Everything You Need To Know About The Grand Jury Process In Nevada
April 5, 2021
A grand jury decides whether or not the state of Nevada has enough evidence to charge an individual with a serious felony offense. It’s important to note that a grand jury indictment does not mean that the defendant is guilty. It’s up to a trial jury to decide guilt.
The grand jury process in Nevada is often a good indicator of how a criminal trial will go. If you’re facing a grand jury procedure or have already been indicted by a Clark County grand jury, it’s essential to consult with a proven Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can.
In this article, we cover:
- What is a grand jury?
- When is a grand jury used in Nevada?
- What is a grand jury indictment?
- What evidence does a grand jury need to indict in Nevada?
- What happens after a grand jury indictment
- The difference between a grand jury and a trial jury in Nevada
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the grand jury process in Nevada.
What Is A Grand Jury?
A Nevada grand jury is a group of citizens (16 – 20 people) empowered by Nevada state law to determine whether enough evidence exists to indict (prosecute) an individual for breaking the law.
According to NRS 172.105, a grand jury may convene to “inquire into all public offenses” committed within the district court’s jurisdiction. The prosecution can use a grand jury to seek indictments for any type of crime.
However, since the grand jury process can be long and resource-intensive, district attorneys typically reserve grand juries for high-profile cases or serious felony offenses. Further, most serious federal offenses require a grand jury indictment before federal charges are filed in Nevada (federal grand juries are comprised of between 16-23 persons).
The grand jury process can take anywhere from a few months to much longer. The Nevada grand jury process generally includes the following:
- Notice is given to the defendant prior to the proceeding
- The prosecution presents evidence to the grand jury (i.e., witness testimony, affidavits, and other types of evidence)
- The defendant testifies (not recommended by most criminal defense attorneys)
- The grand jurors deliberate and issue an indictment or dismissal
What’s The Difference Between A Grand Jury And A Trial Jury?
Both grand juries and “petit juries” comprise a group of citizens to determine certain outcomes of a case. Take a look at a few key differences between a criminal trial jury and the grand jury system in Nevada in the chart below.
|Grand Jury in Nevada||Criminal Trial Jury in Nevada|
|Number of Members||16 – 20||12|
|Random selection of citizens||Yes||Yes|
|Unanimous decision required by jurors||No (12 or more must concur)||Yes|
|Attorney Present During the Proceeding||No||Yes|
|When the Proceeding Occurs||Before charges are filed||After charges are filed|
|Outcome||Indictment/prosecution OR dismissal||Guilty or Not Guilty|
|Eligible for Appeal||No||Yes|
It’s important to note that an individual can’t request a grand jury. Generally, the district attorney decides to convene a grand jury proceeding or prosecute the case.
Also, criminal defense lawyers are not allowed to be present during a grand jury proceeding. However, a witness attorney may be present – so long as they don’t violate any of the grand jury rules for attorneys outlined in NRS 172.239.
When Is A Grand Jury Used In Nevada?
The majority of state-level criminal charges in Nevada don’t involve the grand jury system. Typically, the district attorney charges the defendant with a crime via an “information.” After charges are filed, the case goes to the pretrial phase.
The prosecution is more likely to use a grand jury when a case involves serious felony offenses. Additionally, the district attorney may opt for a grand jury indictment in high-profile criminal cases.
It’s important to note that an individual can still face indictment by a grand jury even if the court previously dismissed charges brought via an information.
What Is A Grand Jury Indictment And Does It Mean A Person Is Guilty?
A grand jury indictment is a formal notice informing a defendant of the charges filed against him or her. An indictment does not indicate guilt nor is it evidence of guilt. However, it does show that the grand jury believes the district attorney has presented enough evidence to prosecute an individual for a crime. An indictment is simply a charging document. Charging a person with a crime.
Grand juries are only allowed to hear/see the prosecution’s evidence (not the defendant’s). For that reason, grand juries issue indictments more than 95% of the time. You may have heard the phrase, “a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich.” It was coined because of the very high percentage of cases in which prosecutors successfully obtain an indictment. Notwithstanding this high rate, it’s important to remember that just because a person is indicted doesn’t mean he or she will ultimately be found guilty. This is especially true in state court proceedings.
What Evidence Does A Grand Jury Need To Indict In Nevada?
Under NRS 172.155, a grand jury can issue an indictment under the following conditions:
- The evidence presented to the grand jury (“taken together”) establishes probable cause that a criminal offense occurred.
- There is probable cause that the accused is the person that committed the offense.
It’s important to note that a defendant can object to the “sufficiency of evidence” presented to the grand jury by applying for a writ of habeas corpus. However, it’s recommended that you consult with an attorney before doing so.
As stated earlier, the grand jury system in Nevada does not determine guilt. Instead, it’s just a conclusion that there is enough evidence to proceed with criminal charges. What happens after a grand jury indictment can include the following:
- Depending on the case, the accused may be arrested
- If the accused or defendant is already arrested, a judge may set bail or other pretrial release conditions
- The defendant enters a guilty or not-guilty plea during arraignment
- Plea bargain negotiations with the prosecution (depending on the circumstances)
- The case moves forward to trial if the defendant enters a not guilty plea
If you’re facing indictment by a Clark County grand jury or have already been indicted, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Author: Tony Abbatangelo, Esq.
Anthony “Tony” L. Abbatangelo Esq. is a smart, compassionate attorney that knows how to get results and is no stranger to the courtroom. Tony and his team are ready to assist you with your criminal and DUI defense.