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Criminal procedure

grand jury

A grand jury is a type of jury, comprised of citizens who are presented with evidence from a state or federal prosecutor (District Attorney or United States Attorney) to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a person committed a crime and should be put on trial. If the grand jury determines there is enough evidence, an indictment will be issued against the defendant. This is known as a “true bill,” and the grand jury is said to have “returned a true bill.” If the grand jury does not believe there is sufficient evidence the accused committed a crime and should be put on trial, it is said to return a “no true bill" or "no bill."

The United States Constitution does not require states to use a grand jury to bring criminal charges against a person—but many states do use grand juries, and some states are required by their state constitution or statutes to use a grand jury to secure an indictment for any felony criminal offense. And the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to require the federal government to use grand juries for all felony crimes.

Grand jury proceedings are not open to the public and accused persons and their attorneys do not have the right to appear before the grand jury, or to be informed of the proceedings. Witnesses subpoenaed by a grand jury do not have the right to have their attorney present during their testimony. The grand jury proceedings are generally transcribed by a court reporter, but the record is sealed.

Federal grand juries generally consist of 16-23 persons who serve or work on the grand jury for a few days each month for approximately one year—after which a new grand jury is selected by the Federal District Court. At least 12 jurors must agree to return a true bill for indictment of the accused person.

Procedures for the use of grand juries in the state court system vary from state to state and are generally governed by the state’s constitution, and statutes that are often located in the penal or criminal code, the code of criminal procedure, or the government code.

In Texas, a grand jury is used to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime and should be indicted for trial. The grand jury is composed of citizens and operates in secrecy, without the presence of the defendant or their attorney. Texas law requires the use of grand juries for felony charges. The proceedings are not public, and witnesses cannot have their attorneys present during testimony. The transcripts of the proceedings are sealed. Texas grand juries typically consist of 12 members, and at least 9 jurors must agree to return a true bill for an indictment to be issued. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure outlines the specific rules and procedures governing grand juries in the state. On the federal level, the U.S. Constitution mandates the use of grand juries for all felony crimes, and federal grand juries usually have 16-23 members, with at least 12 needed to indict. They serve for about a year and meet periodically each month. The selection and operation of federal grand juries are governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.


Texas Statutes & Rules

Federal Statutes & Rules

U.S. Constitution, Amendment V
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes the requirement for a grand jury for capital and other infamous crimes at the federal level.

The Fifth Amendment contains several provisions relevant to legal proceedings, including the requirement for a grand jury for capital and 'infamous' crimes, which has been interpreted to mean all federal felony offenses. It states, 'No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.' This clause ensures that serious federal criminal charges are first reviewed by a group of citizens before a defendant can be brought to trial, providing a check against potentially unfounded prosecutions.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 6: The Grand Jury
Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure outlines the composition, powers, and functions of federal grand juries.

Rule 6 provides detailed procedures for federal grand juries. It specifies that a federal grand jury must have 16 to 23 members, and at least 12 jurors must concur to return an indictment. The rule also outlines the process for selecting grand jurors, the oath they take, the appointment of a foreperson and deputy foreperson, and the general operation of grand jury proceedings. It addresses the secrecy of the proceedings, stating that matters occurring before the grand jury are to be kept secret, except as otherwise provided by the rules. It also details the rights of witnesses, including the right to be advised of their right against self-incrimination, and the process for recording and disclosing the proceedings.

Title 18 U.S.C. § 3331 - § 3334: Grand Jury
Title 18 of the United States Code, Sections 3331 to 3334, provide statutory provisions regarding federal grand juries.

These sections of the U.S. Code govern the legal framework for federal grand juries. Section 3331 outlines the general provisions for summoning and impaneling grand juries, including the requirement that at least one grand jury be summoned each year in each judicial district. Section 3332 deals with the powers and duties of a grand jury, including the ability to inquire into offenses against the criminal laws of the United States and the right to request evidence from the U.S. Attorney. Section 3333 provides guidance on the reporting of noncriminal misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency by public officers to a judge. Section 3334 addresses the disclosure of records and reports of grand juries to the public, which is generally prohibited to maintain the secrecy of the proceedings.