Todd is a miracle worker who will work tirelessly for you and your family. He is one of the few attorneys i've met - who I earnestly trust to protect me, and who I am happy to refer to our friends and fellow family members. The Spodek Law Group is someone you want on your side, because they will treat you just like family. Todd and his team are available 24/7, and they always answered our calls. Even when we were being irrational, and crazy - they were calm and super helpful. Just call Todd. He gives you a free consultation and is very understanding.
- Donna & Robert
I was accused of DUI/DWI, and was wrongly accused because the cop claimed he smelled alcohol on me. It was a blatant lie, but I was still taken into custody and wrongly charged. Todd helped me get my car back, and get the entire case thrown out.
- Jack Bin
As its name suggests, a Grand Jury has a larger number of jurors. A regular trials has 6-12 people. A Grand Jury has 12-23 people.
State Grand Juries are usually chosen in the same manner standard jurors are selected. The U.S. Courts summons eligible citizens who can serve up to 18 months.
Grand Jury Purpose
A Grand Jury is used solely to determine whether criminal charges should be brought against a particular defendant. It is not used for civil matters (civil matters generally deal with contracts and cases dealing with negligent/wrongful acts).
Only the Prosecutor (or Assistant District Attorney) presents the matter to the Grand Jury. The Prosecutor represents either the state or the United States.
During the proceedings, the Prosecutor presents the case and accuses the Defendant of a crime. There is no judge, defense attorney, or defendant. Only the Prosecutor’s witnesses present testimony and there is no cross-examination. The Grand Jury does not determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Instead, the Grand Jury determines whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant with the crime.
Sometimes a Special Grand Jury investigates matters for investigators, not prosecutors, usually when organized crime or political corruption is suspected. This is different from the aforementioned Grand Jury.
Weight of Evidence
“Probable cause” is the legal weight in which to determine whether to bring charges against the defendant.
The U.S. District Court says that when the evidence convinces 12 or more Grand Jurors that the defendant committed the crime, probable cause is established.
States have their own definitions of probable cause. The definitions are mostly made by common law, which means they are defined by court decisions, not statutes.
Origin of the Grand Jury
The 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, in Part:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury…
This takes its roots from the Magna Carter and was to protect citizens from spiteful, political or unjustified prosecutions.
Updates to the U.S. Constitution
On July 28, 1868, Congress ratified the 14th Amendment. It, in part, provided citizens “equal protection under the law” and directed that no state shall deprive anyone “due process of law,” or “equal protection of the laws.”
The courts have interpreted that the due process of law requirement did not necessarily require a Grand Jury indictment.
The states and the District of Columbia use Grand Juries, mostly for cases that may result in serious felony charges. Connecticut and Pennsylvania have eliminated them for criminal indictments, but still use them to investigate criminal activity.
For standard criminal cases, states conduct preliminary hearings. The prosecutor presents the case and the defendant may cross-examine. The judge then determines whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to stand trial. As with Grand Juries, the judge usually uses the “probable cause” standard.
The U.S. District Courts still use Grand Juries
When to ask a judge
At an arraignment, defendants are advised of what they’re charged with, and a plea of not guilty is almost always entered. The court will schedule various dates along with a trial date. Most defendants who want to represent themselves ask a judge for permission to do so at the time of their arraignment. The judge will then set that issue for hearing.
The purpose of the hearing on representing oneself is to make a formal record of the request and obtain a waiver of his or her 6th Amendment right to an attorney. The judge will want the defendant to confirm on the record that he or she is freely, voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waiving their right to an attorney with full knowledge of the possible consequences.
The defendant’s competency
For purposes of an opportunity for a fair trial, the law doesn’t allow a person to represent himself or herself if the presiding judge doesn’t feel that the defendant is competent to do so. Competency in this context isn’t about whether the defendant is mentally ill or not. It’s about the ability to understand and participate in all phases of the case against him or her.
Factors that a court considers
In deciding on the issue of a defendant’s competency, some of the factors that a court takes into consideration include the defendant’s age, educational level, his or her ability to speak and understand English and the seriousness of the crime that he or she is charged with. These factors make it clear that you need not have the skills of a attorney to be able to represent yourself. You’ll be held to the same ground rules that attorneys are held to in all phases of your case though.
Remember that in waiving your 6th Amendment right to an attorney, you’re also waiving any right that you might have to claim ineffective assistance of counsel. Knowledge and experience in criminal law and procedure can make the difference between being found guilty or not guilty. It’s highly likely that you’ll be far better off having an attorney represent you in any criminal case.
Going to criminal court in New York City can be a frustrating and scary experience. This is especially true when you are facing serious criminal charges that can result in a long incarceration period. New York City prosecutors are adamant about reducing crime in the metropolitan area, as it is one the world’s most attractive tourist destinations, as well as the home to over seven million primarily law-abiding residents. Having an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney is imperative when attempting to defend against any criminal charge in a New York City court room when the charges and potential penalties are significant. This is especially true when being charged with a felony because all felonies carry the potential for long-term state penitentiary incarceration. When in doubt, we encourage you to contact our criminal lawyers.
New York City is a unique region. There are seven distinctive areas within the municipality and the court systems are not uniform. Different levels of criminal prosecutions are handled in differing locations and names of the particular criminal court do not always comport. Even a defendant who is familiar with the New York City court system may have difficulty determining the exact location of the court where their case appears on the docket. An criminal lawyer who practices primarily in New York City will understand how to avoid a potential failure to appear charge when a defendant attempts to comply with the court, but goes to the wrong location. In addition, an attorney who works within the court system on a daily basis is familiar with the court officers and can be a solid voice for your case during the bargaining process.
If the prosecution offers you a plea deal to your public defender, it may not be a bad idea to take it. If the plea deal is fair, doesn’t impact your permanent record – and doesn’t seem toxic, then it’s a good idea to take the deal. 99% of the time, the prosecution doesn’t offer a good deal. If you hire an attorney who starts fighting back, you can almost always secure a better deal.
Our #1 goal is to get your criminal case dismissed. We often get many cases dismissed, before they even get to full trial. Often, prosecutors build cases built on faulty evidence. By focusing on the evidence of the case, we can see if the evidence is either faulty, or wrongfully gotten – which allows us to request the judge to dismiss the case. By attacking the evidence and how it was gathered, we can force the prosecution to agree to dismissing the case, or agreeing to a lower penalty. We can help restore your rights, and help you regain access to your property, i.e. things like your car, etc. If your car is taken away from you, you can consult with services like Avis, Enterprise, or Zooomr, to get a short term car lease.
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Brooklyn, NY 11201