March 2, 2022 | Criminal Defense
Grand juries issue indictments formally charging someone with a crime. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires that the government obtain an indictment before prosecuting a felony federal offense.
However, the Fifth Amendment applies to federal crimes. It does not require states to obtain indictments before charging a person with a serious crime. It is up to state law whether an indictment is necessary. However, many states utilize the indictment process as part of their criminal justice system, including Ohio.
How Does the Indictment Process Work in Ohio?
Ohio uses the indictment process for felony crimes. The state does not need to seek an indictment to charge someone with a misdemeanor. Felony charges in Ohio are associated with the harshest criminal penalties imposed within the state.
The Ohio indictment process begins with convening a grand jury. Nine eligible individuals living within the court’s jurisdiction are randomly chosen to sit on a grand jury.
The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor alleging a crime occurred. Evidence may include testimony from witnesses and physical evidence gathered by the prosecution.
The accused person does not have a right to appear at the grand jury hearing to examine the evidence or cross-examine the witnesses. Moreover, grand jury meetings are held in secret, so the accused nor his attorney know that the process is taking place.
All evidence presented to the grand jury remains sealed unless a judge unseals the evidence. Nothing discussed in the grand jury meeting may be discussed outside of that setting.
To indict the accused, at least seven of the nine grand jurors must concur. Otherwise, the case is dismissed, but the prosecution can attempt to indict again later through a different grand jury if new evidence surfaces.
What Happens After a Grand Jury Meeting?
A grand jury proceeding is not a jury trial. The grand jury members do not decide whether the person is guilty or innocent. The only decision is whether there is sufficient evidence to establish probable cause for a criminal charge.
The individuals on the grand jury consider the evidence presented by the prosecution and decide whether to:
- Indict the person (i.e., deliver a “true bill”) as charged by the prosecution, which results in a formal felony indictment; or
- Return a “no bill,” resulting in the case being dismissed for lack of evidence.
A grand jury indictment lists the “counts” against the accused. Counts are the felony offenses the person allegedly committed. There could be one count or multiple counts on a single grand jury indictment.
Waiving the Right to a Grand Jury Indictment
A prosecutor may decide to tell a person that the state intends to request a grand jury indictment for a felony crime. Instead of convening a grand jury in secret, the prosecutor charges the person with a Bill of Information. The Bill of Information is filed with the clerk of court and explains the felony offenses the person is accused of committing.
Accepting a Bill of Information can speed up the timeline of a criminal case. They are often used in predetermined plea agreements between the prosecution and the defense.
Steps Taken After a Grand Jury Issues an Indictment in Cincinnati
Law enforcement officers arrest the person named in the indictment if the person is not already in custody. Individuals arrested on a grand jury indictment are entitled to a bond hearing. The seriousness of the crime and other factors determine whether the person is held in jail pending a trial or released on bond.
In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer may negotiate an agreement for the person’s release on house arrest or with a GPS monitor. Judges may impose conditions and requirements for the person’s release on bond. If the person violates the terms of release, they are placed in jail pending trial.
The case proceeds through the criminal justice system to trial unless the defendant pleads guilty, negotiates a plea deal, or the case is dismissed. It is crucial to hire a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer as soon as you suspect that you might be indicted on felony charges.
An attorney investigates your case to determine whether your civil rights were violated. If so, the attorney may petition the court to dismiss the charges or suppress evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the prosecution may be unable to proceed with their case.
Any criminal charge is serious. However, felony charges can result in decades or life in prison.
After being arrested, the best step a person can take is to ask for a criminal defense attorney. Talking to the police or a prosecutor without an attorney present is not in your best interest. The prosecution already believes it has sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict when it brings a case before the grand jury. Anything you say after only gives the state more information it can use against you in court.
Contact the Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Cincinnati
600 Vine Street, Suite 1004
Cincinnati, OH 45202