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Preliminary Hearing and Grand Jury

When the grand jury hears your case, this is not your trial. There is no Judge in the grand jury room. The grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to put you on trial. All witnesses who testify before the grand jury can’t be prosecuted for what they say. This is called immunity. But, if a witness signs an immunity waiver he or she can be prosecuted based on the testimony. A witness who has signed a waiver of immunity has the right to have an attorney in the grand jury room under the same conditions as a defendant’s attorney.

 

Preliminary Hearing

Sometimes, after the arraignment, the Judge holds a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, you and the prosecutor both present your case to the Judge with witnesses and evidence. The Judge will decide if there is enough evidence that you committed a crime to continue the case against you. If the Judge decides that there is enough evidence, the prosecutor has 45 more days to take the case to the grand jury. If the prosecutor does not present evidence that you committed any crime, the court must release you from custody. If the hearing shows that you committed a crime other than the felony charged, the court may reduce the charges against you.

Most cases in New York City skip this hearing and the prosecutor takes the case straight to a grand jury.

 

Grand Jury

When the grand jury hears your case, this is not your trial. There is no Judge in the grand jury room. The grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to put you on trial. All witnesses who testify before the grand jury can’t be prosecuted for what they say. This is called immunity. But, if a witness signs an immunity waiver he or she can be prosecuted based on the testimony. A witness who has signed a waiver of immunity has the right to have an attorney in the grand jury room under the same conditions as a defendant’s attorney.

The grand jury votes an indictment when at least 12 grand jurors think there is enough evidence against you. The grand jury can find that there isn’t enough evidence for the felony, but that there is enough evidence for a misdemeanor. In that case, the charges against you will be reduced. If the grand jury finds that there is not enough evidence of any crime, the court must dismiss the charges and release you. This is called voting a no true bill.

After an indictment, you are arraigned, a second time. Like the first arraignment, you are told the charges against you, then you answer the charges by telling the court if you are guilty or not guilty. Your Bail may be changed and your lawyer and the prosecutor may Plea Bargain. If you plead not guilty, you get a court date and your lawyer and prosecutor start Pre-trial discovery, motions and hearings.

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