What Does it Mean to Be Indicted?

By Jane Meggitt
If you're charged with a crime, a jury of your peers may decide your fate.

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To be indicted is to be formally charged with a crime by a grand jury. After an indictment, the accused must enter a plea regarding the charges. If he pleads innocent, he then goes on to a trial by jury or judge, depending on the alleged crime. Grand juries are relatively rare. A prosecutor more often files criminal charges directly through a complaint.

Grand Jury Proceedings

Conducted in secret, without a judge, grand jury proceedings are relatively one-sided. Generally, the defendant and his attorney do not appear or present evidence, and there is no cross-examination of witnesses. The prosecutor presents the case and questions witnesses, and grand jurors may ask questions. Evidence that isn't permitted at trial -- such as hearsay and the results of illegal surveillance -- can be presented to the grand jury. If the grand jury determines that there is probable cause to charge you with a crime, it issues a "true bill" -- also known as an indictment. If the grand jurors decide there isn't sufficient evidence to indict, they issue a "no bill."

Filing Complaints

After police make an arrest, the arrest report is forwarded to the prosecutor's office for evaluation. If the prosecutor decides to pursue the case in court, he can set forth the charges and file a criminal complaint. Even if a grand jury returns a "no bill," the prosecutor, in most cases, still has the option of filing a standard complaint in court.

About the Author

A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt writes regularly for various legal blogs. Her work has appeared in LegalZoom, USA Today and many other publications.

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