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What is a Grand Jury Indictment?

What does Indictment mean explained by Attorneys in Atlanta

An indictment refers to a formal accusation issued by a Grand Jury. This Bill of Indictment is issued only if a majority of the grand jurors vote there is sufficient evidence of the federal crime(s) being committed against a defendant. A Grand Jury embodies 16-23 qualified citizens that have jurisdiction in their county, in the state of Georgia. The Grand Jury must analyze presenting evidence, such as sworn testimony, against the individual in the criminal case. The purpose is NOT to determine guilt of the individual charged with a crime, but to determine IF enough “probable cause” exists against the accused. If more than 12 jurors conclude that the case has enough evidence, the Prosecutor presenting the charges obtains a Bill of Indictment. After this accusation is filed, the case is tried in front of a judge. Guilt is then determined in the trial court. If you have been accused of violating any federal felony charges in the state of Georgia, contact our criminal defense attorneys at Kohn & Yager, LLC.

Unlike jury trials, Grand Jury hearings are done in secret and neither defense attorneys or judges are permitted to attend Grand Jury hearings. Grand Jury members are not questioned on their bias nor beliefs toward criminal justice matters or court personnel relationships. The criminal charges must violate federal laws, state laws or felony laws to get in front of a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury indictment process is a part of the checks and balances system, more specifically our “due process” rights. The federal government’s legal obligation to uphold due process of law is outlined in the 5th Amendment and the 14th Amendments of our Constitution, known as the “Due Process Clause” describes the State’s obligation to the governed. 

Indictment VS. Arrest  

If the evidence determines sufficiency to support the warrant, the state will formally charge the defendant by filing an indictment, or accusation. An indictment occurs after a Grand Jury examines the probable cause (physical evidence) of the capital criminal offense(s), federal felony(ies). If the Grand Jury decides the case’s evidence carries enough Merritt, a “True Bill” is issued and the case goes to trial. An arrest does not typically happen prior to an indictment. For less serious crimes, such as misdemeanors and some felonies, an arrest occurs before a criminal complaint being filed; given there is enough probable cause. These crimes are not “infamous” crimes, also known as capital crimes, which are determined by their punishment. 

What’s an Indictment?

To have a true understanding of the indictment process, and its meaning, we must discuss its origination. The Magna Carta, initially created to limit the Monarch’s absolute power, was a peace treaty signed by King John in 1215 A.D. The Magna Carta consisted of 63 clauses, three of which are statues to this day. The most prevalent of these statutes acknowledged that everyone, including the king, was subject to the law and had the right to a fair trial. 

The 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution reads “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury…” 

indictment established by our 5th and 14th amendments

Indictment Meaning in the State of Georgia

What does Indicted Mean? In Georgia, indictment refers to when you are formally charged by the majority vote of a Grand Jury. To obtain an indictment, the Prosecutor introduces the criminal charges to the jurors of the Grand Jury, who must then analyze presenting evidence, i.e. eyewitness testimony, against the offender. If the Grand Jury agrees with the Government on the sufficiency of the evidence of the crime being committed, a “True Bill” is issued. This Bill of Indictment is then overtaken by the District Attorney to be heard at trial. If less than 12 jurors vote to indict, a “No Bill” is issued. 

What Georgia code section carries the indictment definition law? GA indictment laws are covered under Title 17, Chapter 7, Article 3. Georgia indictment law does not require a Grand Jury indictment, although it is common for most federal felony charges. Based on the charges and the Prosecution’s preference, an accusation may be filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court in the county the crime was committed. A preliminary hearing will be held in court, which will determine probable cause.

Is a criminal indictment always a felony indictment? Our Fifth Amendment grants us the indictment process, which applies to capital crimes or infamous crimes; crimes classified by their punishment. Punishments that result in the death penalty or serving a severe amount of time imprisoned. A common question is “how does being indicted vs. being charged with a felony get decided?” A couple of contributing factors include: 

  • the punishment determines which process is used to accuse the offender, federal crimes involving murder or crimes such as treason require an indictment; and 
  • who files the accusation(s), indictments are filed by the Grand Jury and the Prosecutor files charges. These are the distinguishing differences between being charged and indicted. 

The indictment procedure is intimidating, even if you are aware of the possible outcome. Give yourself a fighting chance, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss the criminal charges you are facing. Potential clients call our law office and ask “what does it mean to be indicted?” At Kohn & Yager, LLC., our attorneys are here to answer any questions you have regarding your felony charges or indictment, including “what Grand Jury indictment mean?” our attorneys will guide you through this frightening process.

Can Charges Be Dropped after Indictment?

As other statutes, there are exceptions for Georgia Grand Jury indictments placing time constraints on the jurors filing the charges. Charges will be dropped after an indictment if the Grand Jury returns a “No Bill.” A “No Bill” is endorsed if 12 or fewer jurors agree probable cause is present in the charge(s) provided by a prosecutor for that case. In other words, the case does not have enough supporting evidence for the criminal act(s) being charged and is dropped. 

If the charging terms of an indictment are altered by the Grand Jury, the indictment is then amended. The Supreme Court will reverse a conviction if the defendant’s convicted charges differ from those that he/she was originally charged, Stirone v. United States, 361 U.S. 212 (1960). Our criminal attorneys in Atlanta, Georgia know how to challenge indictments through various legal proceedings. 

Grand Jury Indictment explained by law firm in Atlanta Georgia

What is a Sealed Indictment?

A sealed indictment is when a “True Bill” is issued by the Grand Jury but remains non-public. The purpose of a sealed indictment is to prevent the Defendant from fleeing or gaining any knowledge of the case being built against them. The sealed indictment will become unsealed, for example, after an arrest warrant has been issued. 

Grand Jury Indictment Georgia Law firm

If you have been indicted, or formally accused in the state of Georgia, our Atlanta criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your case. If convicted, some of these charges will lead to “ a life or death situation,” and these are NOT to be taken lightly. Call the law offices of Kohn & Yager, LLC. at (404) 567-5515 and speak with one of our criminal lawyers for your FREE consultation. William C. “Bubba” Head, Cory Yager and Larry Kohn are recognized nationally for their exceptional representation and results. 

Cory Yager, Bubba Head, Larry Kohn Super Lawyers ATL

Other related links on indictment, Grand Jury & Georgia Code sections:

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