Everything You Need to Know About Grand Jury Indictment in Georgia
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What happens after a grand jury indictment in Georgia? Philip Kim Law, P.C. can shed more light on this. Call us for more information.
Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.
Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.
Published on July 25, 2023.
What Is a Grand Jury Indictment in Georgia
A grand jury plays a vital role in the administration of justice in a community. A grand jury is a group of citizens tasked with conducting legal proceedings, investigating potential criminal activity, and deciding whether criminal charges should be brought.
In Georgia, a grand jury consists of 16-23 jurors selected from a group of citizens within the county. Grand juries differ from trial juries in that grand juries serve for a specified amount of time and meet at regular intervals to consider multiple cases. Trial juries are impaneled for the length of just one trial.
Whenever indicted by the state, consider hiring experienced Gwinnett County Criminal Lawyers. Criminal defense attorneys at Philip Kim Law, P.C. will provide the criminal defense you need.
The Difference Between Grand Juries and Trial Juries
There is often confusion between trial juries and grand juries. Firstly, grand juries are tasked with determining whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against an individual. A trial jury, on the other hand, is tasked with determining whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty in a criminal proceeding.
Trial juries are also appointed for only one trial, unlike grand juries. A grand jury serves for a set period of time and meets regularly to consider various cases. Also, grand juries are typically secret proceedings, while trial juries are in open court.
Grand Jury Rights
Under Georgia Code 15 12 71, regular grand juries in Georgia have both criminal and civil investigative powers. They can also subpoena witnesses and documents to assist with their investigation. Grand juries can also summon persons accused of a crime as a witness.
Aside from indicting individuals, they may also review government operations and suggest improvements. Furthermore, grand juries can investigate and report to the public on matters of community concern. Under Georgia Section 15-12-74, grand jurors have the right and power to make presentments of any law violations.
Rights of the Accused
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also allows witnesses to “plead the Fifth” and not testify if they believe the testimony will incriminate them.
While the accused has a right to retain and consult their attorney before testifying, they do not have the right to have their attorney present during testimony. The accused is only entitled to have their attorney present outside the grand jury room and to leave the grand jury room to consult with their attorney.
Individuals arrested for a crime and refused bail have the right to a grand jury hearing within 90 days.
Cases Requiring a Grand Jury
The Grand Jury is an essential step in the criminal justice system. Under federal law, all felony offenses require a grand jury. In Georgia, only capital offenses or those offenses punishable by the death penalty require a grand jury. Georgia law statutorily mandated the indictment process for felony crimes such as;
How Grand Jury Process Works
Grand juries must consist of at least 16 and, at most, 23 members. Generally, an indictment requires the consensus of at least 12 jurors. A maximum of three alternate grand jurors may be sworn and serve when one or more grand jurors die, are discharged for any reason, become ill, or otherwise fail to appear at a grand jury meeting.
Once a grand jury is impaneled to investigate criminal activity, one member is selected as a foreman. The foreman presides over the grand jury. No judges are allowed to be present during these proceedings.
As a matter of fact, both federal and state law requires that proceedings before a grand jury be kept secret. Only the grand jury, government attorneys, the testifying witness, a court reporter, and an interpreter may be present when testimony is given.
District attorneys or prosecutors inform the grand jury of the crime and present evidence to the grand jury. It is the prosecutors who call witnesses. Only the prosecution and grand jurors collect testimony from witnesses during the hearing.
After presenting the evidence, the prosecutor and any unauthorized personnel leave the room as the grand jurors discuss the testimony.
During deliberations, the grand jury will review the evidence presented and decide whether the evidence is sufficient to indict an individual for the crime. Grand juries do not determine guilt or innocence; they merely determine whether there is “probable cause” or “prima facie evidence” to believe that someone has committed a crime.
Requirements for an Indictment
Grand jury proceedings without a quorum are void and subject to dismissal.
Approving an indictment requires a majority vote of at least 12 jurors. Once an indictment is approved, the word “true bill” is endorsed. The prosecutor endorses the indictment by listing witnesses whose testimony influenced the indictment.
Lack of substantial evidence leads to the endorsement of “no bill.” The “no bill” endorsement results in charges dismissal.
The prosecutor prepares the indictment and presents it to the foreman for signature. Once an accused individual is indicted, they receive formal notice. The indictment notice encompasses basic information informing the accused of the charges.
When indicted, the accused person can hire their own defense lawyer. Then, the case follows the conventional process for a criminal court proceeding.
How Long Does the State of Georgia Have to Indict Someone?
According to Georgia statute, the state has four years to indict a felony. The statute of limitations no longer applies once an indictment is issued. Constitutional speedy demand is based on case law and the 6th Amendment.
Georgia Code 17-3-1 outlines the criminal statute of limitations as follows:
According to Georgia Code 17-3-1, the criminal statute of limitations states the following:
Prosecution for murder cases can be commenced anytime.
Prosecution forcible rape must be commenced within 15 years of the act.
Prosecution for crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment must be commenced within seven years.
Prosecutions for other felonies need to be started within four years.
How Can Criminal Attorneys at Philip Kim Law, P.C Help
It can be terrifying to learn that you are the subject of a grand jury investigation. A criminal charge might be filed against you, and you could be arrested.
Taking the right steps, however, can help you avoid getting charged with a crime or help you mount a strong defense against the charges you are facing.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible is essential. An experienced lawyer from Philip Kim Law can help you in the following ways:
Provide you with legal advice and guidance about the grand jury process.
Assist you throughout the process.
We will approach the prosecution to determine the scope of the investigation and negotiate with them where possible.
Our team will ensure that your constitutional rights are protected.
If you have been called to testify before a grand jury, we can prepare you for your testimony and questioning.
When charges are inevitable, we can implement mitigation strategies or seek alternative resolutions. If the grand jury returns an indictment, our criminal lawyers in Lawrenceville will vigorously defend you during the trial and fight for the best possible outcome for you. To learn more about record restriction in Georgia and DUI cases, or to receive a free case evaluation, contact our firm today.