White-collar crimes encompass a range of nonviolent, financially motivated offenses. They can include mail fraud, Medicare fraud, tax fraud and money laundering. In Arkansas, the grand jury plays an important role when it comes to felony charges.
Unlike a trial jury, which determines guilt or innocence in a criminal case, a grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to formally charge an individual with a felony.
Formation and composition
Citizens from the community make up the members of grand juries in Arkansas. These grand jurors come from a pool of eligible individuals. The grand jury typically has 16 to 23 members, and the primary duty is to review the evidence the prosecutor presents.
Investigation and presentation of evidence
About 4,180 defendants nationwide faced prosecution for white-collar charges in 2022. White-collar crimes can take years to investigate and are tricky on many levels.
Before a felony case goes to trial, the grand jury conducts an investigation. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses to the grand jury, aiming to establish probable cause that the accused committed a felony. The grand jurors carefully evaluate this evidence to determine if there is enough reason to proceed with formal charges.
Secrecy and indictment
One distinctive feature of grand jury proceedings is the level of secrecy. The proceedings are not open to the public, and grand jurors swear to confidentiality. The intent is to encourage witnesses to speak freely. The secrecy can also protect the reputation of the accused if the grand jury decides not to issue an indictment.
If the grand jury concludes that there is sufficient evidence, it issues an indictment. An indictment is a formal accusation that charges the individual with committing a felony. On the other hand, if the grand jury determines there is not enough evidence, it may choose not to issue an indictment, effectively clearing the accused of the felony charges.
The grand jury serves as a check on the power of the prosecution. Its role is to ensure that there is a reasonable basis for charging someone with a felony before the case proceeds to trial. This process helps safeguard individuals from unjust accusations but is far from infallible.