Not every arrest in Delaware county happens on the spot. Many criminal charges come after months of investigations and grand jury proceedings. If you learn the police are investigating you in or around Delaware County, call Fienman Defense right away. Protecting your rights from the very beginning can make all the difference.

Call (610) 565-4761 to learn more about dealing with criminal indictments and grand juries in Delaware County the right way.

What’s a Delaware County Grand Jury Indictment?

Simply put, an indictment is a formal criminal charge against you. While there are some differences between a federal grand jury and the Pennsylvania system, in most cases, a grand jury in Delaware County will investigate, evaluate evidence, and recommend charges.

If a grand jury determines there’s probable cause you committed a crime, then you may be charged and arrested.

Being Arrested After the Indictment

Cops can arrest you before or after you’re charged with a crime. It depends on the circumstances and how much evidence they have.

Officers may arrest you if they have probable cause you committed a crime. That doesn’t mean they saw it with their own eyes. Instead, probable cause means the facts suggest you probably committed the crime. For example, cops may arrest you for a DUI if they pull you over and find you slurring your words and blowing over a .08 during a roadside breath test.

The police can also investigate and gather evidence to take to the prosecutor before making an arrest. The police want to have a strong case against you for a better chance of a conviction. When this happens, the prosecutor decides between doing nothing, charging you, or using a grand jury.

The Grand Jury Process in Delaware County, PA

In Pennsylvania, a grand jury has 23 people from one county. Sometimes a court creates a multi-county grand jury to investigate a significant crime.

If a prosecutor wants to use a grand jury, they ask the court to convene one. If the court agrees, the jury selection process begins.

Grand juries are not the same as criminal juries. They are a secretive and one-sided process. Only the prosecutor presents evidence, and the accused do not defend themselves in the same way as they would at trial.

The 23 jurors listen to the evidence and sometimes use their power to obtain more. They can force people to testify or subpoena the information. After reviewing all the evidence, only 12 jurors have to agree to issue a presentment.

Can You Be Present at a Grand Jury?

No, grand juries are secret. You don’t get to attend or present evidence. You might not even know a grand jury is going on because the court won’t notify you unless you are a witness.

If you learn about a grand jury ahead of time, the court might allow your lawyer to attend. You must call a Delaware County criminal defense attorney as soon as you believe you’re under investigation.

What’s in a Presentment?

Pennsylvania grand juries issue presentments, which are formal recommendations to bring charges. A grand jury presentment:

  • Summarizes the evidence
  • Recommends the prosecutor file charges against one or more individuals

It’s a recommendation, not a command. The prosecutor still has discretion in what to do, but they usually file the charges.

What Happens After the Presentment?

After a grand jury issues a presentment, the prosecutor has to file an Affidavit of Probable Cause. Many prosecutors use the presentment as their affidavit.

If the police didn’t arrest you before, now they can. Your lawyer might negotiate you turning yourself over to the police.

Delaware County Indictments Without Grand Juries

Most criminal cases in Delaware County don’t go through a grand jury.

When the police believe their investigation uncovered evidence, they submit an Affidavit of Probable Cause to the district attorney. The DA can then decide whether to decline or pursue charges.

If the prosecutor moves forward, they’ll ask a judge for an arrest warrant. After your arrest, you’ll either be held in jail or let out on bail.

Within ten days of your arrest, you’ll go through a preliminary hearing.

What is a Preliminary Hearing in Delaware County?

A magistrate judge will listen to the evidence from both the prosecution and defense. They look for whether there’s enough evidence to establish that you probably committed the crime.

The court uses a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt” at preliminary hearings because the question is whether the case should move forward, not whether you’re guilty.

You might have to testify at your preliminary hearing. If you’ve been arrested or issued a subpoena, call a criminal defense attorney right away.

The magistrate sends your case to the Common Pleas Court if they believe there’s probable cause. Otherwise, they dismiss the case.

Are Preliminary Hearings Necessary?

You can waive your right to a preliminary hearing, but this is can be a very bad idea. I usually do not recommend a waiver unless my client is getting something in return because a preliminary hearing gives you a chance to fight the charges and put an end to your case. However, not all cases can be won at a preliminary hearing. It takes a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to evaluate the state’s evidence and decide the best strategy for your particular situation.

Federal Grand Juries

Federal grand juries issue criminal indictments for felonies.

Your case might go through the federal court system if a federal law enforcement agency investigates a serious crime or the local DA hands your case to federal prosecutors. This usually happens in fraud cases where there is a significant financial loss, crimes involving child sexual abuse or trafficking and serious weapon offences.

Call Fienman Defense in Delaware County

Fienman Defense is located at 119 N. Olive St., Media, Pennsylvania, next to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.

Michael H. Fienman is a tenacious criminal defense lawyer who knows the local court system well and has good working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates, clerks, and judges.

Schedule your free initial consultation by calling (610) 565-4761 or using the online form.