The federal grand jury

Most people have a general familiarity with the function of federal grand juries, but how exactly do they work?  If you or someone you know is involved in a federal criminal investigation, the details of grand juries can be very important.

The basic function of the federal grand jury is to bring federal criminal charges.  The grand jury consists of at least 16 people to examine evidence in support of a potential charge.  To return an indictment, at least 12 of the jurors must vote in favor.

In order to obtain the evidence it needs, the grand jury has the power to subpoena evidence and compel testimony from witnesses.  This is why the term “grand jury investigation” is often used to refer to the work that grand juries do.

An important fact about grand juries is that the defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, is not allowed to present evidence or argument to the jurors.  The entire process is controlled by the United States Attorney (i.e. federal prosecutor) who is in charge of the investigation.  What is the result of this imbalance?  Unsurprisingly, federal grand juries almost always return indictments (i.e. federal criminal charges) when requested to do so by the prosecutor in charge.

The foregoing is only the briefest of overviews of federal grand jury investigations.  If you have other questions on this topic, please contact us.


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