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The formal accusation of a criminal offense made by a public official; the sworn, written accusation of a crime.

An information is tantamount to an indictment in that it is a sworn written statement which charges that a particular individual has done some criminal act or is guilty of some criminal omission. The distinguishing characteristic between an information and an indictment is that an indictment is presented by a Grand Jury, whereas an information is presented by a duly authorized public official.

The purpose of an information is to inform the accused of the charge against him, so that the accused will have an opportunity to prepare a defense.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. an accusation or criminal charge brought by the public prosecutor (District Attorney) without a grand jury indictment. This "information" must state the alleged crimes in writing and must be delivered to the defendant at the first court appearance (arraignment). If the accusation is for a felony, there must be a preliminary hearing within a short period (such as five days) in which the prosecution is required to present enough evidence to convince the judge holding the hearing that the crime or crimes charged were committed and the defendant is likely to have committed them. If the judge becomes convinced, the defendant must face trial, and if the judge does not, the case against the defendant is dismissed. Sometimes it is a mixed bag, in that some of the charges in the information are sufficient for trial and the case is sent (remanded) to the appropriate court, and some are dismissed. (See: grand jury, indictment, charge, preliminary hearing, accusation, felony)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


in English criminal procedure, the statement informing a magistrate of the offence in respect of which a warrant or summons is sought.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

INFORMATION. An accusation or complaint made in writing to a court of competent jurisdiction, charging some person with a specific violation of some public law. It differs in nothing from an indictment in its form and substance, except that it is filed at the discretion of the proper law officer of the government, ex officio, without the intervention or approval of a grand jury. 4 Bl. Com. 308, 9.
     2. In the French law, the term information is used to signify the act or instrument which contains the depositions of witnesses against the accused. Poth. Proc. Cr. sect. 2, art. 5.
     3. Informations have for their object either to punish a crime or misdemeanor, and these have,.perhaps, never been resorted to in the United States or to recover penalties or forfeitures, which are quite common. For the form and requisites of an information for a penalty, see 2 Chit. Pr. 155 to 171. Vide Blake's Ch. 49; 14 Vin. Ab. 407; 3 Story, Constitution, Sec. 1780 3 Bl. Com. 261.
     4. In summary proceedings before justices of the peace, the complaint or accusation, at least when the proceedings relate to a penalty, is called an information, and it is then taken down in writing and sworn to. As the object is to limit the informer to a certain charge, in order that the defendant may know what he has to defend, and the justice may limit the evidence and his subsequent adjudication to the allegations in the information, it follows that the substance of the particular complaint must be stated and it must be sufficiently formal to contain all material averments. 8 T. R. 286; 5 Barn. & Cres. 251; 11 E. C. L. R. 217; 2 Chit. Pr. 156. See 1 Wheat. R. 9.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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