Grand Jury Indictment and Bill of Information
Once a felony investigation is complete, including witness statements, evidence, crime lab, criminal history, co-defendants and any other considerations, the case detective or investigator sends the case file to the District Attorney's office. The responsible Assistant District Attorney reviews the charge and evidence and presents it to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is composed of 20 registered voters. It takes 15 Grand Jurors to convene and 12 to render an indictment. The Grand Jury hears the witnesses, typically the case detective and any other witnesses it deems necessary. The Grand Jury deliberates in secret; neither the case detective, Assistant District Attorney, nor anyone else is present while the Grand Jury deliberates and votes whether to indict.
The Grand Jury may dispose of the case in three ways. The Grand Jury may True Bill a case, meaning it renders an indictment. This means the case will proceed to trial. The Grand Jury may also No True Bill a case, which is a dismissal. The Grand Jury is also authorized to send the case to Justice Court to be handled as a misdemeanor. The evidentiary standard for indictment is probable cause, meaning more likely than not. This the same standard used in preliminary hearings and revocation hearings. The Grand Jury may also pass a case until a later time for additional investigation. At the end of the six month term, the Grand Jury issues a report on the matters it has considered.
A Bill of Information is a waiver of indictment and agreement to prosecution in Court. The defendant may voluntarily give up his right to have the charge presented to the Grand Jury. Typically, this is done when a favorable plea agreement has been reached.