Does Indictment Mean Jail Time? (What Happens After An Indictment)

Does Indictment Mean Jail Time - Does Indicted Mean Guilty - Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment

Does indictment mean jail time?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • whether an indictment means jail time
  • what does indicted mean
  • what happens after you’re indicted
  • indictments vs charges
  • can your charges get dropped after an indictment
  • signs your case will get dismissed

Let’s dig in.

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Does Indictment Mean Jail Time?

No, an indictment does not mean jail time. 

An indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime. 

It’s the start of the legal process, not the end. 

The person indicted, known as the defendant, then goes to trial. 

At the trial, the evidence is reviewed, and the defendant is found guilty or not guilty. 

If found guilty, the defendant might be sentenced to jail time. 

But this is decided by the court, not by the indictment. 

So, an indictment does not automatically mean jail time.

What Does Indicted Mean?

“Indicted” means someone is formally accused of a crime. 

A grand jury, a group of citizens, reviews the evidence and decides if there is enough to charge someone. 

If they agree, they issue an indictment. 

The indictment is the first step in the criminal court process. 

It does not mean the person is guilty. 

The person then goes to trial, where they can defend themselves against the charges. 

The trial decides if the person is guilty or not guilty.

Read More: What Happens After An Indictment?

What Happens After A Felony Indictment?

After a felony indictment, the following steps typically occur:

  1. Arraignment: The accused appears in court. The charges are formally read.
  2. Plea Entry: The accused enters a plea. This can be ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’, or ‘no contest’.
  3. Discovery Phase: Both sides share evidence. This may include witness statements, physical evidence, and more.
  4. Plea Bargaining: The prosecution and defense may negotiate a deal. This can reduce the charges or sentencing.
  5. Pretrial Motions: Parties might request the court to decide on certain issues before the trial. This includes motions to suppress evidence.
  6. Trial: If no plea deal is reached, the case goes to trial. Evidence is presented, and witnesses testify.
  7. Verdict: The judge or jury delivers a verdict. If the accused is found guilty, the court moves to sentencing.
  8. Sentencing: The court imposes punishment on the convicted person. This could be imprisonment, fines, probation, and more.
  9. Appeals: After sentencing, the convicted person has the right to appeal to a higher court.

Read More: What Happens If You Are Not Indicted Within 180 Days?

Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is a deal between a defendant and a prosecutor. 

The defendant agrees to plead guilty to a certain charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or reduced charges.

This process saves time and resources. 

Trials can be long and expensive for both the government and the defendant.

Defendants might choose plea bargaining because it provides certainty. 

They know the outcome in advance instead of risking a trial, which could end in a more severe punishment.

Also, if a defendant pleads guilty early, it may look better to the judge. 

It shows acceptance of responsibility, which might lead to a lighter sentence.

However, a defendant could also lose rights in a plea bargain. 

They waive their right to a trial and their right to appeal the charges or sentence.

Despite the risks, plea bargains can be attractive. 

They offer a way to quickly resolve a case and limit potential punishment.


Deciding to go to trial involves several factors.

  • Strength of Evidence: If the evidence against you is strong, you may choose to negotiate a plea deal instead of risking a trial.
  • Legal Advice: Your lawyer’s opinion matters. If they believe your case is strong, they may encourage a trial.
  • Potential Penalties: Understand the potential penalties if you lose. Higher stakes might discourage trial.
  • Cost: Trials are expensive. Time, money, and emotional stress can add up.

Once you decide to go to trial, there are three main outcomes:

  • Acquittal: The jury finds you not guilty. You walk away free, without penalties.
  • Conviction: The jury finds you guilty. You face penalties based on your crime.
  • Mistrial: If the jury can’t agree, the judge may declare a mistrial. This could lead to a retrial, plea deal, or dismissal.


Here are some sentencing options after a trial:

  • Probation: This is a sentence where you live in your community but under supervision. You must follow specific rules, like meeting a probation officer regularly.
  • Fines: This is money you pay as punishment. The amount depends on the crime and your financial situation.
  • Community Service: You work for free in your community. It’s a way to “give back” as part of your punishment.
  • Jail or Prison: You are locked up for a period of time. Jails usually house people serving shorter sentences, while prisons hold those with longer sentences.
  • Restitution: This is money you pay to the victim to cover their loss or injury. It’s different from a fine, which is paid to the state.
  • Suspended Sentence: You get a jail term, but you don’t serve it unless you break certain rules or commit another crime.
  • House Arrest: You must stay at your home for most of the day, except for certain approved activities like work or school.
  • Diversion Program: This lets you avoid a criminal record if you complete certain requirements like counseling or treatment programs.
  • Parole: This is an early release from prison but with conditions. If you break these, you can be sent back to prison.
  • Mandatory Minimums: For some crimes, the law sets a minimum jail or prison time that judges must impose.

