Ever come across the term ‘indictment’ and found yourself scratching your head, wondering what does it mean to be indicted? Don’t worry. You’re in good company – we’ve all been there at some point.

We’ve spent unchecked hours thumbing through dense legal texts, so you don’t have to! This article aims to simplify what an indictment is, map out how it happens, and shed light on its implications.

What Is an Indictment?

An indictment is a formal accusation, not a conviction, that signals the start of a legal process.

what does it mean to be indicted

Definition of an Indictment

An indictment is a formal document written and affirmed by a grand jury in the United States. This legal paper accuses an individual of committing a serious crime based on presented evidence.

It’s vital to note that an indictment doesn’t mean conviction but implies sufficient suspicion for judicial proceedings to proceed. A grand jury, composed of randomly chosen residents, decides if there are enough grounds for criminal charges through these indictments.

Therefore, being indicted signifies that the grand jury believes there’s substantial proof to start a criminal case against you.

Formal Accusation, Not a Conviction

An indictment stands as a formal accusation, not an outright conviction. It’s crucial to understand the distinction between the two. This is simply the beginning of a legal process where one or more crimes are charged against one or more defendants.

Unlike a conviction, which is a final verdict in criminal cases, an indictment merely means that enough evidence exists for a case to proceed to trial.

Indictments originate from grand juries who evaluate available evidence and decide whether charges should be filed against the defendant. However, this legal step does not signify guilt – it only shows that, at face value, there seems to be enough evidence for trial proceedings.

Difference Between Indictment and Conviction

An indictment and a conviction seem like similar legal terms, but they serve different purposes in the justice system. An indictment involves a formal accusation brought against an individual by a grand jury, concluding that enough evidence exists to prosecute the person.

This process can occur at both federal and state levels, implying no guilt but simply beginning the legal procedure. In contrast, a conviction is the outcome of a trial where the accused is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hence, while an indicted person stands accused awaiting trial without any verdict on their innocence or guilt yet pronounced, someone convicted is legally declared guilty of committing an offense with associated penalties such as fines or imprisonment pending execution based on the court’s discretion.

Process of Indictment

The process of indictment involves the convening of a grand jury or the decision made by a prosecutor to bring formal charges against an individual for a suspected crime.

Grand Juries and Federal Indictments

Grand juries play a crucial role in the process of indictment. These are groups of citizens who review the evidence presented by the prosecutor to determine if there is enough evidence or “probable cause” to formally accuse someone of committing a crime.

In federal cases, an indictment is the first step that initiates legal proceedings and leads to a criminal trial. It’s important to note that grand jurors only need a simple majority vote to indict a suspect based on the evidence presented during their sessions.

State-Level Indictments

States also have their own level of indictments, separate from federal indictments. This means someone can be indicted in federal and state courts for the same crime. State-level indictments follow a similar process to federal indictments, involving a grand jury review of evidence presented by the prosecutor.

Role of the Prosecutor

The prosecutor has a vital role in the criminal justice system. They are responsible for investigating, litigating, and resolving criminal charges in a fair and just manner. Their duty is to ensure that justice is served by diligently presenting evidence against the accused during court appearances.

They also play a crucial role in the grand jury proceedings, where they present the charges and evidence to determine if formal charges should be brought against the accused. In this way, prosecutors ensure that individuals are aware of the charges against them and have an opportunity to defend themselves in court.

Implications of Being Indicted

What does it mean to be indicted does not automatically mean you are guilty, but it is a serious accusation that can have significant implications on your life and reputation. It is important to understand the process and consequences of being indicted.

Not an Immediate Guilty Verdict

Being indicted does not automatically mean that you are guilty of a crime. It is important to remember that an indictment is simply an accusation or formal charge, and it does not result in an immediate guilty verdict.

The purpose of an indictment is to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial based on probable cause. It signifies that the legal proceedings will begin, but it does not guarantee a conviction or jail time.

The outcome will depend on the evidence presented during the trial and any sentencing the court imposes.


When wondering what does it mean to be indicted, it means that a person has been formally accused of committing a crime. It is an important step in the legal process and does not automatically mean that the accused is guilty or will be convicted. The indictment is presented by a grand jury, who reviews the evidence to determine if there is enough to proceed with the charges. 

If you are facing indictment, you may feel scared and confused about what to do next. You need a skilled and experienced lawyer who can help you navigate the complex legal system and protect your rights. 

Contact David L. Faulkner today for a free consultation. He has over 20 years of experience defending criminal cases and can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

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