Criminal Cases Before A Florida Grand Jury
If you have been notified that you are under investigation by a Florida grand jury, it is important to secure aggressive and experienced legal assistance immediately. Though most criminal cases require a pretrial hearing and jury or bench trial, things get a little more knotty when a case is high profile or exceptionally serious. District attorneys in these situations often look to a grand jury to determine whether or not there is probable cause to proceed with a criminal indictment. Historically, most grand juries support a prosecutor’s pursuit of an indictment; indeed, prosecutors rarely make the decision to empanel a grand jury unless they are quite confident of their case.
Comparing the Grand Jury to a Trial Jury
Just like a trial jury, a grand jury is made up of citizens who have been called to the task. The similarities, however, end there:
|Prosecutors call grand juries to investigate whether or not a defendant has likely committed a crime. Members may ask to subpoena additional witnesses and/or documents.
|Trial juries weigh the information presented by both prosecutors and defense attorneys on a case.
|Grand juries are reserved for the most serious of felony cases, as well as to investigate official misconduct.
|Trial juries may be used for a variety of cases.
|Grand juries are usually anywhere between 15 and 21 people.
|Trial juries consist of just 6-12 individuals.
|Grand juries are called to serve for months at a time, (although they may spend only a few days each month in court.)
|Trial juries serve one time throughout the duration of a particular case.
|Grand juries must establish whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges.
|Trial juries must determine innocence or guilt.
|Grand juries require a supermajority vote.
|Trial juries must come to a unanimous decision.
|Grand juries may question witnesses.
|Trial juries are passive listeners in a trial.
Another significant difference between grand jury proceedings and most trials is the confidential nature of grand jury proceedings, as per Florida Statute 905.24. Even the counsel for the defense is not allowed to attend. While news reporters may observe who enters and leaves these proceedings, they themselves may not attend. What goes on in these chambers is kept secret in order to provide a measure of security for witnesses who may be concerned about retaliation. Furthermore, if the grand jury does not indict, a potential defendant’s reputation should not be damaged by the proceedings. Ensuring the secrecy of the proceedings means that jurors, too, are prohibited from sharing testimony, synopsis, impressions, or evidence to reporters and others.
If the grand jury decides that there is enough evidence to believe that a crime has likely been committed, they will indict. Next, the court must set a date for arraignment. At this point things will proceed much like any criminal proceeding, although there will be no preliminary hearing. The defendant may obtain a transcript of the grand jury proceedings at this time, and then it’s right to trial.
You Deserve a Solid Defense
At the Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A., our Kissimmee criminal attorneys know the ropes in these very serious criminal cases. To understand your options going forward, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.