Last week, I was having dinner at my grandmother’s house. The news was playing in the background and the story broke that Trump may get indicted. My grandmother asked me what an indictment is. I thought others might want to know too.
What is an Indictment?
An indictment is a formal document that accuses an individual of committing a crime. The indictment outlines the specific charges against the accused individual and serves as the basis for the criminal case. Grand juries issue indictments. If the grand jury determines that there is sufficient evidence, they will issue an indictment. The indictment formally initiates criminal proceedings against the defendant.
What is a grand jury?
The grand jury is a group of citizens who review evidence presented by prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the charges against the accused. In New York State, there must be 16-23 individuals on a grand jury. Courts convene grand juries in cases where the potential charges are serious, such as murder, drug trafficking, or white-collar crimes. Grand juries conduct proceedings in secret, which allows witnesses to testify without fear of retaliation or reprisal. Neither the accused nor their attorney may be present during grand jury proceedings. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, which may include witness testimony, physical evidence, and other documentation. Also, the grand jury has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents to assist in their review of the evidence.
What does a grand jury do?
The grand jury decides two things. First, the grand jury decides if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. The second is whether the accused individual should be charged with that crime. This is a lower standard of proof than the standard used in a criminal trial, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The grand jury does not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, but rather decides whether there is enough evidence to support the charges and allow the case to proceed to trial.
Why do we use grand juries?
Grand juries play an important role in the criminal justice system because they act as a check on the power of prosecutors and help to ensure that individuals are not subject to arbitrary arrest and detention. The proceedings of the grand jury are secret, which allows witnesses to testify without fear of retaliation or reprisal. The grand jury is also a was to involve the community in the criminal justice process because grand juries consist of citizens.
In conclusion, an indictment is a formal legal accusation that charges an individual with committing a crime. Grand juries issue indictments. A grand jury is a group of 16-23 citizens who review evidence presented by prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the charges. Grand juries are an important part of the criminal justice system, as they act as a check on the power of prosecutors and ensure that individuals are not subject to arbitrary arrest and detention. Witnesses may testify to the grand jury without fear of reprisal or retaliation because grand juries conduct proceedings in secret. Municipalities like Monroe County choose citizens to serve on the grand jury through their Commissioner of Jurors because doing so involves the community in the criminal justice process.
If you have questions regarding criminal charges, please reach out for a free consultation.