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Both the United States Constitution and the Ohio Constitution specify that citizens cannot be brought to trial for a crime categorized as a felony offense unless a Grand Jury hands down an indictment. To pursue an indictment on a felony charge in Ohio, the prosecutor is required to utilize a Grand Jury.
A grand jury is a group of citizens selected randomly for court service. Their role is to determine whether a person should be charged with a crime or crimes. The requirement of indictment helps ensure that no one is subjected to trial on false, baseless, or spiteful accusations. The process was designed to act as a check on the prosecutorial power of the government.
The primary function of the grand jury is to hear testimony and review evidence. Typically, only the prosecutor’s side is presented, and grand juries almost always return indictments. The proceedings are secret. The prosecuting attorney convenes the grand jury and presents the government’s side of the case. If the grand jury determines that a crime has been committed, then they return indictments, which are the official documents setting forth crime and naming the persons accused. The prosecuting attorney files the indictment in common pleas court.
Grand juries do not decide the merits of the case, and they do not decide on guilt or innocence. The indictment is only the beginning of the legal process for criminal offenses. They can decide that charges are warranted that differ from the original charges filed at the municipal court level. They may determine that more charges or fewer charges are applicable. They may even hand down indictments on misdemeanors as well as felonies.
In rare cases, a they may decide that no charges are warranted. When they decide that no offense took place, this is called a “no-bill.”
Grand jury proceedings are secret and are normally held without the presence of the suspect or his criminal defense lawyer. Most of the time, indictments remain secret until the accused person has been served with a copy of the charges. This is why the charges will not appear in the actual court records or on the online docket before the accused person being arrested and/or served with the indictments.
A criminal defendant can agree to forego the indictment process and answer directly to pre-determined charges at the felony level by allowing the prosecuting attorney to shortcut the legal process and skip the grand jury process. They do so by utilizing what is called a Bill of Information. A Bill of Information is a document setting forth the charge agreed upon in advance by the attorneys.
On rare occasions, the prosecution may use the grand jury process to investigate a particular crime and make the determination on a case. It happens when the prosecuting attorney either is not certain what it wants to do or, for political reasons, wants to leave such a decision to a grand jury.
Lawyers are not permitted in the grand jury room during the process. However, a person called to testify may elect to take his or her criminal defense lawyer to the proceedings. It is of benefit for on-site advice in response to any questions.
If you were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and believe that you may be held liable for any criminal act, you need to consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. It will help protect your rights and might prevent your own indictment. It may be necessary to invoke your right under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, not to testify. Do not hesitate to contact us for information.
The ohiocrimelawyer.com website is designed for general information only. Any information on this site is not to be construed as formal legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer, a DUI lawyer, a family law lawyer or estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate lawyer, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Persons accessing this site are encouraged to seek personal advice regarding their individual legal issues.
The attorneys in our law firm primarily service Portage County courts (Ravenna and Kent) from our office in Ravenna, and Summit County courts (Akron, Stow, Barberton) from our office in Stow. Cases in all other courts in North East Ohio, such as Cuyahoga County courts, are handled under specific terms and conditions.