What Happens In a Grand Jury?
The Grand Jury Subpoena
The American constitution literally states that someone cannot be tried for a federal crime unless the prosecutor goes to through the grand jury system. Unlike the standard from of juries in which the goal is guilty or not guilty, this one is all about examining evidence. At this jury, a lawyer will not present any evidence that might indicate that the potential defendant did not do the crime. In addition, certain forms of evidence that are not considered valid in a traditional court are allowed in this court. Some of the evidence that the prosecutor may want to present is not available to them. At that point, they can chose to submit what is known as a grand jury subpoena. The purpose of the subpoena is to ask people to appear in this court system and possibly speak to the jurors.
In a traditional jury, there’s usually between ten and twelve people. This kind of jury can have as many as twenty-three people, making it a more involved process and involving more people in the community to determine what’s going on with the case. People can be called to serve on a grand jury in the same way as they can be called to serve jury duty. Unlike a standard court, the grand jury does not have a judge to watch over the proceedings and make rulings if some forms of evidence are admissible.
The court has a prosecutor, a set of jurors including a grand jury foreman, and a court reporter. The jurors are being asked to consider evidence so they must listen closely to anyone speaking. If you have gotten a summons to show up as a witness, you’ll start by heading into the grand jury room. At that point, you’ll be asked to take the traditional oath to tell the whole truth and nothing else. The prosecutor who is presenting the case will then usually start asking you a series of questions in front of the jury.
You have the option to respond to the questions or to choose not to answer them. If you choose not to answer them, you can do so on several grounds. For example, you might be asked if you or your spouse was directly involved in some form of criminal activity. Under the right against self incrimination enshrined into the fifth amendment in the very Bill of Rights, you do not have to reply. The same is true of any questions pertaining to your spouse. You have the right to avoid responding to questions that can fall under the umbrella of marital privilege.
Unlike many other areas of the legal system, this one does not allow the person their right to a lawyer. Defense lawyers are not allowed in the grand jury court. They have the right to be next to the room but they don’t have the right to be actually in the room as the prosecutor continues to ask questions. Everyone in the room with you will be sworn to keep the proceedings entirely secret. However, as the witness, you have the right to speak to others about what happened there. You are allowed to tell your lawyer and discuss what happen next.
Given how important this procedure can be in your life going forward, you should make sure that you have a good memory if possible. Once you’re out of the jury, it’s a good idea to seek legal counsel if you have done so already. They can help you decide what might happen next after the proceedings are done. They can also answer any questions you might have about what happened in the jury room.