Understanding Grand Jury Procedures in NJ

gavel legal bookThe procedures in a New Jersey grand jury proceeding largely hinge on the evidence presented by the prosecutor. The members of the grand jury—23 citizens—are shown evidence to determine whether or not the charge should result in an indictment and go to trial.

It has long been said that the grand jury will indict a “ham sandwich” if the prosecutor puts one in front of them and presents evidence of a crime. The truth is that it’s not that simple. Even though the process favors the prosecution getting an indictment, there are many parts of the grand jury that seem complicated, but really aren’t.

What Happens During a Grand Jury Presentation?

When the case is presented, the prosecutor will do everything in his or her power to assure that an indictment will be handed down. There will be an opening statement to state the case number and name of the defendant, then the evidence will be presented. That means through the State’s witnesses, the prosecution will help bolster the case for trial, provide reasons for the arrest and enter relevant evidence into the record.

The record is kept by a court stenographer consisting of all statements made by the prosecutor, witnesses and any questions from the grand jury members. After the evidence has been presented, the prosecutor will leave the room for the grand jury to deliberate on the case and determine whether or not it has met the criteria for indictment and arraignment. The decision on the part of the grand jury must consist of a majority of the participants and is referred to either as a true bill (indictment) or no bill (dismissal). In the case of a person who is incarcerated and waiting for a decision, the grand jury voting for a dismissal will result in the immediate release of the defendant.

Who is on the Grand Jury and Are the Proceedings Secret?

The grand jury is culled at random from state records of voters, through motor vehicle records and tax records. Anyone can be called to serve on a grand jury and, while it was once easy to find a method to get out of service, it’s growing more and more difficult for a person to avoid his or her civic duty. There are 23 people on the grand jury and a foreperson is picked at random to function as the “leader” of the grand jury and read out the decisions once they are made.

The grand jury proceedings are secret and are not to be discussed outside of court. The reasons for that include the safety of what may be an undercover police officer or an informant whose life may be in danger if it is found out that he or she is testifying in court. This is common in drug cases and other indictable crimes. In cases involving minors, it is also important that the proceedings are kept secret to protect their identities.

Speak to an Attorney About the Grand Jury Procedure

If you have questions about the grand jury process, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca located in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey are here to assist you to learn of the grand jury procedures as well as what comes before and after.

With an extensive knowledge and experience with the New Jersey criminal law practice from beginning to end, there are no questions too insignificant nor too complicated for you to ask of the Villani & DeLuca defense attorneys.

The New Jersey legal process can be complicated and if you or a loved one are facing the possibility of a case being brought before a grand jury, it’s imperative that you know exactly what can happen next and what to do about it. If you are from the towns of Point Pleasant, Brick, Asbury Park, Toms River, Belmar, Long Branch or anywhere else in Ocean County or Monmouth County, Villani & DeLuca can assist you in your legal needs. Call today to schedule a free consultation about your charges!

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