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What Is An Indictment?


In the U.S., a prosecutor can file a criminal complaint against an individual directly. However, in some states, New York included, and the federal system, when dealing with a felony, a prosecutor cannot file a complaint against an individual unless and until they present the charges to a grand jury and members of the grand jury issue an indictment (in-DITE-ment). In New York, if an indictment is not issued, a prosecutor generally cannot continue to pursue a felony case.

You may be wondering what exactly an indictment is. Many people have heard of the word indictment, but not many people understand what this word means. Below is a look at what an indictment is.

What Is an Indictment in New York?

In New York, you cannot go to trial on a felony charge unless and until there has been an indictment. In simple words, in New York, an indictment is a felony charge. It is a written formal accusation by a grand jury that is filed with a superior court.

In New York, the District Attorney’s Office usually presents evidence to a grand jury. Then the grand jury members have to vote on whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant taking an individual to trial. Basically, after being presented with evidence, the grand jury determines if there is probable cause to believe that a particular individual committed a felony.

In New York, a grand jury consists of at least 16 members and no more than 23.

What Is Needed for an Indictment To Be Issued?

If you are suspected of committing a felony, you might be wondering what is needed for a grand jury to issue an indictment. As already mentioned, the prosecutor must present evidence to a grand jury even before an indictment can be issued. After the prosecutor presents evidence, the grand jury will review it to determine whether there is probable cause to believe you committed a felony. Witnesses too may be called to testify. After examining the evidence and listening to witnesses and the prosecutor, the grand jury will vote on whether they believe there is probable cause you committed the felony offense you are being accused of committing. After the grand jury decides that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial, or if at least twelve jurors concur that there is enough evidence to warrant a trial, an indictment will be issued. On the other hand, if the grand jury decides that the evidence is not sufficient, or if less than twelve members concur, the grand jury will not issue an indictment.

Indictment vs. Conviction

It is crucial to note that an indictment is not the same as a conviction. Both are serious but different. Whereas an indictment means a person is facing criminal charges, a conviction means that a person has been found guilty, pleaded guilty, or accepted a plea deal.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you need more information or a criminal defense attorney to help you fight your criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact the experienced NYC criminal defense attorney, Mark I. Cohen. Call 212-732-0002 today to get the information or help you need.



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