Grand Jury Proceedings in New Jersey

What happens during a grand jury proceeding in NJ?

Grand jury proceedings are largely shrouded in mystery for most defendants.  Individuals who face serious felony charges in New Jersey may be indicted via a grand jury.  During a grand jury proceeding, up to 23 New Jersey citizens are shown evidence and asked to determine whether or not the charges should result in an indictment.  Read on below to learn what happens during a grand jury proceeding and how you can protect yourself if you are facing indictment.

An Overview of Grand Jury Proceedings

Selection of the Grand Jury

The grand jury members are selected similar to the process used to choose jury members in an ordinary trial.  If you have concerns about the selection of the grand jury and potential juror bias, it is critical that you contact a criminal defense lawyer.  Your attorney does have the power to challenge the composition of the jury, but such motion must be timely made.

Presentation of Evidence

During the grand jury proceedings, the prosecutor will present evidence that he or she believes will be sufficient to hand down an indictment.  There will be an opening statement and the prosecution will present evidence through witness testimony.  In New Jersey, the accused has no right to testify.  However, the prosecutor may call on you to testify.  Testifying at a grand jury proceeding can potentially be risky.  If you have been asked to testify, it is vital that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights.

Grand jury proceedings will be recorded by a court stenographer.  After all evidence has been presented, the grand jury will be left alone to deliberate.  The majority of the jury members must agree to either issue a true bill or indictment, or find a no bill, or dismissal.  If you are in jail and a no bill is found, you will be immediately released.

The reality is that the majority of grand jury proceedings end in an indictment.  There is an old saying that a grand jury would indict a “ham sandwich” if the prosecutor put it in front of them.  Given the serious nature of any felony charge, it is crucial that you contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you learn or suspect you may be indicted.