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Grand Jury Proceedings

After a preliminary hearing, if the general sessions court determines that there is probable cause for the case to move forward, then the case will be reviewed by a grand jury.

The grand jury is a group of people from the community who are called to grand jury duty. There are significant differences between the grand jury and a trial jury. The grand jury listens to the evidence in the case to determine whether probable cause exists. However, by law, the grand jury only hears the prosecution’s side of the evidence. Further, the meetings are private and neither you or your attorney will be present.

If the grand jury determines that probable cause exists, they will issue an indictment. An indictment is the formal document charging you with a criminal offense in criminal court. Once you are indicted, you will appear in front of the criminal court judge with your attorney for a second arraignment, even if you already had an arraignment in general sessions court.

The majority of criminal charges begin in general sessions court, but not all. It is also possible to be charged directly in criminal court. This happens when the prosecutor takes charges directly to the grand jury for review, without issuing a general sessions arrest warrant first. In this situation, the grand jury listens to evidence from the prosecutor, and if they find probable cause that a crime occurred, they will issue a “presentment.” A presentment is like an indictment – it is the formal charging instrument that begins the case in criminal court. The difference is that charging someone by presentment – going straight to the grand jury – allows the prosecution to skip general sessions court. This occurs more often in cases where the police interview an individual without making an arrest at the time of the interview. That is usually a sign that the State is going to wait gather more evidence (or for some other reason) before seeking charges in criminal court.

In this situation, a person would be arrested when the grand jury issues the presentment, but without an attorney involved, you would not know when the grand jury meets. You would learn about the presentment when officers showed up at your home or place of work to arrest you. This is one reason why you should call our team of attorneys if you have been interviewed by law enforcement or you believe that you’re being investigated by the police.