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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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The Key Differences Between a Federal Grand Jury vs. a Grand Jury Indictment

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 04:56 pm

The Key Differences Between a Federal Grand Jury vs. a Grand Jury Indictment

A grand jury is a group of citizens who listen to evidence presented by a prosecutor and decide if there is probable cause to charge someone with a crime and bring them to trial. A federal grand jury considers federal crimes, while state grand juries consider state crimes[1].

There are some major differences between federal grand juries and grand jury indictments that people often get confused. This article will break down the key differences in a simple way that’s easy to understand.

The Role of Each Type of Jury

The main difference is in the role or purpose of each type of jury[2]:

  • A federal grand jury decides if there is enough evidence to charge someone with a federal crime and bring them to trial. They decide if probable cause exists.
  • A grand jury indictment is the formal charging document that contains the charges against the defendant.

So the federal grand jury recommends charges, while the grand jury indictment is the actual formal charges.

Who’s Involved

Here’s who is involved in each[3]:

  • Federal grand jury: 16-23 grand jurors, prosecutor, judge, witnesses
  • Grand jury indictment: Only the grand jurors (no defendant, no defense attorney)

The defendant and their lawyer can’t be in the grand jury room. Only the prosecutor presents evidence.


Federal grand juries are secret, but a grand jury indictment is public[4]:

  • Federal grand jury: Super private, everything is secret
  • Grand jury indictment: The charges are public record once filed

So the process of the federal grand jury is confidential, but the result (the indictment) is made public.

Evidence Rules

Federal grand juries have looser evidence rules[5]:

  • Federal grand jury: Prosecutor can show any evidence, even illegally obtained stuff
  • Grand jury indictment: Real trials have strict evidence rules

So prosecutors can bring up more evidence to get an indictment from a federal grand jury versus at an actual trial.


Federal grand jury indictments don’t require every juror to agree[6]:

  • Federal grand jury: Only 12/23 jurors need to vote for an indictment
  • Grand jury indictment: Trial convictions need all 12 jurors to agree

So federal grand juries can indict with less agreement than a trial jury needs to convict.

Time Commitment

Here’s the time commitment for each[2]:

  • Federal grand jury: Meets a few days every month for 18 months
  • Grand jury indictment: Trial juries meet every day for a short trial

Federal grand juries serve for a long stretch, while trial juries just hear one case.

Getting Help

If you’re dealing with a federal grand jury investigation or possible criminal charges, make sure to get an experienced defense lawyer to protect your rights[6]. They can guide you through the process and represent your interests.

So in summary, federal grand juries decide on indictments while regular grand jury indictments are the actual formal charges. They differ in who’s involved, secrecy, evidence standards, unanimity requirements, time commitment, and more. Understanding these key differences is important for anyone involved in the criminal justice process.

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