A grand jury is a group of citizens from within a given jurisdiction who are chosen to determine whether prosecutors in a given case have enough evidence to bring a defendant to trial. The idea is that the grand jury will help to narrow the scope and focus of criminal cases before criminal charges are formally filed. In Philadelphia, the grand jury is often referred to as the Indicting Grand Jury (IGJ) and is used in many cases of witness intimidation, as well as other criminal offenses.
If the evidence brought before the grand jury is considered to be incriminating, the grand jury hands down an indictment. This is what allows the defendant to be formally charged. If the grand jury decides the evidence is not sufficient, it may return a “no bill”, meaning the charges will be dismissed.
In Philadelphia, grand jury proceedings are highly secretive, and defendants may not know they are the target of a grand jury investigation until formal charges are filed. If you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation, you may receive a “target letter” informing you off the investigation and seeking your cooperation and/or a plea. If you have received a target letter, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. If you hire counsel early enough, your attorney may be able to communicate with the prosecutors who are leading the investigation and intercede on your behalf before any formal criminal charges are filed.
Federal grand juries consist of 23 members and a majority vote (12 or more) is required to hand down an indictment. Federal prosecutors are highly successful at presenting their evidence to grand juries and so indictments are far more likely than not.
Witnesses and defendants alike may be subpoenaed to testify or produce documents for a grand jury. If you receive a subpoena as a witness or as a defendant, it is very important to hire legal counsel. The attorneys at Kenny, Burns & McGill have protected both defendants and witnesses at countless grand jury proceedings in Philadelphia and at the federal level, and they are ready to help you today.