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Indicted in NJ? What You Need to Know About Grand Jury Proceedings

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Indicted in NJ? What You Need to Know About Grand Jury Proceedings

Indicted in NJ? What You Need to Know About Grand Jury Proceedings

Facing criminal charges in New Jersey can be a daunting and life-altering experience, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the legal process. If you’ve been indicted or believe you may soon be, understanding how grand jury proceedings work is crucial. At Bramnick Law, our criminal defense attorneys are here to provide comprehensive legal guidance and support. This article aims to demystify the grand jury proceedings in New Jersey, providing guidance on what you should expect and how you can protect your rights with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.

What Is a Grand Jury?

A grand jury is a group of 23 citizens tasked with evaluating evidence presented by the prosecution to determine whether probable cause exists to indict someone on criminal charges. Unlike a trial jury, which determines guilt or innocence, a grand jury only decides if formal charges should proceed.

Key Differences Between a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury

  • Number of Jurors: A grand jury comprises 23 members, while a trial jury typically consists of 12 members.
  • Decision Standard: A grand jury needs 12 out of 23 members to agree on probable cause to issue an indictment, whereas a trial jury requires a unanimous decision to convict.
  • Defendant’s Rights: Defendants do not have the right to be present or represented by counsel at grand jury proceedings, nor can they question witnesses or present their own evidence.

The Grand Jury Process in New Jersey

Pre-Indictment Resolution

  • Before the grand jury convenes, your attorney can work to resolve your case at the pre-indictment level through negotiations or a pre-trial intervention program.
  • If a resolution is not reached, the case proceeds to the grand jury.

Selection of Grand Jurors

  • The grand jury consists of 23 randomly selected citizens.
  • The prosecutor represents the state of New Jersey and presents evidence to this jury.

Presentation of Evidence

  • The prosecutor presents evidence, often including witness testimonies, documents, and expert opinions, to the grand jury.
  • Defendants and their attorneys are typically not present and do not have the right to present their side of the story. However, in rare cases, a defendant may testify if requested by the prosecutor.
  • There is no judge overseeing the proceedings.

Deliberation and Decision

  • The grand jury deliberates privately to decide whether probable cause exists.
  • If 12 or more jurors agree on probable cause, an indictment (or “true bill”) is issued. Otherwise, a “no bill” is returned, and the charges may be dismissed.
  • Alternatively, the jury can downgrade the charges to a lesser offense, resulting in the case being moved to municipal court.

Implications of an Indictment

An indictment doesn’t mean you’re guilty but indicates that the prosecution has probable cause to proceed to trial. After an indictment:

  • Arraignment: The judge reads the charges against you, asks for your plea, and determines your bail conditions.
  • Pre-Trial Proceedings: These include motions, plea negotiations, and discovery exchanges.
  • Trial or Plea Deal: If no deal is reached, the case proceeds to trial.

How Prosecutors Utilize Grand Jury Proceedings as an Indictment Tool

Grand jury proceedings are secret and heavily favor the prosecution because:

  • Absence of Defense Counsel and Judge: No defense attorney or judge is present to challenge the evidence, object to evidence admissibility, or cross-examine witnesses.
  • Presentation of One-Sided Evidence: The prosecution often obtains an indictment by presenting one-sided evidence.
  • Secrecy of Proceedings: Neither the defendant nor their attorney has access to the grand jury proceedings.

This makes it easier for prosecutors to secure an indictment, even when evidence may be weak or insufficient.

Grand Jury Indictment Timelines in New Jersey

  • 90-Day Deadline: The prosecutor has 90 days from the date of the initial charge to secure an indictment.
  • 180-Day Deadline: The state must resolve the case within 180 days of the indictment date. Otherwise, charges may be dismissed unless specific exemptions apply.

Exemptions Include

  • Mental Incompetence: If a psychiatrist deems the defendant mentally incompetent.
  • Discovery Violations: When there are issues in the discovery process.
  • Application to Mental Health/Drug Treatment Courts: Involvement in specialized courts.
  • Natural Disasters/States of Emergency: Natural disasters or public emergencies.
  • Severance of Co-Defendants: When co-defendants are separated for trial.
  • Other Good Cause Reasons: Other legitimate reasons as determined by the court.

The Arraignment: Your First Courtroom Appearance

After an indictment is issued, the next step is the arraignment, your first appearance in the courtroom. During the arraignment, you can expect:

  • Reading of Charges: The assignment judge reads the formal charges against you.
  • Confirmation of Legal Representation: The judge confirms you have a defense attorney or appoints a public defender if necessary.
  • Entering a Plea: You will be asked to enter a plea to the charges.
  • Conditions of Release: New Jersey does not offer bail. Instead, the judge determines your conditions of release based on the Public Safety Assessment (PSA), a risk assessment tool. The judge may order your release on your own recognizance, subject to certain conditions like periodic check-ins, electronic monitoring, or pre-trial supervision.
  • Setting Future Dates: The judge sets future proceedings, including preliminary hearings, pre-trial motions, and a trial date.

How Bramnick Law Can Help You

Understanding New Jersey’s grand jury proceedings is crucial if you’ve been indicted or are under investigation. The criminal defense attorneys at Bramnick Law are ready to provide comprehensive legal guidance and support at every stage.

Our Approach

  • Early Legal Representation: Contacting us early can help minimize mistakes and prepare a solid defense strategy.
  • Independent Investigation: Our team conducts an independent investigation to uncover exculpatory evidence.
  • Negotiating with Prosecutors: Often, charges can be reduced or dismissed through strategic negotiations before an indictment.

Contact Bramnick Law Today to Schedule a Free Consultation to Discuss Your Criminal Defense Case

If you’re facing criminal charges in New Jersey, you need a dedicated defense team by your side. At Bramnick Law, we understand the fear and uncertainty of indictment, and our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to fight for your rights. From pre-indictment negotiations to trial representation, we’ll guide you through every step of the legal process. Contact us today for a free consultation.




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