AskDefine | Define indictment

Dictionary Definition

indictment

Noun

1 a formal document written for a prosecuting attorney charging a person with some offense [syn: bill of indictment]
2 an accusation of wrongdoing; "the book is an indictment of modern philosophy"

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English

Etymology

Pronunciation

Noun

  1. an official written accusation on behalf of the government for a serious offence; a document outlining serious charges of an accused.

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Extensive Definition

In the common law legal system, an indictment ( (in-DITE-mint)) is a formal accusation of having committed a criminal offense. In those jurisdictions which retain the concept of a felony, the serious criminal offense would be a felony; those jurisdictions which have abolished the concept of a felony often substitute instead the concept of an indictable offence, i.e. an offence which requires an indictment.
Traditionally an indictment was handed up by a grand jury, which returned a "true bill" if it found cause to make the charge, or "no bill" if it did not find cause. Most common law jurisdictions (except for much of the United States) have abolished grand juries.

Australia

In Australia, an indictment is issued by a government official (the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, or one of their subordinates). A magistrate then holds a committal hearing, which decides whether the evidence is serious enough to commit the person to trial.

Brazil

In Brazil an indictment is called denúncia and is issued by the public prosecutor, a member of the Public Ministry. In case of less serious offenses, the indictment may be filed by a private party and is called queixa.

England and Wales

In England and Wales (except in private prosecutions by individuals) an indictment is issued by the public prosecutor (in most cases this will be the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Crown, i.e. the monarch, presently Queen Elizabeth II--who is nominally the plaintiff in all public prosecutions under English law. This is why a public prosecution of a man called Mr. Smith would be referred to as "R v Smith" (short for "Regina against Smith", Regina being Latin for Queen).

United States

In many (though not all) U.S. jurisdictions retaining the grand jury, prosecutors often have a choice between seeking an indictment from a grand jury, or filing a charging document directly with the court. Such a document is usually called an information, accusation, or complaint, to distinguish it from a grand jury indictment. To protect the suspect's due process rights in felony cases (where the suspect's interest in liberty is at stake), there is usually a preliminary hearing where a judge determines if there is probable cause that the charged crime was committed by the suspect in custody. If the judge finds such probable cause, he or she will bind or hold over the suspect for trial.
The substance of an indictment or other charging instrument is usually the same, regardless of the jurisdiction: it consists of a short and plain statement of the time, place and manner in which the defendant is alleged to have committed the offense. Each offense is usually set out in a separate count. Some indictments for complex crimes, particularly those involving conspiracy or numerous counts, can run to hundreds of pages, but many indictments, even for crimes as serious as murder, consist of a single sheet of paper.
Indictable offenses are normally tried by jury, unless the accused waives the right to a jury trial. In common law systems, the accused is not normally entitled to a jury trial if the offense charged does not require an indictment; the main exception here is again the U.S., where the Sixth Amendment mandates the right of having a jury trial for any criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for more than six months. Notwithstanding the existence of the right to jury trial, the vast majority of criminal cases in the U.S. are resolved by the plea bargaining process.

Sealed Indictment

An indictment can be sealed so that it stays non-public until it is unsealed. This can be done for a number of reasons. It may be unsealed, for example, once the named person is arrested or has been notified by police.
indictment in Arabic: اتهام
indictment in Danish: Sigtelse
indictment in German: Anklage
indictment in Spanish: Imputación
indictment in French: Mise en examen en France
indictment in Korean: 기소
indictment in Icelandic: Ákæra
indictment in Hebrew: כתב אישום
indictment in Japanese: 公訴
indictment in Simple English: Indictment
indictment in Serbian: Оптужница
indictment in Finnish: Syyteharkinta
indictment in Swedish: Åtal
Pakistan

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