Police questioned you, maybe several times, about the circumstances of a recent crime. Perhaps police detained you for a while, and you felt nervous about what might happen. Then, maybe they released you, and you didn't hear anything more about the case for days, weeks or longer.
Suddenly, police arrive at your door to arrest you. You have been indicted, and now they are charging you with a felony. It may seem like the beginning of a terrifying process, but in truth, the process has been ongoing since the moment police first suspected your involvement in the crime. Your indictment came as a result of gathering evidence and presenting it to a grand jury.
How the grand jury works
A grand jury is different from a trial jury in many important ways. For one thing, you may not have even known the grand jury was underway. When your jury trial happens, you will have the right to be present, to hear the evidence against you and to defend yourself against the accusations. A grand jury convenes behind closed doors, usually with only the prosecutor present and no judge. This allows witnesses to testify freely and protects your name if the jurors decide in your favor.
During these proceedings, the prosecutor lays out the evidence investigators have gathered. He or she describes what investigators know about the case and presents any witnesses for the jurors to question. A prosecutor has fewer restrictions regarding the kinds of evidence he or she can present to a grand jury compared to the evidence that a judge may allow in a trial. The prosecutor will then explain how Texas and federal laws apply to your case and leave the jurors alone to deliberate.
The decision of the grand jury
The grand jury is not deciding if you are guilty or innocent. Instead, they are helping the prosecutor determine if the evidence in your case is strong enough to charge you with the crime. If the grand jury decides the case is strong enough to take to trial, they will indict you. Nine of the 12 jurors must agree on the indictment.
An indictment means the prosecutor can formally charge you and begin preparing for your trial. It also means you now know the exact charges you are facing, so you can begin building your defense. It is wise to seek experienced representation for your trial. Your attorney can review the evidence and help you make smart decisions about how to proceed for the most positive outcome possible.