Grand Jury Defense

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Grand Jury Defense Attorneys in Arizona

In Arizona, because county and state prosecutors present most serious criminal allegations to the grand jury, it is extremely important that you understand the role the grand jury plays in bringing charges against you.  An experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney can give you your best opportunity to assert and protect your rights to a fair and impartial presentation of the evidence to the grand jury.  After all, at the grand jury stage of the proceedings, your goal is for the grand jury not to return a “true bill” and decline to indict you.  The sections below outline the key components of Arizona grand jury practice.


  1. Grand Jury refers to a group of people, convened and impaneled by the presiding judge,  who have taken an oath to investigate public offenses that may be tried within the Court’s jurisdiction.
  2. Indictment means a formal written allegation that is presented by the grand jury to the Court, charging a defendant with the commission of a public offense.

What is the purpose of the Grand Jury?

The grand jury primarily (1) investigates criminal activity that is brought to its attention by a prosecutor, including corrupt or willful misconduct of public officials, and (2) after listening to and reviewing all the evidence presented by the prosecutor, decides whether it is convinced  that there is probable cause to believe the person under investigation committed a public offense.  See A.R.S. §§ 21-407 and 21-413.

Note:  Keep in mind that the grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence.  Rather the grand jury must decide whether the evidence presented solely by the prosecutor establishes probable cause to believe that you committed a crime.  In this respect, grand juries are not impartial bodies.  Typically, they hear only the evidence the prosecutor chooses to present.  The prosecutor decides which evidence to present.  The prosecutor chooses which witnesses to call and which will receive immunity.  The prosecutor questions each witness based upon his or her theory of the case.  The prosecutor drafts the indictment.  This is precisely why it is so vitally important that you seek legal advice while you are being investigated and before charges are filed.  An experienced and aggressive Arizona defense attorney can help you assert and protect your rights at the grand jury stage of the proceedings.

How are grand juries called and selected?

The manner in which grand juries are called differs depending on the size of the county.  The presiding judge of the superior court must call a grand jury every four months in a county with a population of 200,000 people or more.  In counties with less than 200,000 people, the presiding judge may call a grand jury if the judge decides the public interest requires a grand jury, or upon petition of the county attorney.  See A.R.S. § 21-402.

Since 1980, Arizona courts have randomly selected names of potential jurors from lists of registered voters and licensed drivers who are 18 years of age and older.  The Arizona Supreme Court may also designate other lists of residents from which jurors may be selected.  In other words, grand jurors are selected from the same pool of prospective jurors as are regular trial jurors. Your defense attorney does not, however, participate in challenging the partiality or qualifications of prospective grand jurors.  Conversely, in the case of trial jurors, during jury selection, your attorney plays an important role in weeding out potential jurors who manifest bias or prejudice, or demonstrate that they cannot be fair.

What is the term of a Grand Jury?

As a general rule, grand jurors serve for a term not to exceed one hundred twenty days.  The exception to this rule is that if at the end of their service the grand jury has unresolved inquiries or investigations, the term may be extended by the presiding judge, upon petition by the county attorney stating the reasons for the extension, until the conclusion of their investigation.  See A.R.S. § 21-403.

How many jurors comprise a Grand Jury?

In Arizona, a grand jury must consist of at least twelve (12) but not more than sixteen (16) people.  To return an indictment, a quorum of the grand jurors must vote and concur.  Nine (9) of the grand jurors constitutes a quorum for all proceedings before it. In other words, a Grand Jury must decide by a simple majority whether there is probable cause to believe you committed a crime.  A.R.S. §§ 21-404 and 21-414.

Does the prosecutor have to present clearly exculpatory evidence to the grand jury?

Yes.  In Arizona, you have a due process right to a fair and impartial presentation of evidence to the grand jury.  Crimmins v. Superior Court, 137 Ariz. 39, 42, 668 P.2d 882, 885 (1983).  A prosecutor’s failure to present clearly exculpatory evidence to a grand jury is a basis upon which the grand jury proceeding may be challenged. Clearly exculpatory evidence is defined as any evidence that, if presented to the grand jury, might deter it from finding probable cause. Trebus v. Davis, In and For County of Pima, 189 Ariz. 621, 625, 944 P.2d 1235, 1239 (1997).

Can the prosecutor present misleading testimony to the grand jury?

No.  The Arizona Supreme Court has held that the State violated both defendant’s rights to have a fair and impartial presentation of evidence and substantial due process, by having an indictment returned against him with the use of misleading testimony.  Maretick v. Jarrett, 204 Ariz. 194, 62 P.3d 120 (App. 2003).

Does the prosecutor have to advise the grand jury that you are requesting to appear and make a statement?

Yes.  The prosecutor must advice the grand jury that you are requesting to appear and make a statement.  Trebus v. Davis, In and For County of Pima, 189 Ariz. 621, 625, 944 P.2d 1235, 1239 (1997).

Does the Grand Jury have to consider evidence on behalf of the person under investigation?

No.  Grand jurors are under no duty to hear evidence at your request, but they may do so.  Nevertheless, the grand jurors shall weigh all the evidence received by them and when they have reasonable ground to believe that other evidence, which is available, will explain away the contemplated charge, they may require the evidence to be produced.  See A.R.S. § 21-412.

If you or someone you love is in need of a Grand Jury Defense, the Nolan Law Firm is the Arizona criminal defense attorneys you can count on because if there is a way out, we will find it! Contact us for a free case evaluation.

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