Call Today 702.381.6590
What Does Indictment Mean?

What Does Indictment Mean?

An indictment is a formal accusation that initiates a criminal case, presented by a grand jury, and is usually required for serious crimes. It is a foundational part of the legal process in many jurisdictions, particularly within the United States.

What Is an Indictment?

An indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime. It is a legal mechanism through which a person suspected of a crime is charged and brought to trial. A grand jury issues an indictment, a body typically comprising 16 to 23 citizens, who review evidence presented by a prosecutor to determine whether there is sufficient cause to charge someone with a crime.

The grand jury plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system. By reviewing the prosecutor's evidence, the grand jury serves as a check on the government — it can prevent unfounded charges from being brought. However, it is important to note that the grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence; it only assesses if there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

The Indictment Process

The process begins when a prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury in a closed session. Evidence may include documents, physical evidence, and witness testimony. Unlike a trial, the suspect (now defendant) and their attorney are not present during this proceeding, and the standard of proof is lower than at a trial. The grand jury does not need to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt — they just need to decide if there's probable cause to believe the suspect committed the crime.

After reviewing the evidence, the grand jury can choose to indict, effectively stating that a trial is warranted, or they can decline to indict. If the grand jury issues an indictment, the next step in the process is the arraignment, where the defendant hears the charges against them and enters a plea.

Content of an Indictment

Rule 7 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides guidance on what an indictment should contain. It must be a "plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged."

At a minimum, it should include:

  • The suspect's identity, unless unknown
  • A citation of the statute or regulation allegedly violated
  • A signature from a government attorney

In some cases, when the defendant's identity is unknown, it is sufficient for the indictment to describe them as individuals with a particular DNA profile.

Indictments in Context

Indictments are critical to the legal process, ensuring that individuals are not subjected to frivolous or unfounded charges. They are a constitutional guarantee, protecting people from facing criminal trials without prior notification of the alleged offenses.

Understanding indictments helps clarify the due process rights enshrined in our justice system. Regardless of the crime involved, everyone deserves a fair and just legal process, and the indictment is a significant step in that journey.

The Draskovich Law Group has extensive experience assisting those facing criminal charges. Contact us to find out how we can fight for you.


Contact The Draskovich Law Group

Get Started With a Free Initial Consultation
    • Please enter your first name.
    • Please enter your last name.
    • Please enter your email address.
      This isn't a valid email address.
    • This isn't a valid phone number.
    • Please make a selection.
    • Please enter a message.