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Grand Jury Investigations

A grand jury indictment is one of several ways criminal charges are brought. Because of that, it is important to take the right steps at the right time to protect yourself if you become the subject of a grand jury investigation. A seasoned criminal attorney with significant investigative experience can help you protect yourself throughout the grand jury process. Read on to learn more about the Massachusetts grand jury investigation process and how I can help you protect yourself if you become the subject of an investigation.

Grand Jury Investigation Overview

There are two types of jurors in the Massachusetts court system: trial jurors and grand jurors. Unlike a trial jury, which determines the ultimate outcome of a criminal case, a grand jury simply determines if criminal charges should be filed and whether a person should be indicted for a crime.

The grand jury is composed of people from the community who consider evidence presented made by the prosecution. Most grand juries are composed of more members than a regular jury. For example, some grand juries can have up to 23 members. Grand jury investigations are one-sided “secret” proceedings. See Commonwealth v. Pezzano, 387 Mass. 69, 72-73 (1982).

The grand jury is responsible for determining whether there is sufficient “probable cause” to justify charging a person with a crime. This determination is similar to a clerk magistrate’s hearing (“show cause hearing”) or a search and seizure warrant requirement. The grand jury must determine if there is enough evidence to support the elements of a criminal offense without deciding whether the accused is innocent or guilty. Upon the conclusion of the prosecution presenting its evidence, the grand jury will take a vote as to whether probable cause has been established.

Grand juries are convened in Massachusetts to determine whether an indictment should be issued for any Superior Court felony offense.

Grand Jury Investigation Process

During the Massachusetts grand jury investigation process, only the prosecution and its witnesses will participate. See Commonwealth v. Smith, 414 Mass. 437 (1993). Typically, the accused is not present during the grand jury process nor is his/her lawyer. Most people are unaware that they are under grand jury investigation. A “true bill” of indictment will be presented to the Superior Court if the grand jury decides that the minimum evidence has been presented to warrant “probable cause.” Commonwealth v. McCarthy, 385 Mass. 160, 163 (1982). A “no bill” will dismiss the accusation prior to a formal charge in Superior Court. The grand jury must have a simple majority of votes to indict a person. See Massachusetts Criminal Procedure Rule 5: The Grand Jury for more information.

During most grand jury investigations in Massachusetts, the prosecution is allowed to enter in hearsay evidence. A judge is not actively involved in the grand juror process. The jurors meet with the prosecution and witnesses to take in testimony and review evidence. Once a case is in the Superior Court, an arraignment will be held in which the charges asserted against the accused will be read by the judge and she/he will be prompted to enter a formal plea. Pre-trial hearings are held following the arraignment. If a plea deal cannot be reached, the case will likely proceed to trial.

Steps to take Following Indictment

An indicted person should challenge the grand jury proceedings for a lack of probable cause. If a judge agrees that the grand jury did not hear enough evidence to warrant that the alleged criminal acts occurred, the indictment can be dismissed. Consult with an attorney immediately following an indictment. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney right away is the best way to protect your rights. In the event you are indicted, having an attorney represent you during the arraignment and pre-trial process will ensure your rights are protected.

Being represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney can bring you peace of mind while facing serious criminal consequences. An experienced criminal defense attorney will select a team of investigators and professionals to collect evidence to dispute the prosecution’s claims against you. Act fast in obtaining representation.

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