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In addition to fulfilling important civic duty necessary to the functioning of the criminal justice system, service on the Grand Jury provides grand jurors with a unique insight into the types of crimes affecting our community and how law enforcement is responding to these crimes. Depending on term of court, grand jurors may also have the opportunity to inspect the local jail and issue presentments reflecting the state of various aspects of the criminal justice system and the community.
A Grand Jury is different from a jury at trial in several ways. For example, while a jury at trial consists of 12 jurors who must unanimously conclude beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant is guilty in order to convict, a Grand Jury consists of anywhere between 16 to 23 members merely voting on whether probable cause exists for the charges presented. Rather than requiring unanimity, a minimum of 12 grand jurors must agree such probable cause exists in order to “true bill” the charges to allow the charges to proceed to court. The defendant is not convicted of anything just because charges are “true billed.” On the other hand, the grand jury may instead vote to “no bill” charges. If charges are “no billed” on two separate occasions, a prosecution on those charges is barred.
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