when speaking in a court of law. The same laws that apply in other courts also apply during the grand jury process.
You cannot be forced to testify that you committed a crime. This right is fairly broad. You cannot be compelled to state that you killed someone outright. The grand jury system also cannot compel you to give evidence that might lead anyone else to conclude that you probably committed a crime. So you also can’t be forced to state that you were at a murder scene even if other evidence points to the fact that you were present.
Other forms of privilege also apply when you are dealing with a grand jury summons. Husbands and wives cannot be forced to testify against each other in a grand jury trial. The same is true of any communications that you had with your legal counsel. You can’t be forced to reveal such information. You can volunteer it, of course. But you can’t be compelled by the state to talk about in a court. If you are facing such issues, now is the time to consult with a lawyer. They can explain such legal matters in much greater details in person.