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Definition of Indictment

An indictment is a written, formal accusation charging a person with a crime. It is presented by a Grand Jury which is a group of 15-23 citizens who reviews evidence of the crime and determines whether there is enough evidence for a trial. The indictment originates with a prosecutor. If the grand jury decides to indict they will return a "true bill." If they do not indict they return a "no-bill." The prosecutor can then decide whether to file charges against the suspect or not.

An indictment can either be sealed or direct. A direct indictment will send a case directly to trial. A sealed indictment ensured the indictment will not be publicized until the defendant is named and has been arrested or notified by the police. After the indictment is issued an arrest warrant allows the police to find and detain the named defendant. The defendant is than arrested or surrenders to the police and posts bail (though the severity of the charges may not allow for bail).

After the indictment and arrest the first court date is set. This date is called the arraignment. At the arraignment the defendant will be charged with a crime and can enter their plea. If they plead not guilty the court will set a trial date.

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