What is the Grand Jury Process?

With a lot of media attention devoted to the so-called failure of a St. Louis County grand jury to indict Officer Wilson when he shot and killed Michael Brown I thought I would write a brief description on what is the grand jury process in South Carolina and how it works.

What is a Grand Jury?

In South Carolina the grand jury is made up of 18 private citizens who are drawn and empaneled to receive complaints in criminal cases. The grand jury sits for one year in total. They hear the State’s evidence and the accused defendant has no right to be present and no right to counsel at this stage and generally is not permitted to present evidence. Key word is generally.

Grand Jury’s decide whether to indict

If at least 12 of the 18 members of the grand jury find probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by the person named in the indictment then the grand jury will “True Bill” the indictment and the case should mover forward to trial. If the grand jury finds no probable cause then they return a “No Bill” the indictment and the case is not presented to trial. Meaning the charges are dismissed.

Burden of Proof

The standard for a grand jury to “True Bill” an indictment is merely “probable cause.” This is a much lower standard than the required beyond reasonable doubt needed to convict a person at trial. Also, a grand jury is made up of 18 citizens rather than the 12 required for a criminal trial in general sessions. A stated above, the grand jury’s decision does not have to be unanimous and requires a minimum of 12 of the 18 jurors to agree to reach a decision. Additionally, the grand jury is not on the jury if the case does move forward to the trial court.

Can a civil case be brought if the grand jury fails to indict?

Yes it can. The civil rules of procedure and burden of proof are separate and distinct from the criminal courts so a grand jury’s failure to indict will not prohibit a civil case.

Charleston Criminal defense Attorney, SC

If you have been charged with a crime and need an experienced and trusted  criminal defense lawyer Charleston, SC call the Dale Savage Law Firm today for a free case evaluation (843) 530-7813.

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