What Happens After An Indictment?

What Happens After An Indictment

What happens after an indictment?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • the arraignment process
  • how bail works
  • how they find evidence against you
  • what to request from the courts
  • how plea bargains work
  • what to expect at your trial
  • the sentencing you can expect
  • how to appeal the court’s decision

Let’s dig in. 

The Hive Law Has Been Featured In

Get A FREE Consultation!

We run out of free consultations every month. Sign up to make sure you get your free consultation. (Free $350 value.)

What Happens After An Indictment?

After an indictment is issued, several legal processes can unfold, depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case. 

An indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime, typically presented by a grand jury. 

Here’s a general overview of what happens after an indictment:

  • Arraignment: After the indictment, the accused will be arraigned in court. During the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against them and asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
  • Bail Consideration: After the arraignment, there may be a bail hearing where the judge decides whether the defendant can be released from custody (and under what conditions) pending trial.
  • Discovery Process: This is the exchange of evidence and information between the prosecution and the defense. Both sides will review the evidence and prepare their cases. This can include witness statements, police reports, physical evidence, and any other pertinent information.
  • Motions: Both the defense and prosecution can file pre-trial motions. These motions can request various actions, such as dismissing the charges, excluding evidence, or requesting a change of venue.
  • Plea Bargaining: Depending on the strength of the case, the defendant might be offered a plea deal. This usually involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.
  • Trial: If no plea deal is accepted, the case goes to trial. During the trial, both sides will present their evidence and make their arguments. Witnesses can be called and cross-examined. The jury (or sometimes a judge in a bench trial) will then decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
  • Verdict: If the defendant is found not guilty, they are released. If they are found guilty, the process moves to sentencing.
  • Sentencing: After a guilty verdict, there will be a separate sentencing hearing where the appropriate punishment is determined. This can include prison time, fines, probation, community service, and other penalties.
  • Appeals: If the defendant believes there was a legal error made during the trial, they have the right to appeal the conviction or sentence to a higher court.

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


An arraignment is one of the first steps in the court process after someone gets indicted. 

When a grand jury issues an indictment, it means they believe there’s enough evidence for a case to move forward in court. 

After this indictment, the accused person needs to be informed of these charges. 

That’s where the arraignment comes in.

At the arraignment:

  • The court reads the charges. The accused person hears exactly what crimes they are being charged with.
  • The accused enters a plea. The person has to respond to the charges. They can say they’re “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
  • Bail gets discussed. A judge might decide if the accused can leave jail before their trial, and under what conditions. This can include paying money to the court.

In short, the arraignment ensures that accused people:

  • know what they’re up against 
  • get a chance to respond before moving on to the next steps of the legal process

Read More: What Happens If Charges Are Dropped Before Court

Bail Consideration

Bail is a way to ensure that a person accused of a crime returns to court for trial. 

It’s like a deposit. 

If the person returns to court as required, they get their bail money back. 

If not, they lose that money.

After an indictment, here’s how bail considerations usually work:

  • Arraignment: The person accused, now called the defendant, goes to court. Here, they learn about the charges against them.
  • Bail Hearing: The judge decides if the defendant can be let out of jail before the trial. This is called setting bail.
  • Factors the Judge Considers:
    • The Crime: Serious crimes might have a higher bail or no bail at all.
    • Flight Risk: If the judge thinks the defendant might run away and not come back for the trial, they might set a higher bail or deny bail.
    • Safety Risk: If the defendant could be a danger to others or themselves, bail might be denied.
    • Past Record: If the defendant has skipped court before or has a history of crime, bail might be higher or denied.
    • Community Ties: If the defendant has strong connections to the community, like a steady job or family, they might get a lower bail.
  • Setting the Bail Amount: If the judge decides to set bail, they decide on an amount. The defendant, or someone on their behalf, pays this amount. If the defendant attends all court dates, they get this money back.

Read More: Indictments vs Arrests

Discovery Process

When someone is charged with a crime, all parties need to know what evidence the other party has. 

This includes both the person being accused (the defendant) and the group charging them (the prosecution). 

This exchange of information is called the discovery process. 

