As a criminal defense lawyer, I often get this question. An indictment is a document that advises an accused of felony charges that have been filed against them. A felony offense is typically punishable by a prison term of greater than one year. An indictment is issued by a grand jury, which is a group of citizens, empowered by law to conduct proceedings to investigate potential criminal conduct, and to determine whether criminal charges should be brought. A grand jury is separate from a petit jury, which is used by the courts to conduct trials. A grand jury’s primary function is to investigate potential criminal conduct. A petit jury’s function in a criminal case is to determine the facts, and to determine if the Government has been proven that a person has violated the law. Once a person is served a copy of an indictment, an arraignment hearing is set for an accused to answer to the charges filed in the indictment.
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