After police conduct an investigation and identify a suspect who they believe committed a crime, police turn over their findings to a prosecutor. If the prosecutor makes a decision to proceed with a case against the accused, the prosecutor can submit a sworn statement charging the defendant. This sworn statement is called an “information.” The defendant will be arraigned after an information is submitted, and is entitled to a preliminary hearing after arraignment to determine if there is probable cause to move forward with prosecution.
Prosecutors also have another option besides an information. A grant jury may be impaneled and sworn in and the prosecutor will present evidence to the grand jury. The grand jury will determine if there is enough evidence to bring charges against the defendant. When the grand jury has determined there is sufficient evidence, the grand jury hands down an indictment. Indictment is defined by Nevada Revised Statute Section 172.005 to include an “accusation in writing, presented by a grand jury to a competent court, charging a person with a public offense.” When the grand jury hands down an indictment, it is submitted to the court. The indictment explains that there is probable cause to suspect a defendant has violated the law. After the indictment is submitted, a Nevada arraignment date is set.
During the time period after a crime allegedly occurs, but before a defendant is indicted, there are specific steps which must be taken and specific rules that must be followed by prosecutors seeking an indictment or otherwise hoping to prosecute a defendant.
A Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer understands the Nevada criminal procedure rules that dictate what must occur before indictment and can provide legal guidance and advice to those who are under investigation or who fear they will be indicted for a criminal offense. Call LV Criminal Defense as soon as you believe you have become the target of a police investigation so you can make smart and informed choices aimed at preventing an indictment and making it difficult for a prosecutor to put together a case against you.
Chapter 172 of Title 14 of Nevada’s Code establishes the process that must occur before a defendant is indicted. The relevant Chapter addresses situations when a grand jury must be impaneled, as well as limitations on the use of a grand jury.
According to Nevada Revised Statute section 172.015, every public offense has to be prosecuted either by information (sworn statement submitted by a prosecutor to a court) OR by an indictment handed down by a grand jury. The only exceptions are when the proceedings are initiated to remove a civil officer; when the offense arises in a militia that is serving in wartime or that congress has consented the state can keep during peace time; or when the offense is to be tried in municipal or Justice Court. If the offense is to be tried in either municipal or justice court, it can be initiated by a complaint instead of by an information or indictment.
While grand juries can be impaneled in a wide variety of situations to determine if a defendant should be prosecuted for a public offense, the limitations imposed on the use of a grand jury provide important protections for defendants. For example, N.R.S. 172.107 makes clear that a district attorney is not permitted to use a grand jury to discover evidence to assist in prosecuting a defendant who has already been indicted or who has already been charged with a public offense by information.
Chapter 172 of Title 14 of Nevada’s Code is aimed at ensuring that due process occurs before a defendant is indicted and prosecuted. Not only does the relevant chapter detail when a grand jury should be impaneled, but it also specifies how grand jury members should be chosen; how charges are given by the grand jury to the court; and the use of evidence before a grand jury.
Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.
The rules related to the use of evidence limit the information a grand jury can hear to testimony from witnesses who have been sworn in; to documentary evidence or witness depositions; to affidavits or declarations from expert witnesses; and to affidavits from owners, possessors, or occupants of property if they live 100 miles or more away from where the grand jury proceedings are occurring and if one element of the crime was the defendant entered the witness’ property without permission.
Hearsay and secondary evidence are not allowed to be presented to a grand jury, as grand juries can receive only the best legal evidence available. The best legal evidence includes original documents, rather than copies, and information provided from the person in possession of the information rather than information that is relayed second-hand.
All of these rules are designed to ensure that grand juries act fairly and impartially so defendants are not indicted without probable cause. When a defendant is arraigned based on an indictment, rather than an information, a defendant does not have the opportunity for a preliminary hearing after his arrest because the grand jury proceeding serves the same basic purpose as the preliminary hearing. After an information, the preliminary hearing is conducted to ensure sufficient probable cause for moving forward, but the grand jury has already done this step when it decided to indite.
Grand jury proceedings can be much more time consuming than an information, so prosecutors typically impanel a grand jury only in a small portion of cases. A prosecutor may decide to impanel a grand jury if the crime has gotten lots of public attention and the prosecutor wants to ensure that the decision on whether to prosecute does not fall on the state alone. If an extremely serious felony offense has been committed, the prosecutor may also wish to impanel a grand jury so the grand jury can make the decision on whether the defendant should face charges that could lead to life imprisonment or a death sentence.
Facing an indictment is never something anyone wants to go through, as you could find yourself being subject to criminal prosecution that destroys your reputation and that could affect your future. Nicholas Wooldridge will help you to try to avoid being indicted, and will guide you through understanding the grand jury process and other proceedings before indictment.
Call LV Criminal Defense today to learn more about how you can get qualified legal help during a frightening time when an indictment is possible.