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What is a grand jury?

What is a grand jury?  The term is often used, but not always fully or commonly understood.  Generally, in Indiana, a person can be charged with a criminal offense in one of two ways.  In most cases, an individual is alleged to have committed a crime by the filing of a charging information by the prosecuting attorney in the county where the crime allegedly occurred.  It is the prosecutor of that county or one of his or her deputies that determines and files charges against that person.  However, in more rare cases, a person can also be indicted with an offense following a determination by a grand jury, which is comprised of members of the community.  The grand jury is often used in high profile or cases where the prosecutor is unsure or unwilling to make the determination on his or her own.

A grand jury is an integral part of our constitutional heritage, which was brought to this country with the common law from England.  United States v. Mandujano, 425 U.S. 564, 571 (1976).  The Framers of our government, many of them trained in the English law and traditions, acknowledged that the grand jury is one of the basic guarantees of individual liberty.  While not widely used, the grand jury continues to function as a barrier to reckless or unfounded charges by vesting the power in a group of individuals from the community rather than just one person.

Although it is a powerful tool, there is a general rule that grand jury proceedings and transcripts are to be kept secret.  I.C.  35–34–2–4(i).  In fact, it is a criminal offense to “knowingly and intentionally” disclose information acquired in a grand jury proceeding unless compelled by law. I.C.  35–34–2–10(a). Perhaps the mystery or lack of understanding of grand juries is no doubt partially attributable to their required secrecy.  Nonetheless, grand jury proceedings will no doubt continue to play a critical role in a limited number of cases to function as a barrier to reckless and unfounded charges.      

Looking for an Indiana criminal attorney that understands the grand jury process and your constitutional rights? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Barnhart LLP today if you have questions or believe your constitutional or criminal rights have been violated.  We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case.  Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.