The main difference between being charged versus indicted mainly relies on who actually files the charges. An indictment is when charges are filed by a grand jury against the defendant. Regular charges are filed by a prosecutor. When individuals face legal action, some might question what the difference is between being indicted and charged.
A criminal charge is an official allegation that an individual committed one or more crimes. Once the charge becomes formal, a bench warrant can be issued for the individual’s arrest. If the arrest is on a warrant, the police office should provide a copy of the warrant, which will state the charges. Note that criminal charges may be changed at a later time by the prosecutor or grand jury.
For arrests on a misdemeanor offense, the state prosecutor must charge the individual within a certain period of time after the arrest. For arrests on a felony charge, the state prosecutor has more time to file charges. If charges are not filed properly, the prosecutor cannot move forward with filing charges and the case could be dismissed.
Once the individual has been charged, an arraignment hearing comes next. Or, if appropriate, an attorney could file a plea in writing on the individual’s behalf. If the plea is not guilty, another court date will be set and the case will go forward to trial.
For indictments, in most states they are issued if a felony has allegedly been committed. In most cases, most prosecutors leave it to the grand jury to decide whether or not to charge the individual with a felony. All capital crimes and those for which the death penalty is a punishment must be presented by an indictment.
An individual can waive the right to have the criminal case brought in front of the grand jury. The case would then start with an information, which is another way an individual can be charged with a crime. The grand jury simply decides if charges should be brought against the individual and what they should be. They do not require a unanimous decision and can only require a simple majority to indict. Some grand juries can have up to 23 jurors, as opposed to six or twelve on regular juries.
The indictment contains all personal information, allegations regarding the facts of the case, and the time and place the alleged offense was charged.
If the indictment is issued, the judge issues an arrest warrant. After the arrest, bond can be requested to be let out of jail before the trial occurs.
According to Federal Charges, after an arrest and before charges are issued, the police write an arrest report and give it to the prosecutor. Based on the information in the report, the state prosecutor can choose to: file the complaint with the trial courts, go to the grand jury, or discontinue further pursuit.
Since most charges are required to be filed within a short time period, the crime that the individual is charged with can change over time.