Indicted vs Charged: Understanding Legal Distinctions



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Once you find yourself entangled in the legal system, it becomes vital to recognize the intricate differences in its language. Navigating the murky waters of criminal law involves understanding key terminologies that dictate the course of justice, such as the difference between being “indicted” and “charged.” 

The U.S. legal system is a labyrinth of procedures and protocols where each step carries significant weight—perhaps none more so than the initial phases of criminal prosecution. Our experience at the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson is that being well-informed helps demimistify the issue for our clients and affords them a measure of control in an unpredictable situation. As defense attorneys, we aim to peel back the layers of complexity surrounding these critical initial steps in our pursuit of justice for you.

What Does It Mean to Be Charged?

Have you ever wondered what it means to be “charged” with a crime? A charge marks the beginning of formal legal proceedings against an individual. The complexity of this concept is not to be underestimated, as it initiates a journey through the judicial system that could significantly alter one’s life.

Being charged is the process where law enforcement agencies and prosecutors establish that there is sufficient evidence to accuse an individual of a crime. It’s pivotal to recognize the gravity of this step, for here lies the first instance where an individual’s liberty comes directly at stake.

  • Initial Arrest: If you find yourself in the unenviable position of being a suspect, an arrest is often your first tangible experience of being charged.
  • Filing of Charges: Following an arrest, prosecutors review the evidence and decide if they file formal charges. In certain cases, a charge comes before you are arrested.

Upon being charged, you will face an arraignment where you hear the crime you are charged with and enter your plea. You may be granted bail, offering a temporary reprieve from custody while awaiting trial. Afterward, a public trial ensues. But remember, being charged does not equate to guilt; it is merely an accusation. There are further steps ahead in the judicial process that turn a charge into a guilty sentence.

Understanding Indictments

An indictment is also a formal accusation of a crime like a charge. However, what differentiates it is that it is filed by a grand jury. The grand jury, consisting of a panel of citizens, reviews evidence presented by prosecutors to determine whether there is sufficient cause to believe a crime has been committed. Sometimes, indictments happen before an accused person is even arrested. 

Jurors examine evidence, hear testimonies, and may request further investigation. Their focus is not on guilt or innocence but on whether there’s probable cause to believe a person committed a crime and whether progressing to trial is warranted. If they agree that there is probable cause (they return a true bill), the accused is indicted. If they do not (they return a no bill), the prosecution will not be able to move on with the case.

Unlike public trials, Grand jury proceedings are typically shrouded in confidentiality, aiming to protect the accused’s reputation should the jury decide not to indict and to ensure witnesses’ candidness. Most times, both the accused and their counsel are absent during the proceedings. Sometimes, indictments happen before an accused person is even arrested. 

Another point worth noting is that indictments are rarely issued. Most criminal proceedings are initiated by a charge originating from the state prosecutor’s office. Grand jury indictment proceedings in California and most places in the United States are reserved for very serious felonies or federal offenses. Indictments are never issued for misdemeanors in California.

Differences Between Being Charged and Indicted

Criminal charges can be initiated by a prosecutor who believes there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to commence a court case. These charges can encompass various legal breaches, from misdemeanors to felonies. It’s the prosecutor’s role to establish probable cause that the individual committed the offense, which can then lead to an arrest and trial.

Conversely, indictments require the convening of a grand jury. A grand jury is a group of citizens tasked with reviewing evidence presented by the prosecutor to determine if there is enough to formally accuse someone of a serious crime. It’s a preliminary stage that doesn’t decide guilt or innocence but whether there is ample cause to proceed to trial.

In essence:

  • Charged: Initiation by a prosecutor; covers all types of crimes.
  • Indicted: Initiation by a grand jury; specific to serious felonies.

Legal Representation and Defense

Legal representation is not merely an option when facing a criminal accusation—it is necessary to navigate the complexities of the legal system. With statutes and legal precedents forming a labyrinth of technicalities, having a highly skilled criminal defense attorney is paramount.

In a situation where a prosecutor has filed charges, the defendant must mount a robust defense—an argument that speaks to facts, law, and strategy. An indictment, returned by a grand jury, similarly demands the acute insight of an attorney to dissect the prosecution’s case and to develop a counter-narrative.

A defense attorney navigates each phase of the criminal process skillfully. If you find yourself charged with a crime, hiring a qualified lawyer with demonstrable skill and a personalized defense approach becomes imperative. The representation provided when facing a criminal charge or indictment must be diligent and thorough. Securing representation with a detailed understanding of criminal law and trial experience is crucial for your best possible outcome. 

How The Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson Can Help You

Have you found yourself entangled in the criminal justice system? The complexity can be overwhelming, like navigating through an intricate labyrinth. In times of legal turmoil, professional guidance is paramount. The Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson is widely experienced in an array of criminal defense services, ranging from DUI (Driving Under the Influence) to more serious felony charges. Each case receives tailored attention fueled by a commitment to justice and an adept understanding of the law’s multifaceted dimensions.

Our skilll and experience is at your disposal for the following cases and more:

  • DUI and DWI
  • Domestic violence crimes
  • Assault and battery cases
  • Drug-related offenses
  • Theft and white-collar crimes
  • Weapons offenses
  • Asset forfeiture
  • Expungements

Reach out to the Law Office of Rebecca Feigelson for Your Criminal Defense Services

Why gamble with your future? Reach out for a comprehensive discussion of your legal position. We are poised to counter criminal charges with acumen and a thorough understanding of criminal law. When stakes are sky-high, and your freedom sits precariously on the scales of justice, reserve the right to exceptional defense services. 

We invite you to contact us, whether to embark on the journey of your criminal defense. Our proficiency and your peace of mind are a consultation away.