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The grand jury indictment process in New Jersey

New Jersey’s use of grand juries in the indictment process sets it apart from most U.S. states. If you are ever arrested for a serious crime, and your case is not dismissed or diverted into something like a pretrial intervention program, a grand jury will most likely decide whether to indict you on the charges. It may help you have a general idea of what a grand jury is and how it works.

Who serves on a New Jersey grand jury?

Just like the jury in a criminal trial, a grand jury is made up of 23 citizens selected from lists of voter registrations, drivers’ licenses and taxpayers. But unlike a regular jury, the grand jury’s job is not to observe a trial and decide if the prosecution has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And the indictment process looks quite different than a trial.

Differences between a grand jury hearing and a trial

For one thing, the defendant and their defense attorney are not present at the proceedings. The county prosecutor presents evidence against the defendant, but rather than determine if the defendant is guilty or not, the grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to charge them. If it decides there is, the grand jury returns what is called a “true bill.” If not, it enters a “no bill,” and the charges are dismissed. Alternatively, the grand jury can also vote to indict on lesser charges.

Note that the grand jury does not have to decide to enter a true bill unanimously. Only a majority of the 23 jurors need to vote in favor of a true bill for the charges to proceed.

The smart move if a grand jury is considering your fate

Being indicted is serious, but it does not mean you will be convicted or that pleading guilty is your only option. Instead of panicking, call the Law Office of Michael P. McGuire, LLC at 732-704-7331 to schedule a free consultation. Se habla español.