Grand Jury proceedings were established in accordance with due process of law by the 5th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. Many states indict through the Grand Jury process, even though this is only required for the federal government. After reviewing the sufficiency of the cases’ evidence, grand jurors will either issue a True Bill or a No Bill. If a True Bill is issued, the Grand Jury files an indictment, which is then transferred to the Superior Court’s calendar for a jury trial. If there is not enough supporting evidence for the alleged crime, the Grand Jury endorses a “No Bill” which results in the charges being dismissed.
Once the Grand Jury issues an indictment, the offender receives the formal written accusation outlining the criminal charges he or she is being charged. Since the State has already determined “probable cause” exists, sufficient evidence supporting the crime was committed, the individual being charged needs to retain an attorney to fight on their behalf. At Kohn & Yager, LLC. our criminal defense lawyers in Atlanta, GA. have decades of experience and have successfully represented hundreds of clients facing felony charges. Our attorneys know how to effectively challenge Grand Jury indictments and the State’s prosecution.
What is an Indictment?
Criminal cases that are punishable by the death penalty or extended imprisonment sentences require an indictment. An indictment is a formal accusation issued by a Grand Jury for capital or infamous crimes. Felony federal crimes, including treason and crimes involving murder, require obtaining an indictment to charge the individual suspected of committing a crime. This process, granted by the 5th and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, balances the power of our judicial system by way of due process. Due process or due process of law, implements statutes the government is required to abide by to provide fair proceedings. The basis of the procedural due process includes a decision made by a neutral decision-maker.
What’s a Grand Jury?
A Grand Jury is a body of 16-23 jurors that determine if “probable cause” exists. In criminal law, “probable cause” is reasonable grounds based on evidence that the crime may have been committed. Jurors are not elected, rather selected, randomly as long as they meet the basic requirements of Grand Jurors:
- They must reside in the county of the alleged crime(s),
- They must be at least 18 years of age,
- They must be mentally competent; and
- They cannot have any felony convictions.
Members of the jury serve three-month terms or six-month terms in the State of Georgia, depending on the county. The Grand Jury’s role is NOT to determine guilt. Depending on the Grand Jury’s decision, it will determine if the case moves forward to trial or gets dismissed.
How Does a Grand Jury Work?
The prosecutor presents evidence outlining the case to the Grand Jury, the jurors are not presented with all of the evidence. The jurors then analyze the sworn witness testimony of the case to determine the sufficiency of the evidence. The jurors meet in secret and are not of public knowledge until the Grand Jury endorses a True Bill, thus indicts. No judge nor defense attorneys can attend the Grand Jury’s hearing. The decision does not have to be unanimous to return a true bill, instead, a majority vote. 12 of the jurors must agree there is enough evidence supporting the likelihood the crime was committed, and upon this decision, the Grand Jury issues an indictment. If fewer than 12 jurors agree, a “No Bill” is returned and in this case, would be dismissed. Even though the case was dismissed by the current Grand Jury, the prosecutor can always present that same case later to another group of jurors.
Some states administer preliminary hearings for felony charges instead of the indictment process. Preliminary hearings serve the same purpose as a Grand Jury, to assess the State’s postulation of the accused’s criminal charges and determine if probable cause exists. Rather than jurors making this decision, the testimony is tried by a judge. If the Judge is convinced there is sufficient evidence, the case goes to trial.
True Bill Definition
A True Bill is a written decision by the Grand Jury, stating the prosecution presented sufficient evidence and may now be heard by a jury trial. What is a true bill of indictment? A True Bill of indictment is the same as a True Bill, it’s handed down from a Grand Jury, stating there was enough probable cause against the defendant for the crime(s) that he or she may have committed and discloses them in writing. Following the formal accusation, the case is scheduled for a trial by jury to reach a verdict.
True Bill of Indictment versus a Grand Jury No Bill
The prosecutor must submit a document to the Grand Jury stating the formal criminal charges against the defendant, this document is called the Bill of Indictment. As previously mentioned, the jurors review the presented evidence and evaluate its sufficiency, if a majority of the jurors agree probable cause exists from the supporting facts of the case, it returns a “sealed indictment,” commonly referred to as True Bill of Indictment. After this bill is issued, the case moves forward to a jury trial to determine guilt. A “No Bill” is the other endorsement a Grand Jury can issue. A “No Bill” is issued when less than 12 jurors vote to indict the defendant, which indicates the alleged crime did not have enough supporting evidence to move forward and the case is dismissed.
Indictments are issued for SERIOUS criminal charges, and have dire consequences, it is critical to your case and furthermore your future to seek legal advice immediately. Our preeminent, nationally renowned criminal defense attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia, provide the most knowledgeable and dedicated representation for our clients. There is sufficient evidence supporting that statement: awards, recognitions, client reviews, and testimonials. Call our law firm now at (404) 567-5515 to speak with William C. (Bubba) Head, Larry Kohn and Cory Yager for your FREE case consultation. Facing vehicular homicide charges or drug possession charges? Remember, a charge IS NOT a conviction, our lawyers will fight your charges on your behalf for the best possible outcome.
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