One commonly misunderstood part of our criminal justice system is the grand jury process; it is also one of the most important. Allegations presented before a grand jury are serious. For this reason, if you have been indicted by a grand jury, are being investigated, or have received a grand jury subpoena, it is critical to immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with federal law and the grand jury process.
Here our defense attorneys explain the role of a grand jury, how it works, and the significance it plays in our criminal justice system.
What Is A Grand Jury?
As an agency for both the circuit court and Florida Supreme Court, a grand jury functions as the investigating, reporting, and accusing division of the court system. A grand jury is invoked when, under the law, a Prosecutor is trying to obtain an indictment against someone for a federal offense.
The purpose of the grand jury is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an indictment of the defendant and serves as a form of protection to ensure an indictment of a defendant cannot move forward without proper cause.
Under Florida state law, a grand jury must include a panel of 15 to 21 people who are appointed to serve five to six months, all of whom must meet the following criteria:
- United States citizens who live in the county where the case is being presented,
- At least 18 years of age,
- Law-abiding citizens with perceived strong moral character, integrity, and sound judgment.
Criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte has experience in grand jury proceedings and can provide valuable legal advice for defendants and witnesses facing a grand jury subpoena. He’s also a board-certified trial attorney a distinction less than 2% of Florida lawyers achieve. Contact us today for a free case review. 813-280-1244
Is A Grand Jury Public Or Private?
In the state of Florida, all grand juries are held in private. All arguments, evidence, testimony, and deliberation occur within the walls of the grand jury (typically located at the district attorney’s office). Even judges aren’t permitted to attend the proceedings of a grand jury. The only thing public is an announcement of a defendant’s indictment.
Grand jurors and other court personnel (including State Attorneys) are barred from discussing all witness testimonies for use in future trials, except under limited and extreme circumstances.
Appearance Before A Federal Grand Jury
Appearing before a grand jury is extremely serious, and significant criminal charges could result – even if you are not the one currently under investigation.
There are three main factors that where one would have to appear before a grand jury. These include:
- A grand jury has evidence linking you to a crime, therefore you are considered a target of an investigation.
- You are the subject of a criminal investigation whose testimony can be critical to the case.
- You are a witness to the crime and have personal knowledge and facts that are important to the investigation.
It is important to note that even if you are a witness appearing before a grand jury, you could still face criminal and civil charges connected to the investigation. Mitigate your risks by seeking the counsel of an experienced attorney to help you prepare for grand jury testimony.
Legal Counsel on Grand Jury Proceedings
While a criminal defense attorney is not permitted to attend the grand jury proceeding, it is still crucial to have one on your side. It is important to carefully prepare your testimony for the tough questions asked by the prosecution.
We can help you with your grand jury testimony and if your case should be deemed eligible to move forward to trial our seasoned defense team is on your side. Contact our Tampa-based criminal defense law firm at 813-280-1244.