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What do you need to know about grand juries?

| Jan 28, 2021 | Firm News |

If prosecutors believe you have committed a serious crime, they are likely to ask a grand jury to consider indicting you. Because grand juries deliberate in secret, though, you may have little idea about how they work in Georgia’s criminal justice system. 

grand jury, which consists of a group of your peers, listens to evidence and decides whether prosecutors have sufficient probable cause to support a criminal indictment. If there is not, the secretive nature of the grand jury process protects your privacy. 

Who may serve on a grand jury?

Like many other states and the federal government, Georgia law requires empaneling of grand juries for serious criminal offenses, such as drug trafficking. Typically, all Georgians may serve on a grand jury, provided they meet the following requirements: 

  • They are at least 18 
  • They are a citizen of the U.S. 
  • They have no felony convictions in their past 

Courts usually choose grand jurors randomly and without going through a selection or disqualification process. 

Do grand juries investigate?

With most criminal offenses, police detectives investigate and gather evidence. Grand juries also have fact-finding duties, which they often perform through the subpoena process. Because a subpoena compels a person to provide testimony or other evidence, ignoring a grand jury subpoena may have considerable criminal and other consequences. 

How do grand juries indict individuals?

Grand juries typically consider evidence before voting on whether to indict a suspect. Unlike juries in criminal trials, however, grand juries do not have to reach a unanimous indictment decision. A mere majority vote is usually enough to issue an indictment. 

Whether a grand jury decides to indict you may depend on the evidence grand jurors hear. Ultimately, if there is probable cause to support the indictment, you may want to begin thinking about your defense.