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A written accusation charging that an individual named therein has committed an act or omitted to do something that is punishable by law.
An indictment is found and presented by a Grand Jury legally convened and sworn. It originates with a prosecutor and is issued by the grand jury against an individual who is charged with a crime. Before such individual may be convicted, the charge must be proved at trial Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
The purpose of an indictment is to inform an accused individual of the charge against him or her so that the person will be able to prepare a defense.
n. a charge of a felony (serious crime) voted by a grand jury based upon a proposed charge, witnesses' testimony and other evidence presented by the public prosecutor (District Attorney). To bring an indictment the grand jury will not find guilt, but only the probability that a crime was committed, that the accused person did it, and that he/she should be tried. District Attorneys often only introduce key facts sufficient to show the probability, both to save time and to avoid revealing all the evidence. The Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provides that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment of a Grand Jury..." However, while grand juries are common in charging Federal crimes, many states use grand juries sparingly, and use the criminal complaint, followed by a "preliminary hearing" held by a lower court judge or other magistrate, who will determine whether or not the prosecutor has presented sufficient evidence that the accused has committed a felony. If the judge finds there is enough evidence, he/she will order the case sent to the appropriate court for trial. (See: grand jury, indictable offense, preliminary hearing, felony)
indictmentnoun accusal, accusatio, accusation, allegation, castigation, charge, complaint, crimen, denunciation, formal accusation, grand jury's accuuation, libellus, main charge, presentment, reproach, written accusation
Associated concepts: arraignment, counts of an indictment, felony complaint, felony information, grand jury, indictable offense, motion to quash, no true bill, plea, presentment, true bill
See also: accusation, bill, charge, complaint, count, criticism, denunciation, diatribe, disapprobation, impeachment, incrimination, presentment
indictmenta document that sets out the charges against a person. In England they are in simple form in terms of the Indictments Act 1915. In Scotland the indictments are prepared in terms of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975.
INDICTMENT, crim. law, practice. A written accusation of one or more persons
of a crime or misdemeanor, presented to, and preferred upon oath or
affirmation, by a grand jury legally convoked. 4 Bl. Com. 299; Co. Litt.
126; 2 Hale, 152; Bac. Ab. h.t.; Com. Dig. h.t. A; 1 Chit. Cr. L. 168.
2. This word, indictment, is said to be derived from the old French word inditer, which signifies to indicate; to show, or point out. Its object is to indicate the offence charged against the accused. Rey, des Inst. l'Angl. tome 2, p. 347.
3. To render an indictment valid, there are certain essential and formal requisites. The essential requisites are, 1st. That the indictment be presented to some court having jurisdiction. of the offence stated therein. 2d. That it appear to have been found by the grand jury of the proper county or district. 3d. That the indictment be found a true bill, and signed by the foreman of the grand jury. 4th. That it be framed with sufficient certainty; for this purpose the charge must contain a certain description of the crime or misdemeanor, of which the defendant is accused, and a statement of the facts by which it is constituted, so as to identify the accusation. Cowp. 682, 3; 2 Hale, 167; 1 Binn. R. 201; 3 Binn. R; 533; 1 P. A. Bro. R. 360; 6 S. & R. 398 4 Serg. & Rawle, 194; 4 Bl. Com. 301; Yeates, R. 407; 4 Cranch, R. 167. 5th. The indictment must be in the English language. But if any document in a foreign language, as a libel, be necessarily introduced, it should be set out in the original tongue, and then translated, showing its application. 6 T. R. 162.
