What Does “Indictment” Mean?

February 2, 2015
What Does “Indictment” Mean?

You’ve probably heard the word “indictment” on the news or in court shows. But what exactly does it mean? And what does it mean for a person that has been indicted?


An indictment is a formal accusation of a crime. A person that has been indicted has been formally accused of committing a crime.

There are other ways for a person to be accused of committing a crime, but in the United States indictments are used, especially for federal crimes, to formally accuse a person. They are used less frequently in state court systems. According to the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a person cannot be charged with a capital or other infamous crime other than being indicted by a grand jury. But this amendment is not extended to state courts.

What Happens if You’re Indicted?

Usually, after an indictment has been handed down by a grand jury, a defendant is arraigned. During an arraignment (the first proceeding in a trial) the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty in court. But the arraignment does not determine guilt or innocence. Rather, an arraignment is used to hear the defendant’s plea, determine if the defendant has or needs legal representation, and sets bail (if necessary). Following the arraignment, a defendant faces a jury during a trial. 

Understanding the Law with the Help of a Lawyer

If you have been indicted, you need to work with an attorney. They will be able to explain the process as well as all the legal terms and processes that are used. A criminal defense attorney will build your case and walk you through the legal proceedings.

Sources: Atttorneys.comWhat Is a Criminal Indictment? 2014 and Ask.com, What happens after an indictment? 2015

The Law Office of Peter Berlin – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
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