Understanding the NJ Grand Jury Process

bench judgeIn New Jersey, a grand jury investigation means you may be charged with a criminal offense, but have not been indicted yet. Indictment is a strong possibility, but is not guaranteed. If you are the subject of such an investigation, it’s important to understand exactly how the process works.

A case will only be presented to a grand jury in the event that it is not settled at what is known as a pre-indictment conference. This will avoid presentation of the case to the grand jury if the accused enters a plea or obtains pre-trial intervention, also known as PTI.

If the case does go to the grand jury, there must be a majority among 23 people seated on the grand jury to secure an indictment. If 12 people vote to indict, that is enough to indict the defendant. The prosecutor will read multiple charges and make their case to the grand jury for them to decide whether or not to indict or dismiss. An indictment is known as a true bill, meaning the case will move forward to arraignment. A dismissal is known as a no bill, meaning the case is over and the defendant has been absolved of the charges presented to the grand jury.

The Grand Jury Rights of the Defendant

A defendant who has been brought up on charges to be presented to a grand jury has rights. In New Jersey, the defendant does not ordinarily testify in front of the grand jury nor is his or her defense attorney present. However, if the prosecutor gives the defendant the right to testify, he or she can choose to waive his or her right against self incrimination and do so.

If there is evidence that is referred to as “clearly exculpatory”, meaning that the evidence may exonerate the defendant, the prosecutor must present it to the grand jury. This doesn’t mean that the prosecutor is obligated to relate the story the defendant may have told as to why he or she was doing what they’re accused of doing, but if it refutes one of the charges, it must be shared with the grand jury to let them decide whether or not to move forward with the indictment. If the evidence was obtained through illegal or improper means, the grand jury has the right to consider that and dismiss the charges on those basis.

Have Legal Representation if You’re Facing Indictment

Being subject to a grand jury investigation and possible indictment can be a scary prospect, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be indicted. If you or a loved one are the subject of a grand jury investigation, you need to understand that process and what you can and can’t do to defend yourself from the charges. The office of Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey has experience in the New Jersey grand jury process and can help you achieve the best possible outcome whether it’s a dismissal of the charges for a variety of reasons, or to help you negotiate a plea deal to reduce charges following an indictment.

If you have been charged with a crime in Monmouth County or Ocean County, in towns such as Toms River, Asbury Park or Long Branch, and you are facing the grand jury, you need to have a legal representative working in favor of your best interests. Villani & DeLuca’s criminal defense attorneys can help you. Call today!

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