4. Secondly, formal requisites are, 1st. The venue, which, at common law should always be laid in the county where the offence has been committed, although the charge is in its nature transitory, as a battery. Hawk. B. 2, c. 25, s. 35. The venue is stated in the margin thus, "City and county of _____ to wit." 2d. The presentment, which must be in the present tense, and is usually expressed by the following formula, "the grand inquest of the commonwealth of ______ inquiring for the city and county aforesaid, upon their oaths and affirmations present." See, as to the venue, 1 Pike, R. 171; 9 Yerg. 357. 3d. The name and addition of the defendant; but in case an error has been made in this respect, it is cured by the plea of the defendant. Bac. Ab. Misnomer, B; Indictment, G 2; 2 Hale, 175; 1 Chit. Pr. 202. 4th. The names of third persons, when they must be necessarily mentioned in the indictment, should be stated with certainty to a common intent, so as sufficiently to inform the defendant who are his accusers. When, however, the names of third persons cannot be ascertained, it is sufficient, in some cases, to state "a certain person or persons to the jurors aforesaid unknown." Hawk. B. 2, c. 25, s. 71; 2 East, P. C. 651, 781; 2 Hale, 181; Plowd. 85; Dyer, 97, 286; 8 C. & P. 773. See Unknown. 5th. The time when the offence was committed, should in general be stated to be on a specific year and day. In some offences, as in perjury, the day must be precisely stated; 2 Wash. C. C. Rep. 328; but although it is necessary that a day certain should be laid in the indictment, yet, in general, the prosecutor may give evidence of an offence committed on any other day previous to the finding of the, indictment. 5 Serg. & Rawle, 316. Vide 11 Serg. & Rawle, 177; 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 217, 224; 1 Ch. Pl. Index, tit. Time. See 17 Wend. 475; 2 Dev. 567; 5 How. Mis. 14; 4 Dana. 496; C. & N. 369; 1 Hawks, 460. 6th. The offence should be properly described. This is done by stating the substantial circumstances necessary to show the nature of the crime and, next, the formal allegations and terms of art required by law. 1. As to the substantial circumstances. The whole of the facts of the case necessary to make it appear judicially to the court that the indictors have gone upon sufficient premises, should be set forth; but there should be no unnecessary matter or any thing which on its face makes the indictment repugnant, inconsistent, or absurd. Hale, 183; Hawk. B. 2, c. 25, s. 57; Ab. h.t. G 1; Com. Dig. h.t. G 3; 2 Leach, 660; 2 Str. 1226. All indictments ought to charge a man with a particular offence, and not with being an offender in general: to this rule there are some exceptions, as indictments against a common barrator, a common scold, and the keeper of a common bawdy house; such persons may be indicted by these general words. 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 230, and the authorities there cited. The offence must not be stated in the disjunctive, so as to leave it uncertain on what it is intended to rely as an accusation; as, that the defendant erected or caused to be. erected a nuisance. 2 Str. 900; 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 236.
2. There are certain terms of art used, so appropriated by the law to express the precise idea which it entertains of the offence, that no other terms, however synonymous they may seem, are capable of filling the same office: such, for example, as traitorously, (q.v.) in treason; feloniously, (q.v.) in felony; burglariously, (q.v.) in burglary; maim, (q.v.) in mayhem, &c. 7th. The conclusion of the indictment should conform to the provision of the constitution of the state on the subject, where there is such provision; as in Pennsylvania, Const. art. V., s. 11, which provides, that "all prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and conclude against the peace and dignity of the same." As to the necessity and propriety of having several counts in an indictment, vide 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 248; as to. joinder of several offences in the same indictment, vide 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 253; Arch. Cr. Pl. 60; several defendants may in some cases be joined in the same indictment. Id. 255; Arch. Cr. Pl. 59. When an indictment may be amended, see Id. 297. Stark. Cr. Pl. 286; or quashed, Id. 298 Stark. Cr. Pl. 831; Arch. Cr. 66. Vide; generally, Arch. Cr. Pl. B. 1, part 1, c. 1; p. 1 to 68; Stark. Cr. Pl. 1 to 336; 1 Chit. Cr. Law, 168 to 304; Com. Dig. h.t.: Vin. Ab. h.t.; Bac. Ab. h.t.; Dane's Ab. h.t.; Nels. Ab. h.t.; Burn's Just. h.t.; Russ. on Cr. Index, h.t.,
5. By the Constitution of the United States, Amend. art. 5, no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war, or public danger.