An indictment and a charge are both steps used to move a criminal case toward a trial. The main difference is grand juries file indictments and prosecutors file charges.
During a grand jury’s investigation, a prosecutor must persuade a member of the jury that a crime has been committed before they can agree that formal charges should be filed. Once a person has been officially charged with a crime, it is at that point that a public trial may then be held.
Generally speaking, an indictment, also known as a ‘true bill’ may be viewed as a formal accusation undergoing an official investigation before moving forward with charges. An indictment may or may not result in court charges. A charge, on the other hand, means that grand jury members have decided formal prosecution should take place.
WHAT IS AN INDICTMENT
An indictment is a formal charge that is issued by a grand jury. A grand jury comprises a member of the community who reviews the evidence presented by the prosecutor. In the indictment proceedings, the accused individual does not have the right to a lawyer during this process. As such, the accused person cannot be present during the deliberations by the grand jury.
If the grand jury finds enough evidence to support the prosecution’s case, they will issue a formal indictment. This means that the accused will now stand trial for the crime they have been charged with.
During the indictment process, a grand jury will usually only issue a formal indictment if there is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. However, a grand jury can refuse to indict, even if the prosecutor believes there is enough evidence for a conviction.
WHAT IS A CHARGE
A charge is an accusation that someone committed a crime that must be proven in court. A charge is not indicative of guilt; you are innocent until proven guilty and the government must prove every element of the charge. Police do not file the charge against you. Instead, a prosecutor reviews the evidence and determines what charge should be filed against you. Sometimes, a prosecutor will ask the police to investigate more before filing charges. Other times, the evidence the police gathered is enough.
Once a charge is afield, the government will either ask to secure that accused appearance with a warrant or a summons. A warrant allows police to arrest the accused. A summons is a letter telling the accused to appear in court. If a person does not go to court, the judge will issue a warrant that orders the police to arrest the accused.
WHAT IS AN ARREST
An arrest is when an individual has been detained by police for suspicion of committing a criminal act. Arrests are usually the first step in a criminal case, but an arrest is not required for the government to charge you with a crime. Most arrests are made during the day, but they can happen at any time.
Arrests are usually made by police officers both uniformed and undercover detectives. The arrest can happen while an individual is out in public, but police may also go to a suspect’s home.
An arrest is typically a detention of an individual by a police officer with probable cause; it is not considered to be either (1) sufficient for charging the person with a crime or (2) indicative of guilt on behalf of the arrested party. Even if a person is arrested, justice requires that they receive their day in court.
After a person is arrested the police will either issue them a citation and release them or take the person to jail. If a person goes to jail, they will remain in jail until they are released on their recognizance, released to pre-trial services, or released after paying bail.
Many people know about a Miranda warning (“You have the right to remain silent…”), but most people don’t know that police do not have to read this warning to you immediately after being arrested. Police are required to read you the Miranda warning if you are detained or arrested and they are interrogating you or asking you a question.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN ARRESTED OR CHARGED
We will help you if you are arrested or charged with what you should do. Even if your case ends with a guilty plea, we will ensure that any punishment fits the crime and won’t leave you with a criminal record for the rest of your life. No matter what, anyone will help tell your story to the judge is fair in their sentencing.
CAN YOU GO JAIL AFTER ARRAIGNMENT
If the defendant is in the custody at the time of arraignment, after entering the plea, the judge will release the defendant on the promise that they will return to the court on a future date. Alternatively, the judge will take the money or property by the defendant as a promise to return to the court on future dates. And send the defendant back to jail until bail is posted. In some cases, the judge may refuse to set bail at all and send the defendant back to jail.
The judge bases the bail decision on several factors, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, whether they have family nearby, how long they have resided in the area and whether they have made threats against any witnesses in the case.
Understanding to read this blog can help a person better how the criminal justice system operates, in general. Our blog archives may be able to help answer any question about this process, as well as clarify some of the legal terms commonly encountered when exploring this topic.
Anyone who believes they may be indicted for a crime or who has already been indicted should contact a qualified attorney right away. While a court-appointed attorney will be provided to those who cannot afford counsel, this only happens after a person has been formally charged with a crime.