The Grand Jury in New York State Part I

You have seen people being arrested and defendants being arraigned before a judge. You have seen New York City criminal defense attorneys advocating for their clients while prosecutors try to throw them in jail. Of course, you have seen that all on television where the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is glorified through “Law and Order.” While the show is intriguing, the one hour program should not be your source of legal training and education.

Putting “Law and Order” aside, a significant piece of almost all felony cases is the Grand Jury (the Grand Jury can be avoided through what is commonly called an “SCI” or Superior Court Information. This will be addressed on a later date). The Grand Jury consists of no less than 13 and no more than 23 persons. The function of the Grand Jury is to hear evidence and to take action with respect to the evidence presented. After hearing the evidence, the Grand Jury can indict a person for an offense, direct a prosecutor to file a prosecutor’s information with the local criminal court, direct the prosecutor to file a request for removal to the family court, dismiss the charges before it, or submit a Grand Jury report.

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The Grand Jury experience can be an intimidating for any witness. It is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and your options. Every defendant has a right to testify if he or she wishes, but be advised…there is no judge in the Grand Jury and your attorney cannot speak before that body. Additionally, you may subject yourself to additional charges including, but not limited to, perjury. As a former prosecutor under Robert Morgenthau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who presented in the neighborhood of 100 or more cases to the Grand Jury and as an attorney who has represented clients before the Grand Jury, Jeremy Saland can assist you in determining whether you should exercise your right to testify and help you avoid any pitfalls you might encounter.

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