Here’s how it works after an indictment:

  • Start of Discovery: Once a person is charged, both sides start preparing for trial. The discovery process begins so that there are no surprises in court.
  • Exchange of Evidence: Both the defendant and the prosecution share their evidence. This can include things like photos, videos, documents, and witness statements.
  • Witness Lists: Each side gives the other a list of people they plan to call as witnesses during the trial. This way, both sides can prepare for what these witnesses might say.
  • Expert Reports: Sometimes, experts are asked to give their opinions in court, like a doctor or a scientist. If either side plans to use an expert, they need to share the expert’s reports and findings.
  • Keeping Things Fair: The idea behind the discovery process is fairness. Both sides should have an equal chance to see the evidence and prepare their case. If one side hides evidence or doesn’t share something important, it can cause problems in the trial.

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


After someone is formally charged with a crime, both parties can ask the court to make specific decisions or take action.

They do this by filing motions.

Here’s a simple breakdown of motions after an indictment:

  • What’s a Motion?: Think of a motion as a formal request. It’s like asking the judge, “Can you please do this for our case?”
  • Types of Motions:
    • Motion to Dismiss: The defense might ask the judge to throw out the case because there’s not enough evidence or there’s a legal problem with the case.
    • Motion to Suppress Evidence: If evidence was collected in a way that breaks the rules, like without a proper search warrant, a side might ask the judge not to use that evidence during the trial.
    • Motion for Change of Venue: If everyone in the town knows about the case and the defendant can’t get a fair trial, the defense might ask to move the trial somewhere else.
  • Why File a Motion?: Motions help shape the trial. For example, if a key piece of evidence gets thrown out, it might change the whole case.
  • What Happens Next?: The judge looks at the motion, listens to both sides, and then decides whether to agree with the request or deny it.

Read More: Why Do Cops Touch The Back Of Your Car?

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is a way for the accused person and the prosecutor to make a deal without going to trial. 

It’s like negotiating. 

Instead of facing a long trial, the accused person can agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge, and in return, they often get a lighter punishment.

Here’s how plea bargaining usually works after an indictment:

  • Discussion Begins: The prosecutor and the accused person’s lawyer start talking. They discuss possible deals.
  • Offers: The prosecutor might offer a deal. This could be a chance for the accused person to plead guilty to a less serious charge, or maybe the same charge but with a promised lighter punishment.
  • Considering the Deal: The accused person talks with their lawyer. They decide if taking the deal is a good idea. They weigh the risks. Do they take the sure thing, which might be a lighter punishment? Or do they risk a trial that could end with a harsher outcome?
  • Agreement: If the accused person likes the deal, they agree to it. They go to court, tell the judge they’re guilty, and the judge gives them the agreed-upon punishment.
  • No Deal: If no deal is reached, the case might go to trial. Here, both sides present their evidence and arguments, and a decision is made by a jury or judge.


A trial is the process where a court decides if someone accused of a crime is guilty or not. 

After an indictment, which is a formal charge, the trial is the next big step.

Here’s how the trial usually works:

  • Choosing the Jury: People from the community come to the court. Both the defense (the accused’s side) and the prosecution (the side accusing) pick a few of these people to form a jury. This group will decide if the defendant is guilty or not.
  • Opening Statements: Both sides give a brief summary of what they believe happened. The prosecution goes first, then the defense.
  • Presenting Evidence: The prosecution shows their evidence first. They call witnesses to tell what they saw or know. The defense gets to ask these witnesses questions too. After the prosecution finishes, the defense shows their evidence and calls their witnesses. The prosecution can also ask these witnesses questions.
  • Closing Arguments: Both sides summarize their case. They try to convince the jury of their point of view.
  • Jury Deliberation: The jury talks about the case in private. They decide if the defendant is guilty or not.
  • Verdict: The jury comes back to the courtroom. They tell everyone their decision. If they think the defendant did the crime, they say “guilty.” If they think the defendant didn’t do it, they say “not guilty.”

Read More: What Happens After A Felony Indictment?


When someone is charged with a crime, they eventually go to trial where the court decides if they’re guilty or not. This decision is called the verdict.

