In order to be charged with a felony, the State must present evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury then decides if the State has enough evidence to proceed to charge a defendant. If the grand jury does vote to proceed, then the defendant has been indicted. [ return to top of glossary
A charge of a felony (serious crime) voted by a Grand Jury based upon a proposed charge, witnesses' testimony and other evidence presented by the public prosecutor (District Attorney). To bring an indictment the Grand Jury will not find guilt, but only the probability that a crime was committed, that the accused person did it and that he/she should be tried.
A written accusation a defendant has committed a criminal offense. Indictments are prepared by the commonwealth's attorney and considered by a grand jury through testimony of witnesses summoned by the commonwealth's attorney. A "true bill of indictment" is the agreement of a grand jury probable cause exists to order a defendant to stand trial on the charges in the indictment. When this occurs, the grand jury is said to have "indicted" the defendant.
a formal accusation against an accused. An indictment is drawn up by the Crown once it has been determined that an accused will be tried in the indictable jurisdiction, listing the counts against the accused.
A formal, written accusation made by the grand jury. Infraction Violation of local ordinance or state statute usually resulting in a fine or limited period of incarceration. Term usually used in traffic offenses.
Written document containing a summary of a case heard before a criminal court. It serves to inform the accused and to introduce the trial proceedings. The indictment is written by the general prosecutor; it mentions the identity of the accused, gives a description of the type of offense and the facts, as well as any circumstances that may aggravate or mitigate the sentence.
In the common law legal system, an indictment is a formal charge of having committed a most serious criminal offense. In those jurisdictions which retain the concept of a felony, the serious criminal offense would be a felony; those jurisdictions which have abolished the concept of a felony often substitute instead the concept of an indictable offense, i.e. an offense which requires an indictment.