What Happens After A Felony Indictment?

What Happens After A Felony Indictment - Felony Indictment Process - How Often Are Felony Charges Dropped - Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment

What happens after a felony indictment?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • what happens after a felony
  • what the felony indictment process looks like
  • if charges can get dropped after an indictment
  • how to get felony charges dropped
  • if indictment means jail time for you
  • if it means you’re guilty of the crime

Let’s dig in.

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What Happens After A Felony Indictment?

After a felony indictment, a series of legal and procedural events will unfold. 

Keep in mind that the specific process may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

But here’s what usually happens after a felony indictment:

  • The Grand Jury Process: Before the indictment, a grand jury, which is a group of citizens, reviews evidence presented by a prosecutor to determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial. If the grand jury believes there is enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed and that the accused person committed it, they will issue an indictment.
  • Arrest or Summons: If the defendant is not already in custody, the issuance of an indictment may lead to their arrest. Alternatively, a summons may be issued to notify the defendant of the charges and inform them of the need to appear in court.
  • Initial Appearance/Arraignment: The defendant will be brought before a judge for an initial appearance or arraignment. At this hearing, the charges will be read aloud, and the defendant will be informed of their rights. Typically, the defendant will also enter a plea at this stage, usually “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
  • Bail Determination: The judge may set bail conditions to ensure that the defendant appears in court for future proceedings. The judge will consider factors like the severity of the crime, the defendant’s previous criminal record, and any flight risk.
  • Discovery: Both the prosecution and the defense will gather evidence for their case. The prosecution is generally required to share their evidence with the defense, which allows both sides to prepare for trial.
  • Pre-Trial Motions: Either side may file motions to request certain actions from the judge. This could include requests to suppress evidence, dismiss charges, or change the venue of the trial.
  • Plea Bargaining: In many cases, the defendant and prosecution may reach a plea agreement, which can result in a guilty plea to a lesser charge or an agreement on a specific sentence. If an agreement is reached, a trial may be avoided.
  • Trial: If no plea agreement is reached, the case will proceed to trial. Here, both sides will present evidence, call witnesses, and make arguments. A jury (or sometimes a judge in a bench trial) will determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence.
  • Verdict: At the conclusion of the trial, the jury will deliver a verdict. If the defendant is found not guilty, they are released, and the case ends. If found guilty, the case moves to sentencing.
  • Sentencing: If the defendant is convicted, the judge will determine the appropriate punishment. This could include fines, probation, community service, or incarceration, depending on the crime and circumstances.
  • Appeals: If the defendant believes there was a legal error during the trial, they may have the right to appeal the conviction or sentence to a higher court.

Read More: Indictments vs Arrests

Felony Indictment Process

The felony indictment process refers to the procedure by which formal charges are brought against a person suspected of committing a felony.

This is generally by a grand jury in the U.S. federal system and many state systems. 

Here’s an outline of the typical felony indictment process:

  • Investigation: Before an indictment can be issued, law enforcement agencies investigate a crime. They gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a case.
  • Arrest: Based on the evidence from the investigation, a suspect may be arrested. This doesn’t automatically lead to an indictment; it’s just the initial step in bringing someone into custody.
  • Preliminary Hearing: In some jurisdictions, before going to a grand jury, there may be a preliminary hearing in front of a judge to determine if there’s enough evidence to proceed. If the judge feels there’s enough evidence, the case might move forward to the grand jury. However, not all jurisdictions require this step.
  • Grand Jury Convened: A grand jury is a group of citizens, typically larger than a trial jury (often 16 to 23 people), who are called to review evidence and determine whether there’s enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime. Grand juries are used in the federal system and many state systems, but not all.
  • Prosecutor Presents Evidence: During grand jury proceedings, the prosecutor presents evidence, which can include documents, physical evidence, and witness testimony. Unlike a regular trial, the proceedings are usually secret, and the accused person (or their attorney) is typically not present and doesn’t have the right to present a defense or cross-examine witnesses.
  • Grand Jury Deliberation: After reviewing the evidence, the grand jury deliberates. They decide whether there’s enough evidence to issue an indictment. If a majority (or another defined number, depending on the jurisdiction) believes there is, they will issue an indictment.
  • Issuance of Indictment: If the grand jury determines that there’s enough evidence, they issue a formal charge, known as an indictment. The indictment outlines the specific charges against the accused.
  • Arraignment: Following the indictment, the accused will be brought to court for an arraignment, where they’ll hear the charges against them and enter a plea.

