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What is the role of the grand jury in Federal cases?

When it comes to the United States court system, there is the belief that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. To help determine if there is enough evidence to indicate that a person may have committed a federal crime, the U.S. attorney will typically present the case to the grand jury. They must then consider the weight of the evidence and decide whether there is enough evidence presented to indicate that a person should be indicted for the crime.

It is important to note that the grand jury does not determine whether the person who is accused is guilty of the crime, only that there is enough evidence to suggest that the case should move forward. If the grand jury determines that there is, they will issue an indictment. This means that the accused person is either formally charged with the crime or arrested if they have not already been placed under arrest.

Grand jury indictments are typically only used for serious cases that are considered felonies, such as kidnapping, the selling of drugs or bank robberies. It is important to note that a grand jury indictment is not necessary for all felonies and is rarely used for misdemeanors. A defendant may also chose to waive the indictment, in which case, the U.S. attorney will issue what is known as an information instead.

Defendants who are accused of federal crimes may find it beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal attorney. An attorney may be able to assist a defendant by working to provide a strong criminal defense that could reduce charges and help limit jail time.

Source: Federal Judicial Center, "How Cases Move Through Federal Courts" Dec. 10, 2014

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