The indictment is the formal charge in a criminal case. Typically, an indicted crime is a more serious crime—usually a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor. A less serious crime—such as a misdemeanor—is usually contained in a document known as an “accusation” or “information,” both of which are drafted by the prosecuting office.
Being Indicted With A Felony
How is an indictment made? The law requires that a person suspected of a criminal offense be formally charged with the offense. The law recognizes two different types of charging methods. More serious crimes—felonies—must be formally charged in an indictment issued by a grand jury. The grand jury is a panel of up to twenty-four local citizens whose sole duty is to determine if there is sufficient evidence (“probable cause”) for the charged crime.
How does a grand jury determine probable cause? Grand jury proceedings are unique because they are confidential and take place outside the presence of the defendant and the defendant’s attorney. Additionally, the general public is also excluded. However, the prosecuting attorney and usually the investigating police officer attend the hearing and present evidence to the grand jury. If the grand jury finds probable cause to support the charges, they will issue a “true bill” indictment, and the case will move to the next phase of the criminal justice system. On the other hand, if the grand jury finds there is not probable cause to support the charges, they will issue a “no bill” indictment, and the prosecutor will either drop the charges or use an alternate route to pursue them. A case that receives a “no bill” indictment can be presented to the grand jury again at a later date.
Preparing For The Trial
What happens after an indictment is issued? Once a grand jury finds there is probable cause to support the charges, a case number is assigned to the indictment. Subsequently, the indictment is randomly assigned to a judge, who will then schedule the case for an arraignment if necessary, as well as a pretrial motions hearing, status conference and calendar call.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, the criminal justice system can seem like a tangled web of complex rules and legal procedures. In order to protect your legal rights and increase your odds of a favorable outcome, you need the assistance of a qualified attorney. Contact an attorney today by filling out a free case evaluation form.