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Why Does a Case Go to the Grand Jury?

A case goes to the Grand Jury to determine if there is enough evidence for a trial. Grand juries are called upon to evaluate the evidence presented by the prosecution and decide whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant.

They play a crucial role in the criminal justice system by serving as a check on the government’s power to prosecute individuals. Unlike trial juries, grand juries are not concerned with determining guilt or innocence. Instead, their focus is solely on weighing the evidence and deciding whether charges should be brought against the accused.

The grand jury process helps ensure that prosecutions are based on sufficient evidence and protects individuals from unwarranted or unjust governmental action.

Why Case Go to Grand Jury

Grand Jury: Role and Function

The grand jury is an integral part of the criminal justice system that plays a crucial role in determining whether a case should proceed to trial. In the United States, it is enshrined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that no person shall be held to answer for a capital crime unless indicted by a grand jury.

The grand jury acts as a protection against unfair prosecutions and guarantees that cases are founded on adequate evidence before they move ahead to trial. Its primary function is to review the evidence presented by the prosecutor and determine whether there is enough probable cause to indict the accused. This means that the grand jurors must decide if there is a reasonable belief that a crime has occurred and that the accused is responsible for it.

The grand jury consists of a diverse group of citizens who are randomly selected from the community in which the alleged crime took place. Often composed of around 16 to 23 individuals, the grand jury serves for a specific period, typically ranging from a few months to a year.

The selection process varies by jurisdiction, but it typically involves potential jurors being chosen from a pool of eligible individuals and then screened for qualifications and biases. Once selected, grand jurors are sworn in and provided with their duties and responsibilities.

Read Also: Why Do We Call Judges “Your Honor”?

How Cases Are Referred To The Grand Jury

Once it is established that a case meets the criteria for grand jury involvement, the process for referring it to the grand jury begins:

  1. The prosecutor, often the District Attorney or a similar legal representative, reviews the evidence and determines whether it is appropriate to present the case to the grand jury.
  2. If the prosecutor decides to proceed, they will draft an indictment — a formal accusation of the crime and present it to the grand jury along with supporting evidence.
  3. The grand jury members then review the evidence and hear testimony from witnesses called by the prosecution.
  4. After evaluating the evidence, the grand jury decides whether there is enough probable cause to indict the accused. If a majority of the jurors agree, an indictment is issued, and the case proceeds to trial.

It is important to note that the grand jury operates with a greater level of discretion and confidentiality than a regular trial jury. Their purpose is not to determine guilt or innocence, but rather to establish if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed. This secretive nature allows witnesses to speak more freely without fear of retaliation or intimidation.

Determining The Need For An Indictment

Before deciding whether to indict, the grand jury must consider the standard of proof required. This standard is typically higher than what is needed for the defendant to be found guilty at trial. The grand jury must be convinced that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed the crime.

Probable cause means that there is enough evidence to suggest that a crime has been committed and that the defendant likely committed it. It is important to note that the grand jury does not need to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard at trial.

The grand jury’s decision to indict or not indict is influenced by various factors. Some of the key factors the grand jury considers include:

  • The strength and credibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution
  • The seriousness of the alleged crime
  • The defendant’s criminal history, if applicable
  • The likelihood of obtaining a guilty verdict at trial

These factors help the grand jury assess whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. It is important for the prosecution to present a compelling case and convince the grand jury that the evidence against the defendant is strong and reliable.

Check Also: How to Check If You Have an Indictment?

Pros And Cons Of Grand Jury Involvement

When it comes to legal proceedings, understanding the factors that determine whether a case goes to a grand jury is essential. The use of grand juries varies by jurisdiction, and not all legal systems employ them. Here are some pros and cons associated with grand jury involvement:

Advantages Of Grand Jury System

The grand jury system offers several benefits that contribute to the fair and impartial administration of justice:

  1. Independent Review: One advantage of involving a grand jury is that it provides an independent review of the evidence presented. This means that the decision to proceed to trial is not solely reliant on the prosecutor’s judgment, but rather on a group of unbiased individuals who have carefully examined the evidence. This helps to ensure fairness and transparency in the legal process.
  2. Protection against Unfounded Accusations: The grand jury acts as a safeguard against trumped-up charges or unfounded accusations. By requiring a probable cause threshold to be met before proceeding to trial, the grand jury helps prevent the misuse of judicial power and protects individuals from baseless prosecutions.
  3. Promotes Public Confidence: Another advantage of the grand jury system is that it promotes public confidence in the justice system. By involving citizens in the decision-making process, it fosters trust and legitimacy, as the public sees that ordinary individuals have a role in determining whether charges should be filed. This helps reduce skepticism and enhances the perception of a fair and impartial legal system.

Criticism And Drawbacks Of Grand Jury Process

Despite its advantages, the grand jury process is not without criticism. It is important to be aware of the drawbacks associated with this legal procedure.

  • Lack of Transparency: One of the main criticisms of the grand jury system is its lack of transparency. Proceedings are typically conducted behind closed doors, leading to limited public scrutiny. This can raise concerns about accountability and the potential for biases or unfair practices.
  • Potential for Bias: While the grand jury is intended to be an impartial body, there is a potential for bias to influence its decisions. The selection of grand jurors may not always represent a diverse cross-section of society, leading to the possibility of inherent biases that may affect the outcome of cases.
  • Prosecutor Influence: Another drawback of the grand jury process is the influence prosecutors can have on the proceedings. As the only legal counsel present, prosecutors have significant control over the evidence presented and the direction of the investigation. This power dynamic can raise concerns about fairness and impartiality.


The grand jury process plays a crucial role in determining if a case should proceed to trial. It enables impartial citizens to evaluate the evidence and decide whether there is enough to pursue criminal charges. This system provides transparency and ensures that all parties involved have a fair opportunity to present their case.

Knowing the reasons behind a case’s grand jury referral can help clarify the legal system’s workings and highlight the significance of this particular facet.