Read More: Can Police Bring You In For Questioning Without A Warrant

Indictment vs Charge

Let’s look at indictments vs charges

An indictment is a formal accusation issued by a grand jury

This is typically used in serious crimes. 

The grand jury decides if there’s enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

A charge, on the other hand, comes from the prosecutor or district attorney. 

They file the charges directly, often for less serious crimes. 

These can happen without a grand jury.

So, the main difference is who issues them. 

A grand jury issues indictments, while a prosecutor issues charges. 

Both are types of accusations in criminal cases but are used in different circumstances.

Read More: How Long Does It Take To Get A Search Warrant?

Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment?

Yes, charges can be dropped after an indictment. 

The prosecutor has the power to dismiss a case at any point, including after the grand jury has issued an indictment. 

There are several reasons why a prosecutor might drop charges after an indictment:

  • Insufficient Evidence: If new information shows that the evidence against the accused is weak or unreliable, the prosecutor might drop the charges.
  • Witness Unavailability: If key witnesses become unavailable or refuse to testify, it might hinder the prosecutor’s ability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Constitutional Issues: If there are issues that might infringe on the accused’s constitutional rights, such as improper police procedure, the prosecutor might drop the charges.
  • Plea Bargain: If the accused agrees to plead guilty to lesser charges, the prosecutor might drop some or all of the original charges.
  • Prosecutorial Resources: If the prosecutor’s office has limited resources, it might drop less serious cases in favor of prosecuting more serious ones.
  • Public Interest: If it’s in the public interest to not proceed with the case, the prosecutor might drop the charges. This can be due to several factors, including the minor nature of the offense, the accused’s lack of previous convictions, and the possible impacts of a conviction on the accused’s personal and professional life.

So, even after indictment, charges can indeed be dropped. 

However, it depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

Read More: If Police Let You Go Can They Charge You Later?

Signs Your Case Will Be Dismissed

Some signs that your case may be dismissed are:

  • Lack of Evidence: If there’s not enough proof to establish guilt, the case may face dismissal.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: The case may be dismissed if evidence was obtained through illegal search and seizure practices.
  • Procedural Errors: Mistakes in the arrest process or case handling can lead to a case dismissal.
  • Rights Violations: The case could be dismissed if certain rights, such as the right to a speedy trial, were violated.
  • Inadmissible Testimony: The case might be dismissed if key witness testimony or expert evidence is deemed inadmissible.
  • Insufficient Probable Cause: If the original reason for arrest or charge was insufficient, the case could be dismissed.
  • Lost or Destroyed Evidence: A case might face dismissal if critical evidence has been lost or destroyed by the prosecution.
  • Conflict of Interest: If a conflict of interest exists, such as the judge or prosecutor being related to the defendant or victim, it could result in case dismissal.
  • Plea Agreement: A case may be dismissed if a plea agreement is reached, with a guilty plea to a lesser charge in return.

Read More: Rights Police Don’t Want You To Know About

FAQs Related To Does Indictment Mean Jail Time

Here are other questions our clients ask us related to indictments leading to jail time. 

What Does Indicted By A Grand Jury Mean?

When a person is indicted by a grand jury, it means the grand jury has decided there is enough evidence to charge them with a crime. 

The grand jury, which is a group of citizens, reviews evidence presented by a prosecutor. 

If a majority of the jurors agree, they issue an indictment, which is a formal accusation of a serious crime. 

This indictment leads to a trial where the accused person can defend themselves. 

This process is a key part of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Read More: How Long Can Police Hold A Vehicle Under Investigation

Does Indicted Mean Guilty?

No, indicted does not mean guilty. 

An indictment is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. 

It is not a determination of guilt. 

Guilt is decided in a court trial. 

The trial happens after the indictment. 

Being indicted means you are charged with a crime, but it doesn’t mean you are guilty.

Read More: Can You Tell Cops To Get Off Your Property

Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing an indictment, fill out the form on this page.

Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience you need to defend your rights.

This way, you don’t:

  • get wrongfully convicted of a crime
  • spend months or years in jail needlessly
  • not see your family or loved ones for a long time
  • get wrongfully accused of a serious crime by police officers

You deserve a fair trial in the criminal justice system.

We can provide you with that.

Talk soon.

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