You may have heard about an ‘indictment’ before, but not actually understand what it means. An indictment, by definition, is a formal accusation that is made against somebody who is suspected of committing a crime. They are generally only obtained for felony charges. Indictments can be obtained before arrests are made and are mostly used in the federal court system; however, they can be used in state as well. To obtain an indictment, the prosecutor must present a case to the grand jury, which is made up of about 16-23 local citizens who are sworn in every 18 months. There have been several indictments in the news over the past years that went viral and grabbed the hearts of many as they watched closely to see what would happen in a specific case. Take, for example, the indictment of Michael Vick. In 2007, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted by a federal grand jury with charges related to dog fighting after he had fought pit bulls competitively. He faced an outstanding $350,000 in fines when the indictment was made. “Bad Newz Kennels” sponsored the dogfights he participated in and an astounding fifty-four pit bulls were recovered from the property when searches were conducted. There was also equipment found to hold dogs in place for mating, an electric treadmill modified for dogs, and more. The last pieces of evidence found on the property were the graves of seven pit bulls.
What is the Difference Between Indictment and Information?
Some states will require indictments for prosecution and others must go through a process known as “information,” which is widely confused with such. Prosecutors will list information and file the document with the court when information takes place. In California specifically, the prosecution will file a written complaint accusing the defendant of a felony, process to a preliminary hearing where the judge will decide whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime, and file an information if it is determined that probable cause existed. However, many will just assume the indictment process and all elements involved. It is true that grand juries will most often vote to indict rather than choose another option. Prosecutors will usually go to a grand jury unconvinced that criminal charges are appropriate, however. This happens often in a high-profile case so that there is no bias involved in the case. Very rarely will the government decide not to prosecute after a grand jury has voted to indict. You may have specific questions for your attorney about indictment. For instance, you may be wondering if the law on grand juries and indictments are different in your specific jurisdiction. You may also have questions on whether or not an error in the process will allow you to have your case dismissed. Here are some other questions you may have regarding indictments:
- When are prosecutors legally supposed to present to a grand jury evidence that just so happens to be favorable to the target?
- What immunity must be offered in order to force a witness to testify?
- Does a witness appearing before a grand jury have a right to a lawyer?
Yes, if you have become involved in a criminal case, you may have a lot of questions about indictment. You may wonder how it happened to you in the first place and what you should expect. Many people have been indicted over the years and their cases will continue on after the fact. Call an attorney that you can trust to speak about indictment with, so you can get the information you need. Call The Law Office of Peter Blair to get started today.