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What is a grand jury?

In certain situations, those who get arrested first see their case go before a grand jury. This is very different than a trial jury, and it's crucial to understand the differences. It's a common misconception that they're similar, but this could not be further from the truth.

Secret meetings

One big difference is that the meetings for a grand jury are usually secret and held behind closed doors. If you got arrested, you don't go before the jury and plead your case. Neither does your legal team. The jury examines the facts of the case all on their own. It's not a public process until they reach a conclusion. The prosecutor will go to the meeting in order to present facts and evidence to the jury.

Different goals

The goal of a trial jury is to determine guilt or innocence. The goal of a grand jury is largely just to see if there is reason to hold a trial in the first place. They attempt to decide if the case has merit.

When they are presented with your case, they decide if you should even face charges. If they decide that you should, you're still not guilty in the eyes of the law. You could go to trial and prove your innocence. You could see the charges dropped at a later date. The grand jury does not give a verdict, but simply examines the evidence and decides if it is sufficient for defendants to stand trial.

They do this because some arrests are made with little to no evidence. The grand jury can see that these cases would never result in a conviction, so there is little point in wasting the court's time and resources for no reason.

Test trials

One advantage that a grand jury gives the prosecution is that they often see it as a "test trial." They get to go in front of jurors, present evidence and see how the jury receives it. They get a sense of how strong the case is before going to trial. This can help them refine their strategy and decide what to do if they do end up in trial court.

The legal process

As you can see, there are a lot of steps in the legal process. Each one depends heavily on the outcome of the previous step. It is important to understand your role and your rights during each of these steps so that you can consider what legal options you have after an arrest.

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