If you have ever seen a police drama on television, you have undoubtedly seen a jury at work. This type of jury, though, is likely a petit one. A grand jury serves an entirely different function in the criminal justice system in Louisiana and many places across the U.S.
The original purpose of grand juries was to keep prosecutors in check. Nowadays, though, in addition to their original function, grand juries have wide-sweeping investigative authority.
The fact-finding mission of grand juries
When someone allegedly commits a crime, police officers often investigate. Before deciding whether to indict a suspect, a grand jury may also undertake its own investigation. This investigation may include issuing subpoenas, which compel individuals to testify or to provide other forms of evidence.
Ignoring a grand jury subpoena may have serious criminal consequences. Providing untrue or misleading testimony may also lead to perjury charges. Consequently, if a person ever receives a grand jury subpoena, it may be critical to seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
An indictment decision
After completing fact-finding duties and considering all available evidence, grand juries typically hold a secret vote to decide whether to indict a suspect. As a result, the grand jury process respects the privacy rights of individuals who may have committed criminal offenses.
More importantly, grand juries ensure there is enough evidence to support a criminal indictment. Still, because the indictment decision does not typically have to be unanimous, an indictment may be imminent even if a prosecutor’s case is a bit shaky.