The Definition and Implications of an Indictment in Monmouth County NJ

November 14, 2019

Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Clients Facing Indictments in West Long Branch, Red Bank, Tinton Falls and across the Monmouth County area.

Indictment is the legal term for a formal accusation of a crime. According to the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person may not be held for a capital crime unless they have been presented an indictment by a grand jury.

What is an Indictment?A grand jury is a group of between 16 and 23 U.S. citizens selected through U.S. voter registrations, drivers’ licenses, and tax lists who consider the prosecutor’s case for guilt. The purpose of a grand jury is to fairly try someone accused of committing a crime and determine whether the prosecutor has provided enough evidence to formally charge the defendant – indict them. Only a grand jury can criminally indict an accused. An indictment is not a finding of guilt.

Indictments by grand juries occur at federal and state levels, though they are much more broadly used at the federal level.

In the state of New Jersey, the State Grand Jury Unit of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice reviews all cases presented to the State Grand Jury. The division is responsible for presenting and monitoring subsequent criminal proceedings resulting from the grand jury proceeding and resulting indictments.

To reach indictment, a district attorney or prosecutor is required to present a case of guilt to the grand jury. The grand jury determines whether there has been enough evidence presented to charge the accused with a crime. If 12 members, or the majority, of the grand jury, reach the conclusion that evidence is sufficient to charge the accused with the crime, an indictment is presented, and further criminal proceedings are faced by the defendant.

If the grand jury finds that there is not sufficient evidence to present an indictment, a couple of things may happen. The jury may charge the defendant with a lesser offense, which could be handled by a municipal court. Or, the grand jury may enter a ‘no bill,’ and the charges against the defendant are dropped.

According to the 1974 Supreme Court hearing Hamling v. United States (418 U.S. 87, 117), the high court mandated that “an indictment [by the grand jury] is sufficient if it

  • contains the elements of the offense charged,
  • fairly informs the defendant of the charge against which he must defend, and
  • enables him to enter a plea without fear of double jeopardy.”

How are trials and grand jury proceedings different?

A trial is not the same thing as a grand jury proceeding.

I’ve been accused of a crime in New Jersey. Do I need a criminal defense attorney?They differ in that a grand jury proceeding occurs in the absence of the defendant or their criminal defense attorney, who is not present to question witnesses. It is only a presentation of evidence by the prosecution directly to the grand jury to determine whether there is enough evidence against the defendant to move forward to further criminal proceedings. In a trial, both the prosecution and defense have a chance to present and question witnesses.

I’ve been accused of a crime in New Jersey. Do I need a criminal defense attorney?

Despite the absence of a criminal defense attorney in the initial grand jury proceeding, it is imperative that someone accused of a crime has a criminal defense attorney to provide legal counsel, and because there is a chance that a trial or other further criminal proceeding will be necessary if the grand jury presents an indictment. We serve in West Long Branch, Red Bank, Tinton Falls and across the Monmouth County area.

If you have been accused of committing a crime at the federal or state level, contact Chamlin, Uliano & Walsh offices immediately to consult with a member of our experienced legal team. Whether or not your case presented to a grand jury requires further criminal proceedings, we will support you every step of the way in protecting your legal rights.

Reach us at 732-440-3950, toll-free at 888-328-9131 or check our online form for additional information.