Grand Jury (Indictment)

Hudson County NJ Grand Jury

What is an Indictment in NJ?

The United States Constitution does not require that there must first be an indictment returned by a grand jury before a person may be placed on trial in a State Court for a crime. However, Article I, paragraph 8 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947 guarantees such a right with the following language:

No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense, unless on the presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases of impeachment, or in cases now prosecuted without indictment, or arising in the army or navy or, in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger.

This guarantee of a right to an indictment by a grand jury before being put to trial for a criminal offense was first created by the New Jersey Constitution of 1844.

The grand jury itself is really an inquisitorial or accusing body. It does not try the case on the merits or determine guilt or innocence. Rather, the primary function of the grand jury is to hear evidence against persons accused of crimes, and to make determinations based on the evidence presented as to whether the persons so charged shall be required to stand trial on such charges. Almost all matters brought to the attention of the grand jury are presented by the Prosecutor’s Office. However, the grand jury has authority to inquire into criminal activities on its own initiative. Alternatively, the State Grand Jury is also allowed to hear cases brought by the Attorney General and is not restricted to the jurisdiction of any one county.

Can I be Indicted in NJ?

Most of the matters brought to the attention of the grand jury are charges which have already been the subject of a complaint, and have been referred to the county prosecutor by the judges of the municipal courts. The prosecutor arranges a calendar or agenda of the charges which the grand jury shall consider on a particular day, and the prosecutor has the necessary witnesses subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury to establish a prima facie case. After hearing the testimony of the witnesses with respect to each charge the grand jury may indict or may “no bill” those charges. In addition, the grand jury may indict the defendant on other charges supported by the evidence even though complaints have not been signed against the defendant on such charges. Sometimes the prosecutor presents evidence to a grand jury when there has been no complaint, and the grand jury may indict or “no bill” possible charges arising from such evidence. If the grand jury comes back with a “no bill”, then the Assignment Judge must be informed of this and he or she must arrange for the immediate release of the defendant. From there, the Prosecutor may seek to retry to indictment or forgo any further prosecution of the related offense.

Some of the most common charges indicted by a grand jury in Hudson County, New Jersey are aggravated assault, homicide, heroin distribution, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, robbery, carjacking and burglary. If you or someone you know has been indicted on any of the aforementioned crimes or any other crime for that matter, the Law Office of Jonathan F. Marshall can help. If you would like to discuss your matter any further, please contact our Jersey City office at (201) 309-1800.