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What It Means to Be Indicted vs Charged

Gutin & Wolverton July 7, 2017

Do you know the difference between being indicted vs charged?

Knowing the definition of each and hiring a knowledgeable and aggressive attorney could mean the difference between probation or incarceration and being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.

In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between being indicted vs charged. We’ll touch on the ins and outs of each procedure so you’ll be more prepared to handle this situation.


Let’s begin our discussion with the ins and outs of charges.

A criminal charge refers to a formal allegation that someone committed one or more criminal offenses. Charges range from a misdemeanor to a felony offense or violation.

After you’re charged, you may undergo arrest on a warrant. However, you can experience arrest without a warrant.

In this scenario, the decision to charge you depends on evidence in a charging affidavit presented to your State Attorney’s Office. The police offer who arrests you presents the charging affidavit.

During and After Arrest

At the time of arrest, you’re read your Miranda rights. These include the right to remain silent, to an attorney, to the presence of that attorney during questioning, and for an attorney appointment if you cannot afford to call on your own.

Your attorney can attend all major points of your case.

After the arrest, authorities at a police station will take your photograph and fingerprints. They’ll conduct any other booking proceedings. You’ll remain in custody until a court hearing within the next 24 hours.

For a less serious crime, release without bail is possible. Another option is release on your own obligation or ROR for short.

Can’t afford bail? The prosecutor must file formal charges against you within 30 days. If not, you’re released on ROR. This deadline can increase by 10 days if the state files an extension.

If you’re eligible for a bond, you can pay the bond or use a bail bondsman. Most bail bondsmen require 10% of the bond and proof of collateral. Once you post bond, you’re released.

At this point, make sure to find a dedicated attorney to represent you.

After you’re charged, your attorney can file a written plea on your behalf. If you choose to plead not guilty, a judge sets a trial court date. Make sure to hire a thorough and aggressive attorney to represent your case along the way.


An indictment refers to an accusation of a committed felony. Indictments serve as an alternative to a trial court complaint. An arrest is not necessary for an indictment.

An indictment results from sworn testimony by one or more witnesses. As such, indictments carry a lot of weight in a court setting. Both the state and federal court systems use indictments.

A defendant can waive an indictment. Defendants refuse indictments if they intend on forming a plea bargain with the prosecution.

Obtaining an Indictment

Obtaining an indictment requires the involvement of a grand jury. A prosecutor presents his or her case against a suspected criminal to the grand jury.

A grand jury consists of 16 to 23 local citizens. Citizens swear into a grand jury every 18 months or so.

Compared to a trial jury, a grand jury must sit for a longer time. No judge rules over a grand jury trial. The grand jury acts as an extension of the prosecutor and hearsonly the prosecutor’s testimony.

Indictments prove easy to obtain for this reason. However, this is not always the case.

You can choose to waive your right to a criminal case before a grand jury. This results in a case comprising information.

In other cases, the government may decide to not prosecute an individual, even if a prosecutor obtains an indictment.

The Work of A Grand Jury

The grand jury evaluates the evidence brought against an individual by the prosecutor. They decide if there is enough probable cause to charge the alleged criminal.

The prosecutor presents witnesses to support his or her claim. The grand jury directly questions these witnesses during a hearing.

A suspect can testify at a grand jury hearing, although they cannot call their own witnesses or question any other witnesses.

A grand jury can request additional witnesses or evidence. Grand jury deliberations happen in private.

If a grand jury approves the indictment, the case can move on to a court trial. An indictment does not prove a suspect guilty or not guilty.

The indictment lists all charges brought against someone. It provides a brief statement that includes a description of evidence, and the logistics of the alleged crime. This includes the alleged how, when and where of the crime.

If the grand jury decides there is not enough probable cause, the prosecution cannot move on to court unless more evidence arises.

After an Indictment

If a prosecutor procures an indictment, an arrest warrant may surface. If you’re aware of the warrant, you can post bail if a bond exists. Once arrested, the prosecution brings the case to court.

We refer to this procedure as an arraignment. An arraignment serves as a hearing presided over by a judge. It lets the defendant know the charges brought against him.

The defendant can make a plea bargain or proceed to a trial by jury.

Taking The Fifth Amendment

Sometimes, individuals refuse to testify. They may believe that doing so incriminates them.

If this is the case, the individual remains silent by “pleading the fifth.”

The prosecution may choose to grant immunity to an individual so that they testify.

Understanding Indicted Vs Charged

When it comes to being indicted vs charged, understanding the difference is crucial to understanding the process you may undergo at some time in your life.

Now that you know the difference, you can better prepare yourself for any future proceedings by seeking out a criminal defense lawyer you can trust.

At the law office of Gutin & Wolverton, our lawyers offer quality services in criminal law, family law, DUI defense, and personal injury. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you at every stage of the process, contact us today.