What is a Felony Indictment?

Felony indictment involves the process of bringing charges to someone who has committed a crime punishable by more than one year in prison or by death. Felony indictment typically begins with the filing of the charges and ends when the final charges are brought against the defendant once a trial begins.

Felony Charges

Felony charges involve a broad range of crimes that can be categorized as violent crimes such as arson, assault, battery, robbery, grand theft, burglary, murder, rape and the vandalism of federal property, or non-violent crimes such as fraud and use of illegal drugs.

Filing Charges

An indictment felony begins once a prosecutor files a direct complaint in court, citing the crimes allegedly committed by the accused. Afterwards, the judge or the grand jury issues an indictment (written statement) which determines that a crime was committed and the accused should stand a trial. The defendant (the accused) is informed when to appear for the preliminary hearing. Victims or the witnesses are served with subpoena to appear in court for the preliminary hearing to testify or bring evidence.

Read More: How to File Criminal Charges in Federal Court

Preliminary Hearing

Preliminary hearing refers to the trial conducted before the major trial during which the judge decides whether there is enough evidence to make the defendant stand trial. As a result, the district attorney presents evidence and witnesses to convince the court that a crime has been committed and the defendant should stand trial. However, a preliminary hearing may not be held in every state; some states use the grand jury as provided for by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The grand jury may be made up of between 16 and 23 individuals. Like the judge, it determines whether the district attorney has produced enough evidence to convince the jury that the defendant committed the crime as alleged.


Arraignment refers to an indictment felony when the defendant is brought to trial for the first time. The district attorney will inform the defendant of the charges brought against him during this time. The defendant is also informed of his constitutional rights including his right to be represented by an attorney. At this stage, the defendant is expected to plead "guilty" or "not guilty." If he pleads not guilty, the court will set a date where he will be brought to trial.


Trial refers to a court proceeding where all evidence brought against the defendant is presented by the district attorney (prosecution) to the grand jury or the judge. The defendant's attorney (defense) also presents evidence that supports the defendant's innocence. Witnesses or the victim is asked to testify at the trial. The judge then gives a future date when he will declare his ruling.


This refers to the court procedure where the judge or the grand jury declares a ruling. If the defendant is found guilty, sentences can vary from probation to imprisonment in a penitentiary or even death, depending on the type of crime, criminal record and other aggravating factors.

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