Even if you are arrested for a felony, called an indictable offense in New Jersey, you may not end up being formally charged with the crime. First, your case must go before the grand jury.
The grand jury is a panel comprised of 23 citizens, or peers. They are typically picked from voter, taxpayer, and driver’s license lists. If a majority of the jurors find probable cause to formally charge you with the felony, the jury will return a Bill of Indictment. But if not, the jury will return a “No Bill” and the charge against you must be dismissed. No fines. No prison. Not even a trial.
This is why it is important to understand how the grand jury indictment process works in New Jersey and the role that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can serve in that process.
What Is a Grand Jury Return of Indictment?
When police believe they have sufficient evidence of a crime, they must bring it to the local prosecutor. The prosecutor decides whether to charge the person with a misdemeanor — or disorderly person’s offense in New Jersey — or with an indictable offense. If the prosecutor finds that there is not enough evidence of any crime, the prosecutor may simply drop it.
If the prosecutor takes the case to the grand jury, they may find the evidence is insufficient to support the charge, or it may find that it supports only a lesser charge. If the jury finds probable cause, the Bill of Indictment — or “True Bill” — serves as the formal charging document. With an indictment, your case will be calendared in Superior Court.
What Is the Issuance of a No Bill by Grand Jury?
When the grand jury finds there is insufficient evidence to charge a person with an indictable offense, the jury returns a “No Bill.” This means the jurors found no probable cause to believe you committed the crime. The prosecutor must, in turn, dismiss the charge.
However, if the grand jury finds sufficient evidence to charge you with a lesser, disorderly person’s offense, the prosecutor could still move forward. However, the case would be prosecuted in Municipal Court.
What Factors Improve the Chances of a No Bill?
Prosecutors in New Jersey have heavy caseloads. If a prosecutor sees that evidence was likely obtained in violation of a person’s rights or the evidence probably won’t support a charge, the prosecutor may choose to not waste time and resources on going forward with an indictment.
Effects of a No Bill on Your Legal Records
By all means, a “No Bill” is good news. It means you won’t have to face the hard decision of whether to accept a plea or go to a jury trial. It also means you won’t face the serious consequences that could come from an indictable offense conviction in New Jersey.
Still, your record may not be entirely “clean.” The arrest could show up when you undergo background checks for certifications and other careers, education, and housing opportunities. For this reason, you should consult with a lawyer about whether you are eligible for expungement.
Why Should You Retain a Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you face an indictable offense charge in New Jersey, your defense can start right away. An experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to investigate and present evidence to prosecutors that may lead to a case not even going before a grand jury. To discuss your case and learn more about how Keith Oliver Criminal Law can help you, contact us today.