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What is the difference between a grand jury and a trial jury?

The justice system often uses two types of juries in criminal law matters: the grand jury and the trial jury. These two juries are tasked with very different responsibilities and are comprised of people who have been called to serve on jury duty. Below are the differences between the two:

The Grand Jury

A grand jury is used by prosecutors to determine if there is enough evidence of a crime to charge a suspect. Normally, grand juries are made up of 23 people and those people may be on the grand jury for several months. However, they are usually called to work a few days a month.

The prosecutor will tell the grand jury what the law is. Then the jury can use virtually any type of evidence they want to. They can also question witnesses. This jury is very relaxed and flexible. The proceedings are confidential so that witnesses can feel free to speak. It also helps protect a suspect if the grand jury decides that charges should not be filed.

A grand jury decision is not something the prosecutors must abide by, though. The prosecutor may decide to go ahead and charge someone even if the grand jury says there is not enough evidence.

The Trial Jury

Trial juries sit in more formal settings and they will need to be present each day of the trial, which can last for a day, a week or several months.

A judge will oversee the trial and the process is very strict. The trial jury doesn't have a say in the evidence that is brought before them. In addition, the trial jury is seldom allowed to ask questions. The decision of the trial jury is final, but the defendant or the prosecutor can appeal the decision.

If you are currently being investigated by law enforcement or have already been charged with a crime, it is essential that your rights are protected. An attorney can protect your rights and begin developing your defense.

Source: FindLaw, "What's the Difference Between a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury?," accessed May 10, 2017

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