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How grand juries and trial juries differ

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2023 | Federal Crimes |

The federal court system is quite a bit different than the one that is in place in Texas. While each state makes its own laws, federal laws apply to residents of all states. Federal charges are also often serious in nature and bring with them equally serious penalties and repercussions. There are also two specific types of juries that may come into play in a federal court case.

Per the U.S. Courts, the two types of juries you may face in a federal criminal case are trial, or petit, juries and grand juries. It is important that you understand the functions each type of jury plays in a federal case.

Trial juries

The trial jury is the one that ultimately decides whether you are guilty of committing the charge you face. There are usually between six and 12 people on a petit jury, and proceedings that take place in front of a trial jury remain public. However, jury deliberations remain private. As a defendant, you have the right to testify on your own behalf and call witnesses if you so choose. Then, the jury issues a verdict, and that verdict stands.

Grand juries

The primary function of a grand jury in a federal case is to determine if the U.S. attorney presents enough evidence to warrant a trial against you in the first place. There are usually between 16 and 23 making up a grand jury, and grand jury proceedings remain private. As a defendant, you do not have the right to appear before the grand jury as its members decide whether to move forward with the case against you.

If the grand jury finds “probable cause” indicating you committed the offense in question, it may lead to an indictment against you.