Understanding the Difference Between a Grand Jury and Trial Jury

The United States Courts system involves two types of juries that serve different purposes: Trial juries and grand juries. Trial juries and grand juries are both made up of regular citizens who have been called for jury duty. However, what they are asked to do is quite different. Keep reading to learn more.

What’s the main difference?

A grand jury is involved early in a case. It is up to them to determine whether or not charges should be brought against a suspect. A trial jury, on the other hand, is involved at the end of a case, when it goes to trial. Their job is to decide if the defendant is guilty or innocent of the charges brought against him or her.

Now, let’s dig into the details a little more.

The Grand Jury

A grand jury usually consists of 23 people but can consist of as few as 6. If you’re a defendant, you and your attorney will not even see the grand jury. Their proceedings are closed to the public. The prosecutor presents the grand jury with the evidence investigators have gathered. The grand jury must determine whether this evidence sufficiently establishes probable cause. If it does, the individual in question will be indicted.

Not every case is heard by a grand jury. The prosecutor can choose between a grand jury hearing and a preliminary hearing. Preliminary hearings are held publicly in court, with the defense present. When serving on a grand jury, jurors must serve for several months and hear multiple cases. However, they generally only work for a few days out of each month. They do not have to reach a unanimous decision, only a majority, for an indictment to be returned.

The Trial Jury

When you think of the juries you see on television dramas, you probably picture a trial jury. A trial jury consists of 6-12 people. Trial juries can also be called petit juries. The prosecution and defense both present their sides to the trial jury in court while the judge oversees everything. After the presentations, the trial jury meets in private and must reach a unanimous decision about the guilt of the defendant. 

The trial jury’s final determination is the verdict. If they decide the defendant is guilty, the judge will then pass down the appropriate sentencing.

At Cove Law, we have extensive experience representing clients facing investigations or formal charges. We represent clients in both state and federal matters, including fraud or other white-collar charges. We offer a free initial consultation for new clients. Give us a call at (954) 921-1121 to find out how we can help you with your case.

Written by Andrew Cove

Cove Law has significant experience defending federal investigations and formal actions by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Finance Protection Board and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as similar matters on the state level by the respective state Attorney General’s Offices and other local agencies.