What is The New Jersey Grand Jury and Indictment Process?
If you face a recent criminal charge in New Jersey, you have likely heard that your case will need to go through grand jury proceedings first. The term grand jury confuses some people because they are unclear if this is where they hear whether they are guilty or innocent of the criminal charge against them. The purpose of the New Jersey Grand Jury is to hear evidence regarding your criminal charge and determine whether you should face formal charges and proceed to a court trial.
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At Breslow Law Offices, our criminal defense attorneys understand that you may be feeling confused right now as well as anxious about your future. We have decades of combined experience with criminal law. With your freedom as an American citizen on the line, it’s essential that you secure legal representation quickly to represent you in your criminal case. Breslow Law Offices offers a free consultation to all new clients to help them learn more about how we can help. Feel free to contact us today at 973-239-8000 in Verona or 609-494-8884 in Long Beach Island.
How Does A Grand Jury Work in NJ?
The New Jersey Grand Jury will not meet if your criminal defense attorney resolves your case at the pre-indictment level. The case resolves via accusation and you either enter a plea or request participation in the pre-trial intervention program. Should your case not resolve during pre-indictment, the next step is grand jury proceedings.
How Grand Jury Proceedings Work in New Jersey
The New Jersey Grand Jury consists of 23 regular citizens, much like a courtroom jury consists of 12 of your peers. The grand jurors hear evidence for and against you regarding your criminal charge. The 23 members then determine whether enough probable cause exists to formally indict you of a criminal offense. You do not need to be present at the grand jury proceedings. In fact, it’s rare for defendants to attend this part of the legal process.
The members of the grand jury and the county prosecutor are the only ones present at this meeting. Grand jury presentation does not occur in a courtroom either. Your criminal defense attorney will not be there nor will a judge. The prosecutor represents the state of New Jersey and presents evidence to determine whether probable cause exists to move forward with issuing an indictment in your name.
The state must receive a majority vote from the 23 members of the grand jury to proceed with an indictment. If issued, you will also hear an indictment referred to as a true bill. This term describes a document outlining the formal criminal charge against you. If the prosecutor for the state does not receive a majority vote, the state must drop its criminal charges against you and dismiss your case. The term for this is no bill.
The New Jersey Grand Jury also has a third option at this juncture, which is to reduce your criminal charge to a less serious offense. In this situation, you would face a downgraded charge and your case will go to the New Jersey Municipal Court where you will face a misdemeanor known as a disorderly persons offense.
How Prosecutors Use Grand Jury Proceedings as an Indictment Tool
County prosecutors in New Jersey do obtain an indictment most of the time. This is easy to understand when you consider that no defense attorney is present in the grand jury room to present opposing arguments and you are not there to defend yourself. With no judge present, there’s no possibility of questioning witnesses, determining objections, or question the admissibility of evidence.
The set-up of grand jury proceedings makes it easy for the county prosecutor to argue for probable cause whether there’s evidence against your criminal charge or not. Finally, grand jury proceedings are secret. That means neither you nor your criminal defense attorney are privy to why the members of the grand jury opted for indictment.
How Long Does a Grand Jury Have to Indict Someone?
County prosecutors have 90 days from the date New Jersey charged you with a criminal offense to present evidence to a grand jury and receive an indictment against you. The state must try or resolve the case within 180 days of the date of the indictment. If that does not occur, it must drop the charges against you and release you if you are in jail, on house arrest, or on probation.
New Jersey does allow the following exemptions from going against both the 90-day and 180-day deadlines:
- A psychiatrist deems you mentally incompetent
- Evidence of violations during the discovery process surface
- You apply to the mental health or drug treatment court
- The judge hearing your case rescues himself or herself
- Your detainment occurs in another jurisdiction inside or outside of New Jersey
- You fail to appear for your court trial
- A natural disaster or state of emergency occurs
- Severance of co-defendants
- Indictment superseded or dismissed
- Delays due to case complexity
- Other good cause reason
What Happens After an Indictment in New Jersey?
The next step after an indictment is for your criminal case to go to arraignment. The arraignment marks your first appearance in the courtroom and comes after arrest, booking, and indictment. Here is what you can expect during the criminal case arraignment:
- The assignment judge reads the charge against you
- Confirms that you have a criminal defense attorney or offers one appointed by the state
- Asks for your plea to the criminal charges
- Decides to release you on your own recognizance or change the amount of your bail
- Announces future proceeding dates to include preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions, and a court trial
Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation
Obtaining criminal justice is often a matter of hiring the most experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Roy Breslow and Casey Breslow have more than 45 years of protecting the constitutional rights of New Jersey citizens and defending them against criminal charges. Our law firm is also one of New Jersey’s oldest and most prominent.