By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
What is a Grand Jury:
A Grand Jury is a panel that decides whether a felony should be indicted or not. The DA’s office can file misdemeanors on their own, however, to file felony charges a grand jury must agree there is probable cause.
Grand jury meetings are secretive and confidential. The public has no access to their deliberations. Typically they deliberate matters brought before them by the District Attorneys office. Here is a link to some technical and historical information about Texas grand juries.
Grand Jury Findings
Grand juries can do several things with cases they hear. They can issue a true bill which equals a felony indictment or they can issue a no-bill turning the case down. Occasionally they will charge a person with a misdemeanor instead of a felony through indictment. After a true bill is issued, the case gets assigned to a court and proceeds normally.
Criminal Defendant’s Rights During Grand Jury Proceedings
If you really think about it… having a grand jury as a hurdle for the prosecution in and of itself is the only real right you have in this process (in theory anyway).
A criminal defendant does not have the right to testify at the grand jury nor does your attorney have the right to be present. Because the proceedings are secretive the transcript, if any, is not available. You can’t even watch.
What Can I Do If I’m Under Grand Jury Investigation of if I Get a Grand Jury Letter?
Call an attorney. The prosecutors have discretion to allow your attorney to submit a packet of information to a grand jury to attempt to dissuade them from indictment. Also the prosecutor can agree to allow you to testify before the grand jury — but not in the presence of your attorney. On many cases, prosecutors have incentive to negotiate with you prior to your case going to grand jury. As a policy, Collin County DA’s office will not negotiate with people at the grand jury phase that are unrepresented by counsel. This may seem like a frustrating policy — but frankly it’s for your own protection. Grand jury situations are very complicated and the ramifications are very serious if mismanaged.
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice you should consult an attorney.