Bucks County Grand Jury Indictments
Have you been accused of a crime or arrested in Bucks County? It’s time to call an experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer. Fienman Defense will guide you through the criminal court process and fight to get you the best possible outcome. A lot can go on before you’re formally charged in Bucks County, including grand jury proceedings. Early legal representation can make all the difference in your case.
What’s a Grand Jury Indictment?
An indictment is a formal criminal charge against you.
Cops Can Arrest You Before or After Charges
Police can arrest you after they witness a crime or have probable cause. A typical example is if the police stop your car for a DUI after seeing you drive in a way that suggests you’re impaired.
But the police don’t always arrest someone right away. They also investigate crimes and take the information they collect to the prosecutor. From there, if the investigative grand jury believes the evidence presented by the prosecution warrants the filing of criminal charges against an individual or individuals, an investigative grand jury presentment will be issued.
The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Process
A Pennsylvania grand jury is at least 15 people who listen to the evidence. They decide whether there’s enough proof you committed a crime. To do their job, they can force people to testify and subpoena the information.
These juries issue a “presentment.” It’s a formal recommendation about what law enforcement should do.
Grand juries are typically held within one county, like Bucks County. Sometimes courts create multi-county grand juries to investigate major crimes and there is even a statewide investigative grand jury that meets in Harrisburg.
How a Grand Jury Works
Grand juries aren’t like criminal juries. Instead, they’re secretive and one-sided. When a prosecutor believes a grand jury is necessary, they ask the court to convene one. The jury selection process is next. Once the court finds 15 jurors and several alternatives, the prosecutor presents the evidence.
You might not know about the proceedings, even though they’re about your alleged conduct. You don’t get to defend yourself, and your defense attorney doesn’t present evidence or cross-examine witnesses. In state cases, you have a right to be represented while testifying and your lawyer will be in the room with you. Witnesses before a Federal Grand Jury can be represented but their attorney is not allowed in the room when they are testifying.
What’s in the Presentment?
A grand jury presentment does two things:
- Summarize the evidence
- Recommend the prosecutor file charges against one or more people
It’s guidance, not a command. The prosecutor doesn’t have to bring charges against you. But they usually do.
What Happens After a Presentment
Pennsylvania requires prosecutors to file an Affidavit of Probable Cause to bring criminal charges. Many prosecutors use the grand jury presentment as this affidavit.
Indictments Without Grand Juries in Buck County
It’s also common for prosecutors to indict someone without a grand jury. After the police investigate, they submit their Affidavit of Probable Cause to the prosecutor. The district attorney decides whether to decline or pursue charges.
If there’s enough evidence, a judge issues an arrest warrant. You’ll be arrested and may be held in jail or released on bail. You’ll go through a preliminary hearing within ten days of your arrest.
The magistrate district judge listens to the prosecutor and defense lawyer’s evidence. The prosecutor has to present enough evidence to show a crime happened, and you are probably responsible. This is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
You might be required to testify. If you’ve been arrested or received a subpoena, call a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
If the magistrate decides there’s probable cause, they send the case to the Common Pleas Court. If the magistrate doesn’t see enough evidence, they dismiss the case.
You can waive your right to a preliminary hearing. But this is an excellent chance to defend yourself early on. With the help of a lawyer, you can mount a strong defense and beat the charges. Always consult a criminal defense attorney before waiving any rights.
Federal Grand Juries Hand Down Indictments
Federal grand juries work differently. While local grand juries investigate and issue presentments, federal grand juries issue criminal indictments. Federal grand juries are used for felonies, not misdemeanors.
Your case might go through a federal grand jury if a federal law enforcement agency investigates a severe crime. Or a district attorney might hand your case off to federal prosecutors.
Call Fienman Defense in Bucks County
Fienman Defense is conveniently located at 196 W Ashland St. Ste 410, Doylestown, Pennsylvania 18901, near the Bucks County Common Pleas Court and Magisterial District Courts.
Michael H. Fienman is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands how the local court system works and has good working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates, and judges.
Questions? Contact us today.
The Pennsylvania criminal justice system can be confusing to someone who is not used to the way it works. Fienman Defense will guide you every step of the way. We provide sound advice and honest communication throughout the legal process.