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What Does A Grand Jury Do?

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The grand jury investigates and may make a recommendation on whether or not to indict.

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By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Grand Jury Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

The investigating grand jury has the power to inquire into offenses against the criminal laws of the commonwealth alleged to have been committed within the county or counties in which it is summoned.  Such power includes the investigative resources of the grand jury which will include but not be limited to the power of subpoena, the power to obtain the initiation of civil and criminal contempt proceedings, and every investigative power of any grand jury of the Commonwealth.  Such alleged offenses may be brought to the attention of such grand jury by the court or by the attorney for the Commonwealth but in no case will the investigating grand jury inquire into alleged offenses on its own motion.


Except for the power to indict, the investigating grand jury has every power available to any other grand jury in the Commonwealth.  The jurisdiction, powers, and activities of an investigating grand jury may not, if otherwise lawful, be limited in any way by the charge of the court.  However, the assigned judge has a duty to be diligent in the supervision and control of proceedings of an investigating grand jury, and this supervisory role includes control over the exercise of powers, such as the issuance of subpoenas.  The provisions of the Act governing the powers of an investigating grand jury do not, even implicitly, require that the powers set forth are exclusive to the grand jury or intended to displace valid, fundamental powers of the court.  Thus, if an investigating grand jury does not have the power to issue a contempt citation in a given case, the supervising judge may do so.  To argue that contempt proceedings may be initiated only upon request by an investigating grand jury, not only is contrary to the fundamental principle that a court has inherent power to enforce its own orders but also is irreconcilable with the realities of an investigating grand jury proceeding.

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