It is a screening function to consider charges against particular person in particular case (as distinguished from its investigatory function).  If it finds evidence sufficient to establish probable cause, it returns an indictment (if not, a “no bill”)

It is not to be confused with Gerstein probable cause determination (not an actual proceeding)

Other characteristics:

  • Secret by tradition (oath of secrecy)
  • Wide authority – can subpoena documents, witnesses, very little supervision … independent entity
  • In reality, a tool of prosecutor – serves as arm of their office (“runaway GJ” acts independently of P)