What is a Grand Jury and How Does It Work in Arizona?
A criminal case in Arizona gets in the system through the work of law enforcement professionals. It’s also possible, however, for the prosecution to present a case in front of a grand jury. So, what is a grand jury? The aim of the grand jury is to determine whether a person is to be charged with a crime. This happens through a thorough examination of the evidence.
What is a Grand Jury and Relevant Arizona Laws?
A grand jury consists of anywhere between 12 and 16 people who are qualified for jury service in the respective Arizona county. The grand jury is chosen and sworn in by the judge. Usually, the defendant and their attorney will not be present during such sessions.
The grand jury does not decide whether a person is guilty of a crime. Rather, they rule out if the evidence is sufficient to initiate a criminal trial. All of the evidence collected by law enforcement professionals will be presented and witnesses may also be summoned.
The evidence of other people (regardless of its truthfulness) will be counted as evidence. The account of a single person will often be sufficient to sustain criminal charges. In this sense, the grand jury process is one-sided because the defense is not provided with a chance to present its arguments.
More information about the specific nature of grand jury sessions can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes 21-402.
What is a Grand Jury Session and What are Preliminary Hearings?
A court will often rely on a preliminary hearing before a trial instead on a grand jury session. The preliminary hearing is yet another tool that can be utilized to assess the available evidence and to determine whether criminal proceedings are to be initiated by the court.
The difference between grand jury sessions and preliminary hearings is that the second ones are open to the public. Lawyers can be present and a preliminary hearing may be requested by the defendant. It is possible for a preliminary hearing to take place before the prosecution submits evidence for examination by the grand jury.
In the case of grand jury proceedings, a judge will not be present. The prosecutor will be there to explain the law and the nature of the evidence. Grand jury processes are kept in confidence for two main reasons – to encourage witnesses to speak up without the defendant finding out and to protect the reputation of the defendant (it is possible for the grand jury to refrain from indicting on the basis of the evidence).
To make a ruling, the grand jury does not have to come to a unanimous decision. A supermajority will be required to indict. Even if the grand jury refrains from indicting, the prosecutor may bring the defendant to trial. Grand jury sessions may be utilized as a test run, providing the prosecution with valuable information about the strengths and the weaknesses of the case.
Grand Juries and Your Constitutional Rights
While the secrecy of this procedure does serve a purpose, grand juries have long been criticized for their method of work.
Regardless of the scope of evidence and the manner in which the information is presented, the prosecution does have an advantage. Not getting the indictment from the grand jury is a very rare occurrence because of the one-sided nature of the proceedings.
While the grand jury session is an informal one, a suspect will most often end up getting indicted. While a judge is not present during the grand jury session, this magistrate has an obligation to act upon the jury’s decision.
If you are under grand jury investigation, you will need to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If you get indicted, you will need assistance during both the pre-trial and trial phases. Whenever a grand jury is employed, the trial is likely to occur faster. Alternatively, the prosecutor will have to present evidence to the trial judge and such a review may take up more time.