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Posted on October 21, 2020 in Criminal Defense

What is an Indictment?

You may have heard about a person being indicted by a Grand Jury in the news. An indictment sounds frightening. We advise that you take the matter very seriously if you are summoned to appear before a Grand Jury or have been issued an indictment.

It is never a wise idea to try to handle a Grand Jury summons or indictment without a criminal defense lawyer’s assistance. The laws and procedures regarding Grand Juries are much different from those governing trial courts. You could be under investigation and not even know that you are a suspect if you are summoned to appear before a Grand Jury.

Complaint vs. Grand Jury Indictment

A prosecutor can choose one of two methods for bringing criminal charges against you. The first is a Long Form Complaint submitted to a judge. The Complaint contains the facts that the prosecutor alleges constitute a criminal act.

The judge reviews the Complaint. If the judge believes probable cause exists, he authorizes the court to issue a Summons. The Summons is served by certified mail or in person.

Never ignore a Summons. If you do not appear in court, the court issues a Warrant for your arrest. Police officers can serve the warrant and arrest you at any time, including while you are at work or home.

For more serious charges, the prosecutor may choose to seek a Grand Jury indictment. Grand Juries meet in secret. No one is permitted to discuss what happens during a Grand Jury hearing.

The secrecy of a Grand Jury serves several purposes. It allows the prosecutor to call witnesses and present evidence without notifying the suspect that he or she is under investigation. It also protects the suspect’s reputation in case an indictment is not issued.

Grand Jurors meet to hear cases presented by the prosecutor. If the Grand Jury determines that there is sufficient evidence to support probable cause, it issues an indictment or “True Bill.”

An indictment is not a guilty verdict.

The purpose of the Grand Jury is not to decide your guilt or innocence. The jurors only determine whether there is probable cause for an arrest.

As with a Summons, a formal Indictment can be served personally or by mail. If you fail to appear in court, the court issues an arrest warrant. Police officers may execute the arrest warrant at any time and any place.

What Should You Do if You Receive an Indictment?

If you receive a Summons or Indictment, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Indictments are often used in felony cases.

Therefore, you could face severe penalties if you are convicted of a felony related to white collar crimes, sex crimes, drug charges, murder, or other criminal charges. You need to take immediate steps to defend yourself and protect your legal rights.

In addition to the criminal punishments for felonies, your criminal record follows you for the rest of your life. You could experience numerous negative consequences because of a felony conviction, such as:

  • Losing your right to vote
  • Losing your gun ownership rights
  • Trouble finding a job or a place to live
  • Losing your professional license
  • Losing your immigration status
  • Registering as a sex offender

A criminal defense lawyer helps you fight an indictment.

However, if you testify at a Grand Jury or talk to the police without a lawyer present, you could make matters much worse.

An attorney can challenge whether there was probable cause to issue an indictment. He can challenge the evidence and determine if someone violated your constitutional rights. In some cases, evidence could be thrown out if your rights were violated, which could result in a dismissal of the charges against you.

Exercise Your Right to Legal Counsel

When the police arrest a person, they generally try to obtain additional evidence before the person “lawyers up.” Officers might tell you that only guilty people ask for a lawyer or that they can help you if you tell them your side of the story. Do not fall for these tactics.

You have the right to remain silent. It is in your best interest to do so. Do not talk to the police or the prosecutor without a lawyer present.

Ask for a criminal defense attorney immediately. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state must appoint an attorney to represent you. However, if you can afford a private attorney, it is better.

Public defenders handle large numbers of cases and do not always have the resources to investigate cases thoroughly.

You need a private criminal defense lawyer who can devote the time and resources to your case to fight the criminal charges against you aggressively. Your freedom and future could be in jeopardy. Make sure you have a top criminal defense lawyer fighting for you.