When a person commits a crime in New York that the United States federal court considers a federal felony, they will be indicted by a grand jury. The indictment is a formal accusation that the person committed a crime and is typically the second step in the federal criminal justice process.
How indictment works
If you have been indicted, it means that the government has enough evidence to believe that you committed a crime, and they are going to try to prove it in court. An indictment is not proof of guilt, but it does mean that you will have to go through the criminal justice system to clear your name.
The common crimes people get indicted for in New York include:
- White collar offenses
- Drug offenses
- Violent crimes
- Public corruption
The process starts when a prosecutor files an “accusation” or “information” with the grand jury. The grand jury, a panel of 16 to 23 ordinary citizens, will then review the evidence and decide whether or not the case is strong enough to warrant an indictment. If they believe there is enough evidence, they will issue a bill of indictment.
What happens next
The grand jury foreperson, a person selected to speak on behalf of the jury, will mark the indictment as a “true bill” and deliver it to the federal judge or magistrate. The judge or magistrate will prepare your warrant of arrest, that is if you are not in custody already.
The indictment is usually brief and plainly worded to show how and when the defendant allegedly committed the crime. It will also list the maximum punishment for the crime.
After you have been indicted, you will have your first appearance in court, where the charges against you will be read, and you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced immediately. If you plead not guilty, your case will go to trial.
If you have been indicted, it is important to understand that you still have rights and options. You can fight the charges against you, and there is a chance that the indictment could be thrown out if there are errors in procedure or if there is insufficient evidence.