Orange County, CA Criminal Defense Law Blog

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grand Juries in California

How Do Grand Juries Work in Orange County?

The recent controversies over the failure to indict police officers in Missouri and New York have cast a spotlight on grand juries and how they work.  California has its own unique grand jury system.

Being a member of a grand jury is a year long, full time job. Though it is supposed to be representative of the county’s residents, only those who can get by on $50 a day need apply. You need to be a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old. There is an application process, applications are reviewed, applicants interviewed and background checks are done (members cannot have any felony convictions). Nineteen people sit on a grand jury in California, plus alternates.

Grand juries have two purposes.  In the civil context, grand juries investigate and report on allegations of misconduct against public officials and local government, and decide whether or not to present formal accusations requesting their removal from office. 

In the criminal context, grand juries weigh criminal charges and determine whether indictments should be returned. In a criminal case, a prosecutor will go to a judge with evidence that an individual committed a crime. Having a grand jury look into the case is an alternate route for the prosecution. The prosecutor needs to show to the grand jury that a crime took place and there is probable cause that the accused committed the crime. 

In both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the police officers under investigation testified to the respective grand juries. In California, that would be highly unusual, because most of the time those under grand jury investigation are not aware they are being considered for an indictment as the proceedings are secret.

If you are in Orange County, California, and being investigated by a law enforcement agency but charges have yet to be filed, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and liberty. Call criminal defense attorney Mark Raymond McDonald at (888)686-7874 today for a free consultation.


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