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The Grand Jury

The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States mandates that charges for all capital and "infamous" crimes be brought by an indictment returned by a grand jury. The Amendment has been interpreted to require an indictment to charge all federal felonies, including federal drug charges, unless a defendant waives his or her right to be indicted. The Supreme Court has concluded that states are not bound by this part of the Fifth Amendment. Although legal counsel for the person at the center of the proceedings and for witnesses testifying in front of the grand jury cannot be in the grand jury room, an experienced criminal law attorney can provide advice outside of the presence of the jury and explain the grand jury process, taking some of the mystery and terror out of Grand jury proceedings, sometimes called John Doe proceedings.

Wisconsin Grand Jury Proceedings

In Wisconsin, a grand jury is comprised of a secret panel of people from the local community who serve for a period of one year and meet regularly, although their meeting places and times are unpublished. Wisconsin statute provides that fourteen jurors must be in attendance to form a quorum (minimum number of jurors that need to be present for a state grand jury to be able to conduct business, such as considering whether charges should be brought against someone). The grand jury receives indictments (complaints) and may hear testimony to decide if probable cause exists, but no grand jury decides guilt or innocence. If a majority of the jurors vote for the indictment, it is "returned" and initiates a criminal case against the people it names as defendants.

Double Jeopardy & The Grand Jury

Jeopardy attaches when the first juror is sworn [Double Jeopardy] in a criminal trial [Trial Proceedings], but jeopardy does not attach to a Grand Jury. A trial provides a defendant with the right to face his accusers, to give testimony, to compel others to give testimony, and to be represented by legal counsel, but such is not the case in a Grand Jury proceeding. In fact, the prosecuting attorney is the only attorney present during testimony before a Grand Jury.

Free Consultation

If you have been subpoenaed to testify before a Grand Jury, or if you have been indicted by a Grand Jury or believe that you may be indicted in the near future, please contact the attorneys at Van Wagner & Wood for a brief but professional first impression analysis of your case, an explanation of what you might expect from a Grand Jury proceeding, and an explanation of how the law might affect you so that you can make the hard decisions facing you at this time and prepare your defense.

Please call ( or statewide) 24 hours a day, or email the attorneys right away at .