If you or someone you love has been arrested for a crime, you have likely heard the phrases “indicted” and charged. These legal terms are similar, but there are important differences between the two. Understanding the differences can help you better prepare for your defense and understand the potential consequences you could be facing.
A charge is a formal allegation form law enforcement that you committed a crime. Charges occur in a variety of ways depending on the severity of the crime. For misdemeanors, it is not unusual for prosecutor to file a charge against a person directly. In some jurisdictions, this is how felony cases are initiated as well. In other places, the prosecutor will rely on a grand jury to bring a felony charge.
If you are not already in custody when the formal charge comes down, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. If you were arrested prior to formal charges being filed, the police will typically provide you with documentation of the charges while you are in jail.
If you find yourself arrested on a warrant after being formally charged, the officer must give you a copy of the document. The warrant will outline the charges you face, and it will be signed by the judge that authorized it. The charges set out in your warrant can change in the future, however, as the prosecutor could upgrade your charges or dismiss them entirely.
After you are charged with a crime, your case will be set for a formal arraignment. This is your first opportunity to see a judge following your arrest. In some cases, your lawyer might be able to negotiate your release from jail and help you avoid a court appearance at the initial hearing.
When it comes to bringing charges, there are technical requirements that the state must follow. The failure to comply with these requirements could see your case dismissed permanently. If the state waits to long to bring charges or fails to property notify you, it could lead to a viable defense.
Indictments are similar to a criminal charge. In fact, an indictment is the process many jurisdictions use to bring a felony charge against an individual. Indictments occur when a prosecutor uses a grand jury to initiate a felony case against a suspect. At the grand jury, the prosecutor will provide the evidence they have against the defendant and ask for an indictment on the charges they present. It is the role of the grand jury to determine if there is enough evidence to go forward. If the grand jury agrees that there is enough evidence to warrant a felony charge, the case will move forward. If a grand jury decides there is not enough evidence, that is the end of the case.
The grand jury process is similar to a trial in some ways. It involves witnesses and is held before a judge. However, the bar for establishing grounds for a criminal offense is much lower than the burden at trial. Additionally, you do not have the same rights in a grand jury as you do during a jury trial. You are not entitled to a lawyer, and might not even have knowledge a grand jury is proceeding against you until an indictment is handed down.
Much like with a criminal charge, an indictment will lead to an arrest warrant issued against you. In some cases where your attorney has been in contact with the prosecution, it may be possible to avoid an arrest and turn yourself in. This can avoid the embarrassment of an arrest and allow you to get your affairs in order before being taken into custody.
Whether you are charged or indicted, it is vital that you seek experienced legal counsel right away. A dedicated criminal defense attorney can work to free you from jail after an arrest and potentially fight the charges against you.
We hear a lot about a Grand Jury being convened to take a look into certain felonies that may have been committed by an individual. Despite the term being used on a regular basis, the actual processes and way a Grand Jury works can be a mystery to most people. Knowing exactly what to expect of the Grand Jury process when you are indicted for some sort of crime.
1. What is an Indictment?
When you receive an indictment you are being told you are believed to have been involved in committing a crime. The Grand Jury indictment comes after an investigation has reached a point where investigators and prosecutors have concluded there is a good chance of proving your guilt.
2. What is a Grand Jury?
There are only two states in the U.S. that do not use the Grand Jury system to decide who will be charged with a specific crime. When a Grand Jury is convened, the idea is for a group of independent people to be presented with all the evidence from investigators and prosecutors. The Grand Jury listens to the arguments and evidence before casting a secret vote to decide if the case has been proven for charges to be filed against an individual.
3. Does this mean the Defendant is Guilty?
The issue most prosecutors have with the use of a Grand Jury is the fact only evidence from the state or Federal authorities are submitted for evidence. This means almost every meeting of the Grand Jury results in an indictment because there is not usually a time for the defendant to argue their case.
4. Is a Grand Jury always used?
The use of Grand Juries is not always needed and some states do not require one to meet for every felony outside the Federal mandate. There are several Federal charges that must involve the use of a Grand Jury, including those written into the Constitution.
5. Does a Defendant have the Chance to Respond?
Using a Grand Jury is not an admission or even proof of guilt on the part of the defendant. Instead, all a Grand Jury indictment means is that an investigation has proven there is enough evidence to move forward with the case against an individual. The response from the defendant comes at the venue of their trial set after they have been indicted.
6. Should a Defendant Hire an Attorney
Once the Grand Jury indictment has been received an individual should spend their time deciding whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. Hiring an attorney is probably the option for most people because if the defendant cannot afford a legal expert they will be provided with one by the state. Federal charges result in a conviction rate above 90 percent meaning an attorney is a vital part of any defense.
7. Choosing a Defense Attorney
The choice of an experienced defense attorney is vital to allowing the truth of any potential crime to be explored. An experienced defense attorney will usually be able to look for issues with the case brought against an individual and leading to a thorough review of every aspect of the case presented by Federal prosecutors.
8. Where will a Trial Take Place?
The issue of where a trial will take place following the indictment by a grand jury is easy to answer if a case is tried by Federal prosecutors. The venue of the trial will be in one of the 94 Unites States District COurts that are linked to Federal agencies.
9. Choosing a Course of Action
The Grand Jury indictment is usually a sign that Federal authorities believe they have a strong case against an individual. An individual can choose to fight the charges brought against them or work with prosecutors to reach a plea deal that suits both sides of the case.
10. Does the Defendant go to Jail?
There is no specific answer to this question with every case treated differently. A bond hearing will often be the next step in the indictment process where it will be decided whether the individual will be held in Federal custody or released until the time of their trial.