Before any felony case can be tried, it has to go to the Grand Jury and be indicted. Though rare, even a misdemeanor allegation can be referred to and heard by the Grand Jury. If a case is no-billed, it is generally not going to be prosecuted unless new evidence is discovered. If new evidence is discovered, or if a complaining witness complains about an initial No Bill, the case can be re-presented to the same Grand Jury, or it can be re-submitted to a new and different Grand Jury. Sometimes a Grand Jury will hear the facts of a case and decide that it should be indicted as a misdemeanor offense instead of a felony offense. For example, the prosecutor might ask the Grand Jury to indict a case as an aggravated assault (felony) and the Grand Jury might determine that it should be prosecuted as a simple assault (misdemeanor).
The Grand Jury is a group of twelve to sixteen citizens picked by the judges to serve limited terms hearing the cases presented by the prosecutor’s office and then either issuing a True Bill (an indictment) or a No Bill. The Grand Jury’s role is that of a filter. The Grand Jury determines if the Government has probable cause to pursue the case. Probable cause is a much lower standard of proof than the standard of proof in a trial, which is proof beyond all reasonable doubt. Consequently, the vast majority of the cases presented to a Grand Jury are indicted. This makes sense when you think about it. If an arresting officer determines that she has probable cause to make an arrest, the Grand Jury will normally agree with the arresting officer. They play different roles, but the legal standard of proof is the same, probable cause.
If nine of the twelve Grand Jurors believe there is probable cause, the case is indicted and it moves to one of the various trial courts. Although the Grand Jury operates in secret and usually no one but the prosecutor and their witnesses are allowed to address the Grand Jurors, in some situations a defense attorney can make a written presentation to the Grand Jury and provide written testimonials that can have an impact on the Grand Jury’s decision. This is sometimes referred to as a “Grand Jury Packet.” A defense attorney can even present his client or other witnesses to the Grand Jury but the Grand Jury has sole discretion on whether or not they want to hear from them. If they do chose to hear from them, the defense attorney has no right to be inside.This is risky but occasionally very effective.
A Grand Jury Packet might include additional information that was left out of a police report. It might also include information about the alleged victim and/or the Defendant. The packet might include, for example, the fact that the accused citizen passed a polygraph examination given by a reputable polygraph examiner that even the prosecution and police have used in the past. The packet might include proof that the accused has made full and complete restitution and an affidavit from the complaining witness that he has been made whole and does not wish for the Defendant to be prosecuted. In some situations the packet might include the transcript of favorable testimony given in earlier hearings, such as an examining trial. Every case is different, and every Grand Jury Packet will be different.
There are also important differences in the way that individual Grand Jury prosecutors in various counties in the Dallas/Fort Worth area allow access to the Grand Jury. In some jurisdictions the prosecution will actually allow the defense attorney to enter the Grand Jury room and address the Grand Jury in person. In other counties this practice is absolutely forbidden. In some counties the Grand Jury prosecutor will not allow written material to even be presented or considered by the Grand Jury unless it is submitted to the prosecutor for inspection at least 48 hours in advance. Perhaps most importantly, it is essential that the defense attorney knows how to determine when a particular case will be heard by a Grand Jury. In some counties the prosecutors are very good about providing adequate notice of a Grand Jury hearing if the defense attorney submits a letter or representation. In other counties, such as Dallas County, the defense attorney can submit many letters of representation addressed to every conceivable Grand Jury prosecutor who might present the case, and no notice, verbal or written, is given. If your lawyer doesn’t know when your case will be presented to the Grand Jury she will not be able to present your side of the story.
Having presented scores of cases to Grand Juries as a defense attorney in front of both state and federal Grand Juries in multiple jurisdictions, Phillip Linder knows how the Grand Jury system operates. He also knows that a given Grand Jury can hear 50 or more cases each day that it meets, and that a thick, voluminous Grand Jury Packet will be ignored. He knows that the packet should be short and sweet and get right to the point. Mr. Linder has enjoyed considerable success in getting the right cases No Billed, or the charges reduced, for clients over the last sixteen years that he has been in private practice. He also knows that in the vast majority of cases a Grand Jury Packet will simply be a waste of time, energy, and resources.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for or charged with any criminal related offense, it is very important that you seek immediate representation with a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. Phillip Linder has offices in both Dallas and Collin Counties and has represented people in counties all throughout Texas and in federal courts all throughout the United States.