How Do Indictments And Grand Juries Work In Texas?
What Does It Actually Mean To Be Indicted?
When we are talking about indictment, we’re talking about grand juries, and these are not juries that are deciding guilt and innocence. Our constitution calls them by the term “grand jury.” If you are asked to answer a felony charge and possibly be incarcerated, you have the right to a grand jury. That’s when we are talking about civilians. If it’s a military case, you’d have an Article 32 hearing for the determination of probable cause. And that’s what a grand jury does. In our area, 12 people come in and they listen to the evidence, and that evidence can be announced to them, they can be shown it, there can be witnesses, or they can just have a prosecutor say, “I’ve read in this report that this was said.” Then what they’re asked to do is vote on whether it’s a true bill or not a true bill. If 9 people say there is a true bill, then what the grand jury has determined is that there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed.
Probable cause is a really weird concept. It’s just a reasonable belief that a crime was committed by the individual who’s been accused of it. If there is probable cause to believe that this crime was committed at the location that they are talking about, and if this location had the evidence, then it’s probable cause to believe. That’s just kind of a weird statement. They’re just trying to say, “We don’t want a prosecutor to be able just to go to court based on a whim.” They have to have a buffer, and that buffer is the grand jury.
So It’s A System Of Checks And Balances Where The Prosecutor Says, “We Can’t Just Take Every Case To Court.”
Right. Now, if it’s a misdemeanor, because it doesn’t involve an indictment, that’s all done by the prosecutor. You can spend up to a year in jail just based on the prosecutor saying, “Here we go.” That’s an interesting pill to swallow.
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