In Arizona, a grand jury decides whether someone should be formally charged with a crime. More times than not in a grand jury proceeding, the accused and his or her defense attorney are not present when the evidence is presented.
Theoretically, the individual under investigation can give testimony before the grand jury if he or she desires to tell their side of the story, but this is rare. Strategically, individuals under investigation are not advised to give testimony. 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 be indicted.
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 drug offenses, murder cases, and sex crimes.
- 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!