Here’s how the verdict process works after an indictment:

  • Trial Takes Place: After the indictment, the defendant stands trial. Both sides, the prosecution and the defense, present their evidence and make their cases.
  • Jury Deliberation: Once both sides finish presenting their cases, the jury goes to a separate room to discuss and decide. They talk about the evidence and decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. This is called deliberation.
  • Reaching a Decision:
    • Unanimous Verdict: In many cases, all jury members must agree on the verdict, whether it’s guilty or not guilty.
    • Hung Jury: Sometimes, the jury can’t agree. This is called a hung jury. The judge might declare a mistrial, and the case could be tried again with a new jury.
  • Announcing the Verdict: Once the jury agrees, they return to the courtroom. The jury’s decision is then read out loud, letting everyone know if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Read More: What Happens If I Have A Warrant In Another City


After someone is found guilty of a crime, the next step is deciding their punishment. 

This decision-making process is called sentencing.

Here’s how sentencing usually works:

  • Trial and Verdict: First, there’s a trial where all the evidence and arguments are presented. At the end, the jury or judge decides if the person is guilty.
  • Pre-Sentence Report: Before the sentencing, a report about the person found guilty (the defendant) is often prepared. This report can include information about the defendant’s background, previous crimes, and behavior in jail.
  • Sentencing Hearing: This is a separate court meeting. The judge reads the pre-sentence report and listens to arguments from both sides: the prosecution (who represents the government) and the defense (who represents the person found guilty).
  • Factors the Judge Considers:
    • The Crime: How serious was the crime? Some crimes have minimum or maximum punishments set by law.
    • Defendant’s Behavior: Was the person sorry for what they did? Or did they cause more trouble in jail?
    • Past Crimes: If the person has committed crimes before, the punishment might be harsher.
    • Impact on Victims: If the crime hurt someone physically, emotionally, or financially, this can affect the decision.
    • Other Circumstances: The judge can also consider any other relevant information. For example, if the person found guilty was trying to protect someone or was forced to commit the crime, the judge might give a lighter sentence.
  • Decision: After thinking about all this information, the judge decides the punishment. This could be jail time, a fine, community service, probation, or other penalties.

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


An appeal is a request for a higher court to review and change the decision of a lower court. 

After someone is indicted, tried, and then found guilty, they might not agree with the outcome. 

So, they might ask a higher court to take another look. 

Here’s how that process typically goes:

  • Filing the Appeal: The person who was found guilty, now called the appellant, starts the process. They file a document, often called a “notice of appeal”, with the court.
  • Reasons for the Appeal: The appellant can’t just say they don’t like the result. They have to give specific reasons. For example, they might say there were mistakes during the trial, like wrong evidence being allowed.
  • Review by Higher Court: A higher court, often called the appellate court, looks at the appeal. They don’t do a whole new trial. Instead, they review what happened in the original trial.
  • Decisions by the Appellate Court: After reviewing, the higher court can:
    • Uphold the Verdict: This means they agree with the original decision, and it stays the same.
    • Reverse the Verdict: This means they disagree and change the decision, often resulting in the appellant being set free or getting a new trial.
    • Modify the Sentence: The court might agree with the guilty verdict but think the punishment was too harsh or too light.
  • Further Appeals: If the appellant still isn’t satisfied, they might be able to appeal even higher, like to a state supreme court or the U.S. Supreme Court. But, these courts don’t have to take every case. They usually pick ones that have important legal questions.

Read More: How Many Misdemeanors Equal A Felony

FAQs About What Happens After An Indictment

Here are other questions clients ask us about indictments. 

Can Charges Be Dropped After Indictment?

Yes, charges can be dropped after an indictment

The prosecutor can decide not to pursue the case for various reasons, such as:

  • lack of evidence 
  • new information coming to light 

If the prosecutor drops the charges, the accused person will not face trial for those charges.

Does Indictment Mean Jail Time?

Indictment does not mean jail time

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

After an indictment, a person goes to trial. 

Only if found guilty at trial does the person face jail time. 

But even then, the exact punishment depends on the crime and other factors.

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.

Get A FREE Consultation!

We run out of free consultations every month. Sign up to make sure you get your free consultation. (Free $350 value.)

Share This Post With Someone Who Needs To See It