Part of the criminal trial process in New York is a hearing before a grand jury. Grand jury hearings are not the same as your actual trial. The following is a brief overview of what to expect at a grand jury hearing.
The grand jury hearing
A hearing before a grand jury is not your actual trial. The point of the grand jury hearing is to determine if there is enough evidence in your case to conduct a trial. Judges do not preside over grand jury hearings. Witnesses can provide testimony in a grand jury hearing, but they have immunity from prosecution based on their testimony. That being said, a witness can waive this immunity. If so, the witness has the right to have an attorney during the grand jury hearing.
The grand jury’s decision
The grand jury will vote on whether your case should go to trial. This is referred to as indictment. Twelve grand jurors must agree to indict you based on the evidence presented. A grand jury can also decide that, based on the evidence, the charges against you should be reduced. If the grand jury determines there is not enough evidence of criminal activity, the charges against you will be dismissed and you will be released. In legalese this is referred to as “voting a no true bill.”
After your indictment
Following your indictment, you will be arraigned again and informed of the charges you face. The amount of your bail may be adjusted. This is also a time where you may enter negotiations for a plea bargain. If you plead not guilty a trial date will be set and your case will move forward with discovery, motions and pre-trial hearings.
It is important to have a basic understanding of the criminal trial process if you are accused of a crime. This way you can know what to expect at each stage and can develop a solid criminal defense strategy that meets your best interests.