What is the Role of a Grand Jury in the Criminal Justice System?
Not all criminal cases require grand juries. In fact, misdemeanors and traffic offenses are not subject to grand juries but all felonies require a grand jury for indictment.
Types of grand juries
The Handbook for Virginia Grand Jurors describes three types of juries used in felony cases:
- Regular Grand Jury. The Regular Grand Jury is the most common type of grand jury. It generally consists of five to seven members in the city or county where the Circuit Court is holding the investigation. However, the Circuit Court may summon up to nine people when it wants to be sure of a sufficient number of jurors.
- Special Grand Jury. A Special Grand Jury consists of seven to eleven citizens in the city or county of the Circuit Court. The Circuit Court summons this jury to investigate conditions protecting criminal activity in the community or criminal activity by any governmental authority, agencies or officials. The Special Grand Jury reports its findings to the Circuit Court.
- Multi-Jurisdiction Grand Jury. A Multi-Jurisdiction Grand Jury has the job of investigating drug crimes that involve more than one jurisdiction, specifically when both state and federal prosecutors or more than one state court seeks an indictment. The grand jury must report its findings to the state and federal prosecutors. The number of members on a Multi-Jurisdiction Grand Jury range from seven to 11, and they consider alleged crimes in different Virginia locations and court jurisdictions.
All grand juries operate differently than trial juries, basically because they have a different purpose. It’s their job to determine whether probable cause exists that the accused individual committed a serious crime and to decide whether the person should stand trial at a later time. The Grand Jury does not hear opposing counsels present their cases and it does not decide on the defendant’s innocence or guilt.
Rely on our commitment and criminal law experience
Simms Showers LLP works diligently to provide you with aggressive and effective criminal defense. Attorney Caleb A. Kershner brings extensive criminal law experience to the courtroom through his background as a former prosecuting attorney. He has tried hundreds of bench and jury trials. He has also negotiated thousands of cases to favorable resolution and knows prosecution’s legal tactics and what defense strategies can prevail.