Grand Jury in Nevada: What Is It & How It Works
We mostly hear about grand juries on television during high-profile cases or on legal shows on TV.
That’s because grand jury duty is very rare and usually held in secret.
A grand jury is convened to determine whether or not the state has enough evidence to prosecute or indict a suspect for a crime.
Typically, prosecutors are responsible for determining whether there is sufficient probable cause to charge an individual with criminal activity. However, in the case of more severe offenses such as felonies, murder charges, RICO violations, racketeering, and other crimes, the district attorney may opt to defer the decision to a grand jury. The grand jury then evaluates whether the suspects should be indicted and face criminal charges.
Grand jury duty is picked at random just like petite or regular jury duty but that’s where the similarities end.
What Is the Difference Between a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury
In essence, a trial or petit jury serves the purpose of determining whether the state has successfully proven, beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of evidence, the guilt or innocence of an individual accused of a crime or injury to another.
If a defendant is indicted by the prosecution or by a grand jury and then goes to an actual trial, that’s when the trial jury gets involved in the case.
On the other hand, grand jury duty is only to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to take a case to trial.
So grand juries are at the beginning of a criminal case, not at the end.
The other difference is that grand jury proceedings are held in secret where the prosecution presents evidence and the defense cannot attend.
Petit or trial jury duty is open to the public and where the defense counsel actively presents evidence to counter the prosecution’s case.
The Rules for Forming a Grand Jury
Unlike petit juries, grand jurors are not herded into a courtroom at the local courthouse.
Potential grand jurors begin with 50 qualified people who are sent questionnaires. The questionnaires contain information about the length of service, the duties to be performed and the amount of pay.
The potential grand jurors return the questionnaires and indicate if they can perform grand jury service.
This process is repeated until the appropriate-sized grand jury panel is established.
Once the group is formed, a grand jury consisting of members from that group is convened whenever a case arises.
Please note that grand jury duty is not limited to a single case or occurrence. It can extend over several months, during which a person may serve on multiple juries for various cases.
There are several other rules that pertain to grand jury duty:
- Grand Juries inquire into specific limited material
- Just like a regular jury, a juror on grand jury duty or the entire grand jury can be challenged if not legally qualified to serve.
- Motions to dismiss indictments can be based on objections to the composition of the grand jury
- A grand jury must have a foreman, a deputy foreman, and a secretary. The secretary keeps records of all the decisions made and files records with the clerk’s office. A foreman administers the oath and signs all indictments, and the deputy foreman will act if the foreman is not present.
- An oath by grand jury members must be taken to pledge to legitimately inquire into whether an offense was committed by considering evidence
- Information and instructions must be provided to the grand jury, including details on the charges the defendant faces.
- Supervision of an impaneled grand jury by the impaneling judge.
The rules of grand jury service or impaneling a grand jury are complicated and hard to understand.
Just know if you were indicted by a grand jury, you need to speak with an attorney.
A smart defense team can sometimes get a case or indictment by a grand jury thrown out because the grand jury rules were not followed.
Do All Criminal Cases Involve a Grand Jury
A case starts with an investigation by the proper authorities, usually the police. This is a pre-trial investigation.
The evidence collected in the investigation will be turned over to the prosecutor’s office to determine if an arrest and further case is warranted.
If the prosecutor determines that there is sufficient evidence to pursue a case, two options exist for proceeding further.
- The most common route and the quickest is to submit to the court a sworn affidavit or statement called “information” charging the defendant with a crime. The court at that time will set a date and time for an arraignment where the defendant comes to court and answers to the charges against them. Information is the evidence presented to a judge to be able to file charges against a potential suspect. An arraignment is the first court appearance to answer charges against a defendant. The defendant will usually plead not guilty at the arraignment and ask for basil if needed.
- The second route is to present the police investigation to a grand jury. It is then up to the grand jury to decide based on the evidence presented if there is enough to charge the defendant with a crime. If the grand jury follows the recommendations of the prosecutor and decides there is enough evidence to move forward, the prosecutor submits an indictment to the court charging the suspect with a crime. This is very similar to information in that it explains the evidence and charges against someone. The court will then set an arraignment date.
Grand Jury proceedings take a long time so they are reserved for cases that are severe in nature or will garner a lot of publicity.
Can Someone Be Indicted After They Have Been Charged Through Information?
The simple answer is yes.
If the court dismisses a case that was charged through information, the prosecutors may decide to seek an indictment through a grand jury.
Do You Have the Same Rights When Charged Through Grand Jury Duty or Through Information to the Court?
A defendant facing charges through grand jury proceedings is not entitled to a preliminary hearing before trial. This is because the grand jury fulfills the same purpose as a preliminary hearing, which is to assess whether the state has sufficient probable cause to pursue additional charges.
In some cases, grand juries are convened to protect sensitive victims of certain crimes.
During these proceedings, hearsay evidence may be introduced during the grand jury. These hearsay statements are usually victims of felony child abuse, child sex abuse, and felony domestic violence.
They allow statements read to the grand jury instead of forcing a child victim to testify.
What Is the Point of a Grand Jury
In theory, a grand jury serves as a check and balance system to the prosecutor or district attorney, or to the U.S. Attorney in federal cases.
A grand jury prevents the state or government from pressing charges against someone when there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute the case.
Most of the time, however, the grand jury agrees with the prosecution.
Grand juries are rarely used to prosecute state criminal charges against a person. Grand Jury indictments are required in order to charge someone with serious federal crimes.
Do Defendants Get Notified
The state is required to notify the defendant and allow the defendant to be present at the grand jury hearing.
The defense attorneys are not permitted at a grand jury but the defendant can come. It is advised that the defendant not testify.
If there is an indictment, the defendant is entitled to a transcript of the proceedings.
Can You Fight a Grand Jury Indictment
You can challenge the indictment with a Writ of Habeas Corpus. If the writ is successful, the case will be dismissed.
These writs are rarely granted and instead, a judge will let the charges be litigated in court.
If you have received an indictment by a grand jury or a notice that a grand jury is convening in a case that may involve you, call The Defenders and speak with one of our attorneys about your options.
Being indicted by a grand jury is never a good place to be and you need to fight the indictment as soon as it comes up.
Contact our office today. We may be able to help you get the case against you dismissed.\