Grand Jury Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Grand Jury, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Grand Jury?

(n) Grand Jury is the County or Federal Court District Jury selected from the list of nominations made by the judges. They are appointed every year.

History and Meaning of Grand Jury

A grand jury is a group of citizens who serve on a legal panel to determine whether there is enough evidence of a crime to issue an indictment. The grand jury system originated in England over 800 years ago and was brought to the United States by English colonists. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a grand jury in federal criminal cases, while most states use the grand jury system as well.

In the grand jury proceedings, the prosecutor presents evidence to the jury, which then decides whether an indictment should be issued. The proceedings are conducted in secret to protect the identity of witnesses and the reputation of individuals who may not be charged with a crime.

Examples of Grand Jury

  • In the United States, grand juries are used to decide whether to charge someone with a serious crime, such as murder or robbery.
  • The grand jury also has the power to investigate potential criminal behavior and to subpoena witnesses and documents in the course of that investigation.
  • The grand jury has been used to investigate high-profile cases such as the Watergate scandal and the Iran-Contra affair.
  • In some states, grand juries are also used to investigate police shootings and other cases of alleged police misconduct.

Legal Terms Similar to Grand Jury

  • Petit Jury: A petit jury is a group of citizens who serve on a criminal trial to determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty.
  • Subpoena: A subpoena is a legal document that requires a person to appear in court or to provide evidence in a legal matter.
  • Indictment: An indictment is a formal accusation of a crime that is issued by a grand jury.
  • Prosecutor: A prosecutor is a lawyer who represents the government in criminal cases and is responsible for presenting evidence to a grand jury.