The grand jury’s role is to determine whether there’s probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that the accused committed it. 

It’s not about determining guilt or innocence, which is the role of the trial jury later in the judicial process.

Read More: What Happens If Charges Are Dropped Before Court

Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment?

Yes, charges can be dropped after an indictment

An indictment is a formal accusation issued by a grand jury, stating that there’s enough evidence for a case to proceed to trial. 

However, just because someone is indicted doesn’t guarantee they’ll go to trial.

Reasons charges might be dropped after an indictment include:

  • New Evidence: If new evidence emerges that weakens the prosecution’s case, they might decide to drop the charges.
  • Witness Issues: If key witnesses become unavailable or change their statements, the case might not be as strong.
  • Legal Problems: Sometimes, legal issues arise, such as problems with the way evidence was collected.
  • Prosecutorial Discretion: Prosecutors have the authority to decide which cases to pursue. They might drop charges if they believe it’s in the best interest of justice.

In summary, while an indictment is a significant step in the legal process, it doesn’t bind the prosecution to move forward with a trial. There are various reasons why charges might be dropped after this stage.

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

How To Get Felony Charges Dropped

Felony charges can have severe consequences, but under certain circumstances, they can be dropped. 

Here’s a straightforward guide on how to get felony charges dropped:

  • Provide Evidence of Innocence: Present any evidence that proves you didn’t commit the crime. This can include surveillance footage, alibi witnesses, or documents.
  • Highlight Flaws in the Prosecution’s Case: Point out weak or insufficient evidence, inconsistencies in witness testimonies, or any flaws that undermine the prosecution’s case against you.
  • Negotiate a Plea Deal: Sometimes, prosecutors may agree to drop felony charges if you plead guilty to a lesser offense. This often results in a lighter sentence.
  • Demonstrate Good Character: Show that you’re an upstanding citizen with character reference letters, proof of community service, or evidence of a clean criminal record.
  • Complete Pre-Trial Diversion or Intervention: Some jurisdictions offer programs for first-time offenders. If you successfully complete the program, your charges may be dropped.
  • File Motions to Suppress Evidence: If the evidence against you was obtained illegally, such as during an unlawful search, you can file a motion to have that evidence excluded from the trial.
  • Attend All Court Appearances: Ensure you’re present at every court date. Failing to appear can weaken your position and lead to additional charges.
  • Maintain a Strong Defense Strategy: Work closely with your defense team to build a strong strategy, question the credibility of prosecution witnesses, or show that the evidence doesn’t support a guilty verdict.

Remember, while these steps can increase the chances of getting felony charges dropped, there’s no guaranteed outcome. 

Each case is unique, and the decision ultimately lies with the court and the prosecution.

Read More: Overruled vs Sustained

FAQs About What Happens After A Felony Indictment

Here are other questions clients ask us about what happens after a felony indictment. 

Does Indictment Mean Jail Time?

No, an indictment does not mean jail time

An indictment is a formal accusation that someone has committed a crime, suggesting there’s enough evidence to proceed with a trial. 

It does not determine guilt or innocence, and jail time can only be imposed after a trial and a guilty verdict.

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

Does Indicted Mean Guilty?

No, indicted does not mean guilty.

Being indicted means that a grand jury has determined there’s enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime and proceed to trial. 

It’s a step in the legal process where the accused is formally charged, but guilt or innocence is determined later, during the trial.

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

How Long After Indictment Does Arraignment Happen?

After an indictment, arraignment typically happens within a few days to a few weeks, depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case.

Read More: What Does Disposed Mean In Court?

Can You Go To Jail At An Arraignment?

Yes, you can go to jail at an arraignment.

If you aren’t already in jail, the judge might send you there. 

This decision can be due to several reasons. 

  • You might be seen as a flight risk. 
  • You could be viewed as a danger to the community. 
  • The judge might worry about you missing future court dates. 

On the other hand, the judge could set bail. 

They might also release you without requiring bail, known as release on your own recognizance.

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

Hire A Criminal Defense Lawyer

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
  • spend months or years in jail needlessly
  • 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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