When a serious crime such as murder has been committed, a grand jury usually determines whether or not there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial based on what was gathered. Grand juries almost always indict, as the bar for going to trial is set extremely low. When a minor crime has been committed–like theft–then a grand jury usually isn’t needed in order to move to a trial. The indictment itself is not considered evidence of guilt when at trial.
Because most crimes are not as serious in nature, a grand jury is often avoided. Prosecutors instead gather the evidence they have and are able to levy charges based on nothing more than the evidence at hand. Again, indictment without a grand jury is not considered evidence should a trial commence.
Pre-indictment investigations can be conducted by both the prosecutor and the defense. For the prosecutor, the purpose of a pre-indictment investigation is to ensure that enough evidence exists to continue moving forward with a certain suspect in mind. When the defense conducts a pre-indictment investigation, the purpose is to reduce his exposure to the prosecutor and discover any potential flaws in the case against a client.
In general, cases will move forward. Even so, it’s necessary to retain the services of a qualified attorney to ensure that every avenue is taken. When possible, a defense attorney will interview witnesses and review information that may implicate his or her client. If a flaw is found, the defense attorney might speak to the prosecutor. Sometimes this is an effort to get the charges dismissed. Other times this is to ensure that the charges have not been inflated; that is, that they fit the crime for which the client is under investigation.
During the period for which pre-indictment investigations are ongoing, a defense attorney will attempt to keep his or her client out of the limelight. Lawyers have the right to determine when and how a client will meet with or speak to law enforcement, or in bigger cases, the press.
If the prosecutor finds enough information to proceed to a grand jury and there is an indictment, then the defense will likely ask for bail considerations.
These investigations can be a time-consuming process, depending on the strength of the charges. They can be stressful, especially if the public has already determined guilt. This is why hiring an attorney is so important. An attorney can help govern how your case is handled, which itself can greatly reduce the stress incurred. Contact one of our criminal defense attorneys to make sure that your rights are protected.