Challenging Grand Jury Indictments in DUI Cases
For states that use grand juries in DUI and other vehicular cases, there is a potential for a DUI defense lawyer to challenge the grand jury proceedings.
Depending on the state, Grand Jury proceedings may be done with or without the knowledge of the subject defendant. In many states, grand juries are kept so secret that a DUI defendant does not know her or she was the subject of a grand jury investigation until the grand jury returns an indictment.
Typically, a prosecutor will present evidence to the grand jury. Often times, the evidence is one sided, and not truly subject to cross examination. Some jurisdictions allow prosecutors to use hearsay testimony to facilitate an indictment. This occurs most often when a police officer testifies about what other police officers said or heard.
The mechanics for challenging a DUI or vehicular grand jury indictment are beyond the scope of this article. Since the laws differ from state to state, and the procedures may differ between counties within a state, it is always best to check with experienced local DUI counsel to determine whether you have a grand jury issue in your DWI case.
If it can be proven that the prosecutor knew of a defense that would eliminate the possibility that a defendant committed an offense, but fails to present that evidence to a grand jury, this may provide good grounds to have the grand jury’s indictment thrown out.
In certain jurisdictions, Maricopa County, Arizona for example, prosecutors have stopped doing preliminary hearings. Instead, they prefer to seek grand jury indictments, which takes the decision about probable cause to go forward with the charges out of the hands of experienced judges who know what questions to consider, and places the decision into the hands of regular citizens. This does not mean that a DUI defendant can’t later challenge the validity of the stop and arrest, but it does mean that a judge will not make a determination as to whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed towards trial.
As always, you should check with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in the area where you were charged to determine the defenses and issues in your case.