Indictment vs. Arraignment

At the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer, we understand that navigating the criminal justice system can be overwhelming and confusing. Two terms you might hear often are “indictment” and “arraignment.” While both are crucial steps in a criminal case, they serve different purposes and occur at different stages. Let’s break down these terms in simple terms to help you understand what they mean and how they affect your case.

What is an Indictment?

An indictment is the formal process of accusing someone of a crime. Here’s how it works:

  1. Decision by a Grand Jury: A grand jury, which is a group of citizens, looks at evidence presented by the prosecutor to decide if there’s enough reason to charge someone with a crime.
  2. Secret Process: The evidence review happens in secret to protect the accused’s reputation and the integrity of the investigation.
  3. Formal Charges: If the grand jury agrees that there is enough evidence, they issue an indictment. This is a document that officially lists the charges against the person.

The purpose of an indictment is to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial. It does not determine guilt or innocence.

What Happens at an Arraignment?

An arraignment is the next step after an indictment or when charges are brought by other means. Here’s what happens:

  1. Public Court Appearance: The accused person (now called the defendant) goes to court and appears before a judge.
  2. Reading of Charges: The judge reads the charges out loud to make sure the defendant understands what they are being accused of.
  3. Entering a Plea: The defendant will then enter a plea, which can be “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.”
  4. Bail and Custody Decisions: The judge also decides if the defendant should stay in jail, be released on bail, or be subject to other conditions until the trial.

The purpose of the arraignment is to officially inform the defendant of the charges and to get their response, starting the formal court process.

Key Differences Between Arraignment vs Indictment

  • Timing: Indictments come first to decide if there’s enough evidence for charges. Arraignments come after, to formally charge the defendant and start the legal proceedings.
  • Participants: Indictments involve a grand jury. Arraignments involve the judge, the defendant, their lawyer, and the prosecutor.
  • Secrecy vs. Public: Indictment proceedings are secret, while arraignments are public.

How We Can Help

At the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer, we are committed to guiding you through every step of the criminal justice process. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, understanding these procedures is crucial. Our experienced team will work tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected and to provide you with the best possible defense.

If you have any questions or need legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you navigate these challenging times with confidence and clarity.

Call us today for a consultation and let us provide the strong defense you deserve.