From a definition’s standpoint, an indictment is an accusation against someone for committing a crime. They are typically only obtained for felony charges, which are charged the most harshly. They work a bit like a complaint, but not completely. A complaint is made against an individual as well, but the individual must have been arrested due to probable cause. Indictments are made against an individual before an arrest is made in many cases. They are to be taken very seriously because they are usually seen in the federal courts and are the product of sworn testimony.
When an indictment is to be sought, the prosecutor must present their case to the grand jury. The grand jury is made up of approximately 16-23 local citizens who are sworn in every 18 months and will review the prosecutor’s evidence against the individual and determine if there is actually probable cause. They are a lot different than a trial jury, who do not sit for as long of a period of time. The grand jury will usually only hear from the prosecution and work as a side arm to the prosecution for that matter.
In terms of indictment, when the grand jury sits and reviews the prosecutor’s case against the individual, it is then up to them to help make the decision on whether or not they have committed the crime. At least 12 jurors must vote to approve the indictment for it to move forward and the prosecutor can finally bring evidence to court. And if you are wondering, everything the grand jury does stays private in strict confidence. It encourages witnesses to speak freely and without fears of retaliation and protects the potential defendant’s reputation in case the jury does not decide to indict.
After an indictment is obtained, a couple of things happen. They will, first off, bring the case to court where things become most vital. The individual will be arraigned, which is a hearing before the judge that shows what the charges are. From there, the individual will be able to either make a plea bargain with the prosecution or move forward with jury trial.
How is Indictment Different From Information?
Information allows prosecution to rule on felonies in states where an indictment is not required. In California, the prosecution will file a written complaint accusing the defendant of a felony, proceed to a preliminary hearing where the judge will decide whether or not there is probable cause, and file an information if the judge determines that there is probable cause. If there is a federal crime, an indictment must be used unless the defendant waives the right to an indictment.
You may have some questions for your attorney regarding this process in full. For instance, what kind of errors in the indictment process will allow you to have your case dismissed? When can the grand jury decline to indict? When do prosecutors have to present to a grand jury evidence that’s favorable to the target? What kind of immunity is there? These are questions that we can offer you answers to. Call us today at The Law Office of Peter Blair for more information on your case.