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What Happens After an Indictment?

by Shelby Wall

Being indicted can be frightening. Learn about indictments, what they mean to those indicted in Southern California, and what to do if you face an indictment.

Indictment Definition

An indictment is a legal accusation against someone suspected of committing a serious crime. Indictments are filed after a grand jury investigation, but usually before an arrest. Indictments can be issued at the federal or state level. 

Federal Indictments

To issue a federal indictment, a majority of the grand jury must decide that the case in question has merit. At this point, the grand jury only judges whether probable cause exists and not the subject’s guilt or innocence. 

Probable cause is based on the facts and evidence presented. The question is whether the accused probably committed a federal crime. When a majority of the jury finds probable cause, they return an indictment. After this is issued, it must be reviewed and signed by the United States Attorney to proceed to trial.

California State Indictments

In Southern California, indictments are issued at the state level when serious state felony cases have been investigated. Before an indictment can be issued, a jury of California citizens from the local community evaluates the evidence to determine whether there is enough information to indict the accused.

In California, some of the procedures surrounding grand juries vary based on county, so the exact proceedings for grand juries in Orange County may differ from those in a neighboring county. This is one reason why it is essential to hire a local attorney familiar with your case’s procedures.

Questions About Indictments

Indictments can be confusing and stressful. Here are answers to common questions surrounding these incidents. For specific answers, consult an experienced attorney. 

Why Would Someone be Indicted?

People are indicted when they are believed to have committed a federal or serious state crime here in California. It is important to remember that this process is not an indication of guilt, only probable cause.

What Happens After an Indictment in California?

After the indictment is formalized, a criminal trial will be set to assess the evidence and make a judgment on the case. 

What Is the Difference Between an Indictment and a Conviction or Charge?

The difference between indictments, convictions, and charges can be confusing. 

  • Indictment: A serious criminal charge at the Federal or California state level.
  • Conviction: A conviction occurs at the end of your criminal trial if you are found guilty. Those found not guilty are “acquitted.” 
  • Charge: To be charged with a crime means a prosecutor has filed charges against the accused.
  • Indictment vs. charge: An indictment is similar to a charge. The difference is in who files the accusation. Indictments are filed by grand juries, while prosecutors file charges.
What Happens After a Grand Jury Indictment?

After a grand jury has indicted someone, a criminal trial will be arranged to review the evidence and determine the involvement of the accused.

A Skilled Attorney Can Help With Your Indictment

An indictment is a serious charge that deserves to be treated with the utmost care. If an accused is found guilty, heavy sentences can follow. Ronald G. Brower, Attorney at Law, has been practicing California criminal defense justice for 45 years. If you or a loved one are facing an indictment, contact the law office of Ronald G. Brower to find out how he can help you fight for your rights.

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