Texas Grand Jury Process
A criminal case is prosecuted in the name of the State of Texas against the accused (defendant), and is conducted by the appropriate prosecuting attorney (prosecutor) acting under the authority of the state. Prosecution of a class A or B misdemeanor in a county court, county court at law or county criminal court is initiated by filing an information. An information is a written statement presented in behalf of the state by the prosecutor, charging the defendant with the commission of an offense. An information must be based on a proper complaint and the complaint must be filed with the information.
A felony is prosecuted in a district court or criminal district court and an indictment (sometimes called “bill of indictment”) is required unless waived by the defendant. An indictment is a written statement of a grand jury presented to a court accusing a named person of some act or omission which, by law, is declared to be an offense.
A grand jury is organized by a district judge for a set term of usually three to six months at a time and has jurisdiction only over offenses occurring in the county of its organization. Grand jury proceedings are secret and consequently closed to the public. However, the prosecutor (or the criminal district attorney) is entitled to go before the grand jury and inform them of offenses for possible indictment at any time except when they are discussing or voting upon the issuance of an indictment. The grand jury determines whether there is sufficient evidence to require the accused to stand trial for a criminal offense. At least 9 of the 12 grand jurors must concur to issue an indictment (“true bill”) and be present when the indictment is delivered to the judge or clerk of the court (to be filed in the court’s records). If the grand jury does not find sufficient evidence the case is “no-billed” and the suspect discharged. A no-bill does not bar indictment by the same or different grand jury at a later date.
When an information or indictment is filed, if the defendant is not in custody or under bond, a warrant will typically issue. A warrant is a writ issued by the court or clerk, and directed “To any peace officer of the State of Texas,” commanding the officer to arrest a person accused of the offense.
If you believe that criminal charges are about to be filed against you, it is always to your benefit to speak with a criminal defense attorney. It is important to know that once prosecutors decide to file criminal charges against you, your charges will appear on your criminal record, even if the charges are later dropped or dismissed. The information contained within your criminal record is accessible to your future employers and landlords. For this reason, it is imperative that you do everything possible to intervene immediately. By working with a criminal defense attorney, you may be able to prevent your charges from being filed from the very beginning. You cannot afford to wait and risk your future well being. Even if criminal charges never get filed, you will benefit immensely from the advice and guidance of a skilled defense lawyer.
Often times, we can review your case and discover evidence that may be used to your advantage before charges are filed. After carefully screening your case, we may be able to present evidence to prosecutors that will dissuade them from filing criminal charges against you. We previously have had considerable pre-indictment success thereby preventing the filing of criminal charges by bolstering our client’s credibility with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies through use of private polygraph testing (if the results are favorable, then they will be shared) and reference letters or testimony from community leaders, religious leaders, teachers, friends, etc. Another useful approach that has been to attack the credibility of the alleged victim is by using other witnesses to question whether or not the alleged victim is being truthful, the reputation for truthfulness of the victim, or by demonstrating untruthfulness by developing other unsubstantiated allegations against others made by the victim.
Pre-filing investigation and intervention efforts have led to tremendous results, including detained clients being released without the filing of criminal charges in court. In other words, the police initially had probable cause to arrest, but charges were not filed because the prosecutor reviewed the defense evidence and decided not to proceed with a criminal prosecution.