Indictment Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Indictment, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Indictment?

It refers to the formal written charge with the Oath on the accused who have commited a crime which has enough evidences and witness to do so. By charging the accused(indictment), it does not proof the guilt of the accused, but leads to fair trial by the jury or judge in the court.

History and Meaning of Indictment

Indictment is a legal term that has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon period of English history. Back then, the term "indictment" referred to the action of bringing a person to trial on a criminal charge. Indictments were originally brought by the king or his representatives, based on the testimony of witnesses. Over time, the process became more formalized, with grand juries being convened to determine if there was enough evidence to bring charges against a defendant.

Today, the term "indictment" still refers to the formal charge of a person with a crime. However, the process has become much more formalized and includes the participation of defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to be indicted by a grand jury for any "capital, or otherwise infamous crime."

Examples of Indictment

  1. John was indicted on charges of embezzlement based on the testimony of several witnesses who claimed to have seen him take money from the company's accounts.
  2. The grand jury declined to indict the police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed civilian, sparking protests in the community.
  3. The special prosecutor announced that he would be seeking an indictment against the former governor based on evidence of bribery and corruption.

Legal Terms Similar to Indictment

  1. Information - a formal written accusation of a crime that is made by a prosecutor, rather than a grand jury.
  2. Arraignment - the formal reading of the charges against a defendant in court, to which they must enter a plea.
  3. Grand jury - a group of 16-23 citizens who hear evidence presented by a prosecutor to determine if there is probable cause to bring charges against a defendant.