In 2014, after a grand jury refused to indict a police officer in Missouri in a case widely covered by the media, many began to learn about grand juries for the first time. What is a grand jury, and how does a grand jury operate? The first thing to know is that a grand jury can indict you – that is, it can have you charged for a serious crime. Grand juries are not that common in Arizona, but if you are suspected of a serious crime and a prosecutor convenes a grand jury to hear evidence against you, you must have the aggressive representation that an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney can provide.
Simply put, a grand jury is a panel of citizens who help a prosecutor determine whether or not to file charges in a specific criminal case. In Arizona, sixteen people are on a standard grand jury. Eleven must be present to make a quorum, and nine must vote for an indictment or no charges will be filed. Grand jury proceedings are secret. The panel may review a variety of evidence and interrogate almost anyone as a witness. If you are the target of the proceeding, you may or may not be allowed to testify – it’s up to the jurors – but you probably should not. You’d be on your own because in a grand jury proceeding, witnesses may not be accompanied by an attorney.
An Arizona prosecutor may convene a grand jury when the case is controversial, but for the most part, if you’re charged with a crime in this state, you’re more likely to face a routine criminal proceeding than a grand jury. Nevertheless, if you’re charged with a crime in Phoenix or anywhere in Arizona, you need to act at once to protect yourself and your rights by putting your case immediately in the hands of an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney.