The Ham Sandwich: An Indictment

The Ham Sandwich: An Indictment

In 1985, Sol Wachtler, then the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the State of New York, famously opined that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if asked to do so. This statement was itself an indictment on how easily prosecutors were able to obtain indictments from the grand jury. In theory, the grand jury system was put in place for the protection of individual citizens against unwarranted and unsupported prosecutions. Justice Wachtler apparently believed the protection insufficient for its stated purpose. Justice Wachtler's true gripe has to do with the standard of proof required to obtain the indictment: Probable Cause.

How is Probable Cause Achieved?

Probable Cause will be achieved so long as the prosecutor is able to convince the grand jury that facts exist such that a reasonable person would believe a crime has been committed and that the Defendant committed the crime. In practice, this standard will bet met so long as the prosecutor can present at least one witness to testify to the alleged incident and establish the perpetrator as being the Defendant. Indeed, this is not a high burden to meet. Hence, even a ham sandwich is susceptible to being indicted and prosecuted.

Contact an Experienced Pomona Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have concerns about a criminal matter, contact our office at 213-668-7779 to get ahead of the issue.