Know Your NJ Grand Jury Rights

judge gavelWhen facing the prospect of an arrest being brought by a prosecutor before a New Jersey grand jury, it is important that a person understands his or her rights in the proceeding. When an arrest is made for an indictable crime, barring an agreement crafted in a pre-trial conference to avoid prosecution, the case must be brought before a grand jury consisting of 23 ordinary citizens to determine whether or not it should go forward.

If a majority of the people serving on the grand jury decide that there is enough evidence to warrant an indictment, then they will vote for what is referred to as a “true bill” and send the case forward. If they decide that there isn’t enough evidence for the case to go on, they will vote for “no bill” and the charges will be dismissed. Regardless of the manner in which the process plays out, the person under grand jury investigation should know his or her rights.

The Defendant has No Right to Testify Before the Grand Jury

There is no automatic right for the defendant to testify in front of the grand jury. In most cases, an attorney would not advise the defendant to testify anyway for fear of giving the prosecutor the opportunity to cross-examine the witness and get him or her to say something that will make the situation worse, not better. In some instances, though, the prosecutor might invite the defendant to testify. This is only allowed if the defendant waives his Miranda rights.

The Miranda rights, as we all know from television and movies, begin with telling the arrested person that he or she, has the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. If these rights are waived, then anything the defendant says in court can be used against them.

Also important is that the defendant in a New Jersey grand jury proceeding is not allowed to have a defense attorney at the proceeding, jeopardizing the possibility of a dismissal of the charges as presented.

Exculpatory Evidence Must be Presented by the Prosecutor

Exculpatory evidence is proof that the defendant could not have committed the crime he or she is accused of. If the prosecutor is aware of such evidence, it is their duty as a representative of the people of New Jersey to present it and give the grand jury the right to take it into account when coming to a decision as to whether to vote true bill or no bill.

Self Defense, Justifications and Illegally Gathered Evidence

It is imperative to note that the evidence must be clearly exculpatory and not simply a flimsy excuse that the defendant might have stated at the time of arrest. In other words, if the person under indictment has a sincere reason for having committed the crime such as self defense, that must be presented to the grand jury.

If there is reason to believe that the evidence in a case was gathered illegally, then these are grounds for the defendant to request that it be excluded. Examples of this include if the police didn’t follow the proper procedure in marking the evidence or if the chain of custody is broken.

Know Your Rights Before a New Jersey Grand Jury

If you are facing the possibility of an indictment from a New Jersey grand jury, it is key to know your rights and protect yourself as much as possible. With substantial experience in New Jersey law and knowledge of the prosecutors and the way in which the grand jury works, it makes sense to hire experienced legal representation from people who understand how the system works. If you are facing a grand jury indictment in Monmouth County or Ocean County, New Jersey, the lawyers at Villani & DeLuca will be glad to talk to you and explain the rights you have when facing a grand jury. Call them today!

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