How Can You Define if Someone Is Indicted or Charged? Here the Difference Between Indicted vs Charged

Someone with an interest in the criminal series or suspense thrillers must have noticed that there is not a single way that an arrest is made. There are different ways where a criminal is arrested and then incarcerated. However, a question that may make you scratch your head sometimes is what’s the difference between being indicted vs charged?

Whether someone is charged or indicted, the end result for both generally depends on the crime for which someone is handcuffed. To know the difference between indicted vs charged, keep reading.

What is the difference between being indicted vs charged?

The main prospect that differs between the two is the authorization of the arrest. This means, those who have filed charges against someone, a prosecutor, or the grand jury.

Whether the charges are brought forward by a prosecutor or grand jury, a defendant may end up in similar convictions due to the statutes associated with a crime in question.  It’s a prosecutor who is responsible to bring charges against an accused after an arrest at a state level. While prosecutors are best suited to bring charges as they have legal discretion to punish the detained individual.

On the other hand, the prosecutor cannot impose punishment alone for the federal charges due to the lack of legal authority. Therefore, for a federal conviction, they need a grand jury to indict the accused first.

After an arrest when there’s a formal hearing, the defendant is often not present at the time, a prosecutor must show enough evidence to bring charges. Here, the defense attorney and prosecutor will formally present their arguments and understand how the case will proceed.

A state prosecutor will decide further about how they are going to bring charges against the defendant. Through information or through indictment.

Difference between information and indictment

Information – A prosecutor will review the complaint or information brought forward by the police officer and the associated evidence and determine whether to bring charges. This procedure of bringing charges against the defendant is known as ‘prosecution by information. It generally involves a preliminary hearing where the judge decides to proceed with charges on the basis of evidence and information.

An indictment – On the other hand, the prosecution will present the information and evidence in front of the grand jury who then decides whether there’s enough evidence to merit charges. The process of filing these charges does not necessarily need a preliminary hearing and is called ‘Prosecution by indictment”.

What happens after an arrest through indictment?

A state prosecutor has a range of legal authorities where he can decide, how to prosecute a defendant, what charges should be filed against an accused, and the way these charges should be pursued and filed. For federal charges, a prosecutor will present a list of charges in front of the grand jury along with the evidence and request the jury to file charges against the accused.

In contrast to a regular jury, where they determine the innocence or guilt of an accused, a grand jury will only determine the merit of the evidence and decide whether to file criminal or other charges.

Also, there’s no party other than the jury and the prosecutor is involved in the grand jury session. It’s just the jury members and the prosecutor – not the accused nor his attorney to offer the compensation through arguments and there’s no judge. If the grand jury analyzes that there’s sufficient evidence, then they will issue an indictment with returning a ‘true bill’.

Indicted vs Charged defined
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What happens after an arrest through information?

In many states, a prosecutor commences the charges by information during a preliminary hearing. This process is relatively different from a grand jury procedure. 

In a preliminary hearing where a grand jury reviews the list of charges based on the evidence presented by the prosecutor. Here, the defendant attends the hearing with his defense attorney and challenges the charges, and argues on the evidence. In addition to that, the defense attorney can present the response to the evidence and cross-question the witnesses by presenting the information in the defendant’s favor.

Once the defense and prosecution are done with the arguments, the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence and probable cause to press charges against the accused. If the judge finds sufficient cause and evidence, he decides to pursue the charges and allow the prosecution to file the charge and proceed with the trial.

What does a prosecutor need to impose charges?

To press charges against a defendant, a prosecutor must have enough evidence and the information that supports the evidence. Whether in a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor lists the charges in front of the jury or in the formal hearing where a prosecutor uses his legal discretion to press charges he would need substantial proof to file charges. The case will be dismissed otherwise.

Why is a grand jury involved?

The more serious crimes a defendant is involved in, the harsher convictions can be imposed. For the federal charges and crimes, the harsher punishment could be a death sentence. Besides, with every harsh penalty, the associated damages would bring additional charges and even longer incarcerations.

Also, if someone uses firearms or any other device in committing criminal activity, the punishments can be worse. The agencies that investigate these criminal executions are usually designed under government and are entities entitled to maintain law and order include:

  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • (ATF) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
  • United States Parcel Service (USPS)
  • Federal Property Crimes
  • Constitutional Violations
  • Federal Statute Violations
  • Interstate Commerce

Many states do not actually require the grand jury to step in unless there are serious federal charges against a defendant. However, the grand jury meetings are executed away from the public in secret. Depending on the jurisdiction, the length and the number of meetings may vary as well.

Does it matter to be charged with an indictment or information?

It depends. The prosecution often found favoring indictments as they want to see what the jury panel decides in a real trial. The defense, however, on the other hand, wishes for prosecution where they can challenge the charges and gets the opportunity to cross-examine the witness and provide the missing information (if any) and most of all dismiss the case and charges altogether.

What is important to note here is no matter what charges either through indictment or information, a neutral party (a grand jury or judge) will determine the affective and fact-based evidence before allowing the prosecutor to file charges. Whether a defendant goes through an indictment or preliminary hearing, the conviction of the criminal act would be the same. Once charges are filed, the pre-trial activities will begin taking place. 

How can someone get out of bail after being convicted or being charged?

Generally, when someone is found engaged in criminal activity, they will be charged for violating state statutes on the spot when detained. After showing up to the judge and the trial period, your defense attorney will be allowed to plead bail. Now you have the opportunity to have your bail paid or seek other bail types if you’re allowed by the court.

If you are convicted of indictment charges, you possibly have been bailed out already unless you do not violate the terms of your probation.

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