The difference between being indicted and charged relies on who files the charges. “Being charged” with a crime means the prosecutor filed charges. An indictment means the grand jury filed charges against the defendant.
Regardless of how the state moves forth with filing charges, the results are the same for the defendant: an arrest and formal charges. If you or your loved one has been accused of a crime, contact the St. Petersburg criminal attorneys at Goldman Wetzel for legal assistance: 727-828-3900.
What Is the Difference Between an Information and an Indictment?
The State of Florida allows prosecutors to decide between two ways of charging you: via “an information” or “an indictment.”
- An information: The prosecutor can review evidence and information submitted by the police officer (a complaint) and decide, based upon this content, whether to file charges. This method of filing charges is referred to as “prosecution by information,” and usually requires a preliminary hearing for the judge to determine if sufficient evidence exists to merit the charges.
- An indictment: Alternatively, the prosecutor can present the evidence to the grand jury. If the grand jury decides that sufficient evidence of a criminal offense exists, it will issue an indictment. This method of filing charges is referred to as “prosecution by indictment,” and does not require a preliminary hearing.
All capital felony cases require an indictment.
How Does an Arrest Via an Indictment Work?
Prosecutors have much discretion when it comes to deciding whether to prosecute a defendant, what charges to pursue, and the means through which to file the charges. In federal cases, capital felony cases, and other serious felony cases, the prosecutor usually needs the grand jury to indict the defendant. To do this, s/he presents a list of charges against the accused along with evidence to the grand jury and asks it to bring charges against the accused.
Unlike a regular jury (called a “petit jury”) whose role is to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant, a grand jury only decides whether there is sufficient evidence to file formal charges. The only parties involved in the grand jury process are the jury and the prosecutor. Neither the accused party nor his attorneys can attend and offer and arguments, and there is no judge.
If the grand jury thinks there is enough evidence of criminal activity, it will return a “true bill” and issue an indictment.
How Does an Arrest Via an Information Work?
In most state cases, the case commences by an information. In this situation, the prosecutor pursues charges via a complaint at a preliminary hearing, which is very different from the grand jury process.
During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor presents a list of charges and evidence; however, unlike with a grand jury indictment, the defendant and his attorney are in attendance and can challenge the charges, i.e., the defense can cross-examine witnesses and present its own information.
After hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defense, the judge will determine whether there is probable cause to charge the accused. If the judge decides that there is probable cause, the prosecution will file charges and the case will proceed to trial.
Does It Matter Whether I Am Charged Via an Information or Indictment?
Yes and no. Prosecutors often favor indictment because the grand jury process serves as a test trial, providing them an opportunity to see how a jury would decide in a real trial. The defense, on the other hand, usually favors prosecution by information because this gives them the opportunity to challenge and potentially avoid the charges altogether.
In either case though, both charging instruments — indictment and information — mean that a neutral third party (the grand jury or judge) has determined that there is enough fact-based evidence for criminal charges. The end result is the same: you will face formal charges. Once charges have been filed, pre-trial activities begin.
Accused of a Crime in Florida? Call 727-828-3900 for a Free Legal Consult.
The team at Goldman Wetzel represents defendants charged with all types of misdemeanor and felony cases in both state and federal court. If you have been accused of a crime, contact our office at 727-828-3900 and request a free consultation.