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Note: The comments and questions on this page came from people who visited this website. Please feel free to send your comments and questions to Professor Brenner (brenner@udayton.edu). She will respond privately, and may ask permission to post your message on this page. No one's e-mail will be used without first obtaining their permission, and names and e-mail addresses are removed before a comment is posted. Starting in 2002, the responses posted to the site indicate which of us replied: The initials SWB mean Professor Brenner wrote the response; the initials LES mean Professor Shaw wrote the response. We are also putting the year down, to indicate when the response was posted. If no initials appear, Professor Brenner wrote the response.

Can a grand jury jail someone for perjury?

Does a grand jury have authority to jail someone for perjury or do they have to bring charges against a perjurer in another court of law?

Response: No, someone has to be formally charged (indicted by a grand jury) with perjury, and then those charges have to be brought to trial, just like charges for any other crime.

You might be thinking of civil contempt, which is used to coerce someone who won't testify (like Susan McDougal) into testifying. There's no trial and no charge for civil contempt; the court orders you to obey the grand jury's subpoena and if you don't, you're locked up until you do.

There's also criminal contempt: If you don't do what a grand jury tells you to do and the grand jury just wants to punish you for disobeying, and isn't interested in coercing you to obey it, then the court can hold you in criminal contempt, and you're locked up. The difference is that you can only be locked up for a specified period of time, and if that period of time is very long (6 months+), you have to be formally charged and given a trial before you can be incarcerated (since criminal contempt is a crime).

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