An indictment is a written accusation that charges a person with a crime or other offense and is submitted to the court for trial of the accused defendant. The indictment is drawn up by the prosecuting attorney. Traditionally the indictment is then affirmed by the Grand Jury
. For this affirmation to occur, the grand jury must have been provided enough evidence to demonstrate sufficient cause for prosecutors
to have a criminal Trial
. In the United States, the Indictment is one of three methods of charging offenses. The Information, a written accusation that resembles the Indictment, is also prepared by the prosecutor and submitted to court. For minor offenses, a complaint may be filed with the court by another party or by a police officer. An indictment may contain several counts (individual charges). If an individual is indicted for a crime, he or she has an opportunity to obtain legal counsel and decide what plea to offer at the Arraignment
. Any or all of the counts within an indictment can result in convictions or dismissals.
If a criminal case has not been downgraded, diverted, dismissed, or pled out the prosecutor will present the case to a Grand Jury for an indictment. The grand jury is composed of a group of citizens who have been selected from voter registration lists. It is their civic duty to serve. They consider evidence presented by the county prosecutor and determine if there is sufficient evidence to formally charge the defendant and oblige him to respond to the charge(s). The indictment is not a finding of guilt or a conviction. Neither the accused or his attorney are present. Witnesses may testify regarding the crime. Defendants may testify; however, if they do, they surrender rights against self-incrimination that are guaranteed by the constitution. After considering the prosecutor's evidence and the testimony of witnesses, if a majority of the 23 jurors vote to indict the defendant, he must face further criminal action. This finding is a true bill and results in continued prosecution, with the case going to Trial unless a plea bargain occurs, negotiating to a lesser charge and the prosecutor and defense attorney agreeing to a recommended consequence for the defendant.
If a majority finds the evidence to be insufficient to indict, the Grand Jury enters a no bill and the charge(s) are dismissed. The jury may, however, decide to charge the defendant with a less serious offense, to be heard in court. In this instance, the offense has been downgraded or remanded. The accused must appear in court to face the lesser charge.