You may hear that a person has been indicted on criminal charges and wonder how that is different from a regular arrest. The indictment procedure is required when charges are felony federal charges. Although states can use the indictment procedure, they are not required to.
The indictment procedure must also be used for certain types of crimes, with the reasoning that an individual has a constitutional right to have their situation reviewed by a neutral group of people before being formally charged with a crime.
The investigation phase
When the government suspects that someone has engaged in criminal activity against them, an investigator is appointed to research the matter. After the investigator gathers their evidence, they present it to a prosecutor.
The prosecutor then reviews the results of the investigation and speaks to potential witnesses. They then decide if they have enough to present the evidence to a grand jury.
Grand jury selection
If so, the next step is selecting a grand jury and arranging for grand jury proceedings. Grand juries have between 16-23 members.
If you are the one suspected of the criminal activity, this is the point at which you will receive a formal notice, listing the charges you are suspected of.
The indictment proceeding
The purpose of the indictment proceeding is to allow the grand jury to review the evidence that has been gathered and decide if there is an adequate basis for bringing formal criminal charges.
Evidence is presented through documents gathered from the investigation, witnesses and prosecution arguments.
At least 12 jury members must conclude that there is enough evidence to bring formal charges for an indictment to be issued. If so, the indictment lists all crimes you are being formally charged with.
Grand jury proceedings are confidential, so no one outside the proceedings will see or hear any of the evidence.
How to handle an indictment
It is best to speak with a criminal defense attorney at the first sign you may be suspected of criminal activity against the government. This might be when you receive a formal letter, or before. A criminal attorney can review the charges and help you mount a strong defense