What Does It Mean To Be Indicted?
When someone is charged with a felony, at some point the state has to present “probable cause” to show that a crime had been committed and that the person in question committed it. They present their evidence to a grand jury without opposition, who will decide whether to issue an indictment. At that point, the burden of proof is very low, which is why there are indictments in roughly 99 percent of grand jury cases.
During my time as a state’s attorney, I actually ran a few grand jury hearings, and I was able to run ten indictments per hour because there was no opposition; no defense attorney at all. It was like playing basketball by yourself; of course scoring the first basket is easy. The grand jury knows that the burden of proof is very low, and they also know that the defendant won’t be sentenced or anything. Grand juries largely just go through the motions; they want to get through the process. Even if the evidence is hearsay, it doesn’t matter.
The only times there is no finding of probable cause and an indictment are in cases where the state’s attorney doesn’t want one; usually in cases they consider to be political garbage that they want to get rid of. In some cases like that, the state’s attorney will tell the grand jurors ahead of time and off the record that they don’t think there’s enough evidence, but they want them to decide anyway. They begin the hearing, give a few statements, ask the jurors of they had any questions, and the grand jurors will always respond with a no.
What Happens After Someone is Indicted?
When the non-formal ticket is turned into an indictment, the person is taken to the next step of the felony process, which means going in front of a felony judge, where they will be arraigned, which is when the judge will advise them of the charges, let them know the maximum penalties, and their attorney will enter a plea of “not guilty” into the record. At that point, the judge sets bond, as well as a trial date in three months, and a pre-trial date before, where he will make sure the defense gets all discovery.
Indictment just means the process has moved forward, and the fact of the indictment itself can’t be used against anyone at trial, because it is not allowed to be seen as evidence against them.
When people turn on the TV and hear that a grand jury indicted someone, they usually have no idea what that means, but it actually means nothing more than the case moved forward; it’s evidence of nothing.
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