Every once in a while, there will be a news story about someone who has committed a serious crime, and that they will be going before a federal grand jury for processing. Most people hear this and think nothing of it, or they assume that it is just a fancier way of saying that the person is going to trial. The truth is that a federal grand jury is a notably unique process and understanding some of its key points could save you from trouble if you are ever facing one yourself.
A federal grand jury process will not be used for minor infractions and misdemeanor charges, and they won’t even be used for the majority of felony charges. Rather, the process will only be used for some of the most serious federal charges out there, such as:
A regular court’s trial juries will consist of six to 12 people, depending on the state and circumstances. A federal grand jury, however, can be anywhere between 16 to 23 members. The idea is that if a matter of such dire consequence is being discussed, it require a wider range of viewpoints to assess it fairly.
Federal grand jury proceedings are not actually trying to figure out whether or not the defendant is guilty. Instead, they are used to determine whether or not there is enough evidence or probable cause to call for an indictment of the criminal suspect.
As a federal grand jury process could potentially involve crimes that put the public safety or the entire nation’s well-being in jeopardy, the proceedings are kept in total confidentiality. Only the people who absolutely must be there will be present. As the procedure does not include an official ruling, there will not even be a judge there.
Traditional juries need to be unanimous in their decisions – films about trials love to use this to build up the suspense or conflict. Federal grand juries, however, only need a majority of 2/3 or 3/4, depending on the circumstances.While it is true that many federal grand jury processes do not involve any lawyers, there is no rule stating that lawyers cannot be present. If you are facing serious federal crime accusations, you need to take action right away and start shielding yourself with the skilled help of an experienced professional. At The Law Offices of Haytham Faraj, PLLC, our Chicago federal criminal defense lawyers have handled cases involving accusations of spy work, public corruption, complex mortgage fraud, and more, all with success. Call (312) 635-0800 right away to schedule a free case evaluation.