If you have been indicted or charged, you may wondering what the difference is. Essentially, the difference between the two depends upon who has filed charges against you. If you have been charged, this means a state or federal prosecutor filed charges against you. If you have been indicted, this means a grand jury has filed charges against you.
Below is more information about the differences between a charge and an indictment.
A criminal charge is an allegation of a formal nature from law enforcement that you committed or or more crimes. These can be misdemeanor or felony charges. After you are formally charged, you can be arrested on a warrant, if you already were not placed under arrest. If you were placed under arrest before the warrant was issued, the Massachusetts State’s Attorney Office will decide if you should be charged based upon the evidence before him in the charging affidavit provided by the police officer.
If you were arrested by warrant, the police are required to give you a copy of this document stating the charge that you have been arrested fo. This must occur within a reasonable time after you are placed under arrest. Note that criminal charges can be changed later by the state prosecutor, or by the grand jury.
After you are place under arrest on a misdemeanor charge, the state prosecutor must charge you within three months of the arrest. If it is a felony, you must be charged within 175 days. If charges are not filed within these timeframes, the case will be dropped.
After you are charged, you will be arrested and should be advised of your right to remain silent. You also will have the right to call an attorney and have one present during questioning, and to have a public defender appointed if you cannot pay for an attorney.
After the arrest, you will probably be booked at the local police station. This includes having your picture taken and fingerprints. You will probably be held in custody for 24 hours pending a court hearing, unless you pay bail.
If the crime is relatively minor, you may be released without bail, which is on your own recognizance. If you are placed in jail and you do not have the money for bail, the state prosecutor has 30 days from the date of arrest to file charges. If you are placed in jail and your charge is serious enough to require the payment of bond for release, that amount is set by the judge. If you hire a bail bondsman, you usually only have to pay 10% to the bondsman, but you need to have proof of collateral, such as a vehicle that you own free and clear.
After you are charged, you are arraigned in court, or your attorney could then file a plea in writing on your behalf in some situations. If you decide to plead not guilty, there will be another date in court set and the case will go towards trial.
Indictments in Massachusetts are generally reserved for a felony case. To obtain an indictment, the state prosecutor must appear before a grand jury and show evidence of the crime that you allegedly committed and ask the grand jury to bring charges against you. All capital crimes and those where life in prison is a possibility have to be brought with an indictment.
The grand jury may question witnesses that are brought in, or ask for additional witnesses and any evidence against you. After the evidence is presented, the grand jury will then decide if there is probable cause to bring an indictment.
You May Testify
You could be asked to testify at your grand jury hearing, but you also have the right to invoke your right to not make statements that could incriminate you, per the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. You are not allowed to present evidence in your favor at the hearing. You also may not cross examine witnesses. Grand jury hearings are in secret meetings, and any deliberations and voting are not seen by the public. They are in that way quite different from trial juries.
You can waive the right you have to have the case brought before a grand jury. The indictment will feature personal information, allegations of the facts that make up the offense that you were charged with, and the place and time of the alleged offense. Even if the indictment fails, the indictment process will be made public and you could face problems in your personal and professional life, which is why you want a good attorney in your corner.
If the grand jury decides to indict you, the judge then issues an arrest warrant. You may be allowed to surrender to the police and post your bail if you were given notice of the warrant prior to arrest by the police, but this is unusual. After you are arrested and brought to the court to hear the charges that are filed against you, you may request the bond is set so you can be out of jail before the trial.
Of course, you will need a very knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense attorney to get you the best results during the process of indictment.
What to Do Next?
If you are facing a charge or indictment from the federal government or the state of Massachusetts, you should obtain a strong criminal defense attorney right now. Whether you have been charged or indicted, you will have the US or state government pursuing a conviction, and you need a strong legal advocate by your side. Indictments especially are very serious, and you need an attorney who is very familiar with the indictment process for you to have any chance to escape from the indictment process unscathed.
Attorney Geoffrey Nathan has many years of success fighting state and federal charges, as well as indictments. Attorney Nathan will be best best legal advocate for you during this stressful time. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.