In Arizona, a grand jury decides whether someone should be formally
charged with a crime. More times than not in a grand jury proceeding, neither the defendant
nor his lawyer is present for the presentation of evidence. In theory,
the person under investigation can testify before the grand jury to offer
his side of the story but this rarely happens for strategic reasons. The
exception usually resides in cases when the defendant claimed self-defense was used.
A grand jury will hear testimony from witnesses, review documents provided
by the prosecutor, and hear instructions that define the law relevant
to the potential charges. After the presentation of evidence is complete,
the grand jurors will vote on whether a person under investigation should
While at trial, the prosecution must prove a defendant guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt, at a grand jury proceeding, they need only show that
there is probable cause to believe an offense was committed. In other
words, there must be some evidence to show that a crime may have been
committed and that the person under investigation may be the person who
committed the offense.
The 3 Types of Grand Juries in Arizona
County Grand Juries - Each of Arizona’s counties has a grand jury. In Phoenix, the Maricopa
County Grand Jury typically meets multiple times every week, and the grand
jurors serve terms of approximately four months. Maricopa County grand
juries hear all types of cases, including
murder cases, and
Arizona State Grand Juries - The Arizona State grand jury hears cases being prosecuted by the Arizona
Attorney General’s Office. While the state grand jury typically
meets in Phoenix or Tucson, the actual trial venue can be designated in
any county in Arizona. It is common for the state grand jury to hear cases
with acts committed in multiple counties and with complex matters, such
as large drug conspiracy cases,
major fraud or
white collar crimes.
Federal Grand Juries - A federal grand jury is between 16 and 23 members. While Arizona county
and state grand juries sit for 4-month terms, federal grand juries often
sit for 18 months. It is common for federal grand juries, however, to
meet much more infrequently.
Federal grand juries determine whether there has been a violation of federal
criminal law, as opposed to state criminal law. Cases are presented by
either the United States Attorney’s Office or the Department of
Justice through an Assistant Attorney General. While a wide variety of
cases are heard, it is very common for federal grand juries to hear evidence
about cases involving bank fraud, drug conspiracies involving wiretaps,
and also political corruption.
An Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You before the Grand Jury
Arizona has very unique law that allows a criminal defense attorney to
represent a person under investigation in presenting exculpatory evidence
to a grand jury. Specifically, the law requires that the prosecution summarizes
all clearly exculpatory evidence that the person under investigation wants
the grand jury to consider, and also that the prosecution advises the
grand jury of the desire of the person under investigation to testify.
While ultimately the decision of whether to hear that testimony is up
to the grand jury, I have represented many clients who have testified
before the grand jury so well that the grand jury voted not to file any
charges against them.
If you or someone you know is under criminal investigation but has not
been charged, now is the time to hire a criminal defense lawyer. In addition
to conducting an independent investigation with private investigators
and expert witnesses, a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can help convey
information to the prosecution, and even a grand jury, in an effort to
avoid having formal criminal charges filed against you.
Contact us at (602) 663-9100 to get Jason Lamm on your side
before the grand jury files formal charges. His experience and reputation
has helped clients avoid prosecution and kept their reputations intact. It’s
never too soon to call!