If you’ve been accused of a capital crime, you may be terrified. The potential consequences are quite serious. By the time a grand jury is convened, a prosecutor has gathered a substantial amount of evidence and built its case against you. The grand jury proceedings can function for the prosecutor as a preview of how an ordinary jury is likely to receive the case. You should take the possibility of an indictment seriously, and consult a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney.What is an Indictment?
An indictment is a written document that contains the crimes a defendant has been charged with perpetrating. It is issued by a grand jury. An indictment is one method by which a defendant can be charged; another is an information. An information is a formal criminal charge that a prosecutor can issue without going before a grand jury. The prosecutor signs and swears under oath that it has received proof in the form of physical evidence or testimony that supports the criminal charges contained in the information. Misdemeanors and violations of ordinances are usually brought with a notice to appear, rather than an information. In general, most defendants would prefer to be charged with an information than an indictment because the information affords the opportunity of a preliminary hearing.Grand Jury Proceedings
Under the Florida constitution, a state attorney can’t file a first degree murder charge or other capital criminal charge via an information. All first degree murder charges need to be brought before a grand jury. The prosecutor has a choice about whether to move forward with an information or an indictment and if he seeks an indictment, he can interrogate witnesses he’s subpoenaed and present other evidence.
A Florida grand jury is an agency of the court that can investigate, report and accuse. It includes a certain number of citizens empaneled by the circuit court judge. It answers to nobody except the court that empanels it, and then only insofar as it exceeds its authority and privileges.
State grand jury proceedings are different from federal judicial proceedings in which a grand jury is called to determine whether there is probable cause for other types of felonies.
A Florida grand jury is made up of at least 15 community members who come together in secret to be presented with evidence by the prosecuting attorney. The grand jury members must be state residents who are at least 18-years-old. They are chosen at random. Once evidence, including witness testimony, is presented, the grand jurors will vote on whether there’s probable cause to believe a specific crime was perpetrated and whether it was perpetrated by the suspect. The grand jury has the power to question witnesses and ask for more evidence. If the majority of grand jurors vote that there was probable cause, it will issue an indictment. The grand jury need not be unanimous in its decision; a decision to indict requires only a majority vote of at least 12 jurors.
The grand jury doesn’t determine innocence or guilt, or hear both sides. Its objective is to hear witnesses and see evidence regarding a criminal charge to be brought by the state and to decide whether there is probable cause to bring a person or people to trial. If the majority decides there’s probable cause, it will return a true bill to indicate a formal indictment. Otherwise it will return a no bill, which means the case doesn’t go forward.Consult a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Petersburg
It can be upsetting and anxiety-provoking to face an indictment for a crime in St. Petersburg. You may be haunted by a criminal conviction many years into the future. If you have been arrested or accused of a crime, contact Hanlon Law. Our founding lawyer Will Hanlon has provided knowledgeable legal representation and counsel to the accused since 1994, and may be able to develop a strong defense for the charges against you. Please call Hanlon Law at (727) 897-5413 or contact us via our online form.