How Does the Grand Jury Process Work in Los Angeles?

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In California, you’ll see the Grand Jury process used in felony cases at both the state and federal level. They are not used in misdemeanor proceedings.

A Grand Jury does not try you. Rather, they are used to determine whether the prosecutor has done their job well enough to warrant the launch of a criminal trial. This is known as an indictment.

California prosecutors may choose between using the Grand Jury process or holding a preliminary hearing before a judge or a magistrate. 

How Grand Juries Are Selected in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, the Criminal Grand Jury is chosen monthly for a 30-day term of service. They are selected at random from the Jury pool. 23 members are chosen. The county also chooses alternates.

Los Angeles also has a Civil Grand Jury, which examines all aspects of county government, municipalities, and special districts to ensure that they are being governed honestly and efficiently. 

Federal Grand Juries are randomly selected among citizens residing in the federal districts where federal cases are taking place. 

What Happens During the Grand Jury Proceeding

Neither you nor your lawyer will get to be present at the Grand Jury proceeding. Instead, the prosecutor presents their evidence and calls their witnesses so the Grand Jury may determine if there is probable cause for a trial. 

If the prosecution’s case is weak, ideally, the Grand Jury will refuse to indict. 

In a federal case, in most cases, you won’t be charged unless the Grand Jury indicts first. You may be called to testify before a Grand Jury. Usually, you will know if the government is seeking to indict you because you would have received a target letter beforehand.  

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing

If the prosecutor opts for a preliminary hearing, then both you and your lawyer will be present. 

The purpose is basically the same—to determine if the prosecutor has enough evidence to move forward. 

If the judge or magistrate determines that the prosecutor has what they need, then they will present you with a document called an “information” which essentially lets you know that your case is going to trial unless otherwise resolved. 

Ham Sandwiches? 

In 1985, Judge Sol Wachtler, former chief judge of New York state, famously said that “by and large, you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” He recommended scrapping the entire system.

It’s no less true today: most Grand Juries rubber stamp indictment. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, the jurors only hear the prosecutor’s side of the story. They don’t hear from any defense witnesses or see any exculpatory evidence. What else are they going to do?

Second, people have been trained by a decades of police shows to believe that cops relentlessly pursue the truth in every case, that anyone who gets to trial is guilty, and that anyone who is found innocent is getting away with something. While on paper our system champions the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” the result is often something else entirely. 

Facing Indictment? 

If you’ve been arrested or think you’re under investigation, do not hesitate to contact a private criminal defense lawyer who can help you. Our team will thoroughly examine your case and will work to ensure that yours is brought to its best possible outcome.

Contact us today.

See also: 

What Happens if You Confess to a Crime in Los Angeles, CA? 

What to Do If You Get Arrested in Los Angeles, CA? 

When Should You Take a Plea Deal in Your Los Angeles, CA Criminal Case?

How Does the Grand Jury Process Work in Los Angeles?

inne-rpage-seperator

In California, you’ll see the Grand Jury process used in felony cases at both the state and federal level. They are not used in misdemeanor proceedings.

A Grand Jury does not try you. Rather, they are used to determine whether the prosecutor has done their job well enough to warrant the launch of a criminal trial. This is known as an indictment.

California prosecutors may choose between using the Grand Jury process or holding a preliminary hearing before a judge or a magistrate. 

How Grand Juries Are Selected in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, the Criminal Grand Jury is chosen monthly for a 30-day term of service. They are selected at random from the Jury pool. 23 members are chosen. The county also chooses alternates.

Los Angeles also has a Civil Grand Jury, which examines all aspects of county government, municipalities, and special districts to ensure that they are being governed honestly and efficiently. 

Federal Grand Juries are randomly selected among citizens residing in the federal districts where federal cases are taking place. 

What Happens During the Grand Jury Proceeding

Neither you nor your lawyer will get to be present at the Grand Jury proceeding. Instead, the prosecutor presents their evidence and calls their witnesses so the Grand Jury may determine if there is probable cause for a trial. 

If the prosecution’s case is weak, ideally, the Grand Jury will refuse to indict. 

In a federal case, in most cases, you won’t be charged unless the Grand Jury indicts first. You may be called to testify before a Grand Jury. Usually, you will know if the government is seeking to indict you because you would have received a target letter beforehand.  

What Happens at a Preliminary Hearing

If the prosecutor opts for a preliminary hearing, then both you and your lawyer will be present. 

The purpose is basically the same—to determine if the prosecutor has enough evidence to move forward. 

If the judge or magistrate determines that the prosecutor has what they need, then they will present you with a document called an “information” which essentially lets you know that your case is going to trial unless otherwise resolved. 

Ham Sandwiches? 

In 1985, Judge Sol Wachtler, former chief judge of New York state, famously said that “by and large, you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” He recommended scrapping the entire system.

It’s no less true today: most Grand Juries rubber stamp indictment. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, the jurors only hear the prosecutor’s side of the story. They don’t hear from any defense witnesses or see any exculpatory evidence. What else are they going to do?

Second, people have been trained by a decades of police shows to believe that cops relentlessly pursue the truth in every case, that anyone who gets to trial is guilty, and that anyone who is found innocent is getting away with something. While on paper our system champions the concept of “innocent until proven guilty,” the result is often something else entirely. 

Facing Indictment? 

If you’ve been arrested or think you’re under investigation, do not hesitate to contact a private criminal defense lawyer who can help you. Our team will thoroughly examine your case and will work to ensure that yours is brought to its best possible outcome.

Contact us today.

See also: 

What Happens if You Confess to a Crime in Los Angeles, CA? 

What to Do If You Get Arrested in Los Angeles, CA? 

When Should You Take a Plea Deal in Your Los Angeles, CA Criminal Case?

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