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A formal criminal charge against a person alleged to have committed an offense punishable by law, which is presented before a court or a magistrate having jurisdiction to inquire into the alleged crime.

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides in part that a person accused of a crime has the right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." Thus in any federal criminal prosecution, the statute setting forth the crime in the accusation must define the offense in sufficiently clear terms so that an average person will be informed of the acts that come within its scope. The charge must also inform the accused in clear and unambiguous language of the offense with which he or she is being charged under the statute. An accused has the same rights when charged with violating state Criminal Law because the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies the guarantees of the Sixth Amendment to the states. The paper in which the accusation is set forth—such as an indictment, information, or a complaint—is called an accusatory instrument.

Most state constitutions contain language similar to that in the Sixth Amendment. In many state rules of Criminal Procedure, the accusatory instrument serves to protect the state constitutional rights of the accused. In Louisiana, for example, the purpose of a bill of information is to inform a defendant of the nature and cause of the accusation against him or her as required by the Louisiana State Constitution (State v. Stevenson, 2003 WL 183998 [La. App. 2003]).

In order to quash a bill of information or other accusatory instrument, the accused must present direct evidence not established by the record, showing the bill was insufficient. The accused generally has the Burden of Proof to demonstrate that the accusatory instrument was insufficient. The rules of evidence in a particular jurisdiction apply to the evidentiary determination of the sufficiency of the accusatory instrument.


Criminal Law.


n. 1) in legal terms accusation means officially charging someone with a crime either by indictment by a grand jury or filing charges by a District Attorney. 2) in lay terms any claim of wrongdoing by another person.


noun accusal, accusatio, allegation, assertion, attribution, bill of indictment, charge, citation, crimen, crimination, delation, filing of charges, formal charge, imputation, imputation of blame, incrimination, inculpation, indictment, information, preferring of charges, true bill, true charge
Associated concepts: accusatory instrument, complaint, grand jury report, indictment, information, presentment, warrant
Foreign phrases: Accusare nemo se debet, nisi coram deo.No one is bound to accuse himself, except before God.
See also: arraignment, blame, charge, claim, complaint, condemnation, count, criticism, culpability, denunciation, diatribe, disparagement, impeachment, incrimination, inculpation, indictment, information, innuendo, libel, objurgation, obloquy, onus, outcry, pleading, presentment, reproach, slander, stricture


a formal charge brought against a person stating the crime that he is alleged to have committed. The term may also be used more loosely to refer to a civil complaint.

ACCUSATION, crim. law. A charge made to a competent officer against one who has committed a crime or misdemeanor, so that he may be brought to justice and punishment.
     2. A neglect to accuse may in some cases be considered a misdemeanor, or misprision. (q.v.) 1 Bro. Civ. Law, 247; 2 Id. 389; Inst. lib. 4, tit. 18.
     3. It is a rule that no man is bound to accuse himself, or to testify against himself in a criminal case. Accusare nemo se debet nisi coram Deo. Vide Evidence; Interest; Witness.

References in classic literature ?
The second accusation he meets by interrogating Meletus, who is present and can be interrogated.
These bitter accusations might have been suppressed, had I, with greater policy, concealed my struggles, and flattered you into the belief of my being impelled by unqualified, unalloyed inclination; by reason, by reflection, by everything.
The afflicted now grew bolder in their accusations.
make one = be included; bon ton = superior manners and culture; notice her = include her socially; "aristocratic" = Cooper was hypersensitive to accusations of being "aristocratic"; poor Poles = since his days in Paris in the early 1830s, Cooper had befriended and aided Poles fleeing Russian domination of their homeland}
At this period of their Quarrel I entered the Library and was as you may imagine equally offended as Sophia at the ill-grounded accusations of the malevolent and contemptible Macdonald.
Her heart was almost broke by such a picture of what she appeared to him; by such accusations, so heavy, so multiplied, so rising in dreadful gradation
But therein lies the horror of it all--that, however mean and farcical my accusations may be, they are none the less TRUE.
He was repenting of his unjust accusations," replied Newman.
In the meantime, by way of staying execution -- by way of mitigating the accusations against me -- I offer the sad history appended, -- a history about whose obvious moral there can be no question whatever, since he who runs may read it in the large capitals which form the title of the tale.
Murder, accusations of murder, A lady clinging to one man and being rude to another--were these the daily incidents of her streets?
What harm could such accusations, even if he made them publicly, do me here?
in one city there must of necessity be two, and those contrary to each other; for he makes the military the guardians of the state, and the husbandman, artisans, and others, citizens; and all those quarrels, accusations, and things of the like sort, which he says are the bane of other cities, will be found in his also: notwithstanding Socrates says they will not want many laws in consequence of their education, but such only as may be necessary for regulating the streets, the markets, and the like, while at the same time it is the education of the military only that he has taken any care of.