What is a Criminal Indictment?
Aggressive Legal Representation for Criminal Indictments in New Mexico
A criminal indictment is a formal accusation made against a criminal defendant that is suspected of being guilty of a crime. The indictment is usually only obtained by the prosecution if you are facing felony charges; rarely would a prosecutor go through the effort for a misdemeanor.
The indictment is an alternative that is used to move your case to trial court. The complaint, which is an accusation, is when you are already arrested and the prosecution has probable cause against you. With an indictment, you do not have to be under arrest at the time for the complaint to be filed.
Indictments are complex; therefore, if you have a criminal indictment against you, you must speak with a New Mexico criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.
How is an Indictment Obtained?
A prosecutor will seek an indictment against a suspect by presenting the case to a grand jury. The grand jury is a group of civilians that includes 16 to 23 people who are sworn into their service once every 18 or so months. This group is not the same as the trial jury. Instead, they sit longer than an average jury and are there to hear multiple cases.
There is no judge or formal process during a grand jury hearing. Instead, the jury will hear from the defendant as well as the prosecution. They are, however, considered an extension of the prosecution; therefore, it is not uncommon for only the prosecution to address them. Indictments are, after all, extremely easy for a prosecutor to obtain.
Understanding How the Grand Jury Works
The grand jury is there to review evidence that the prosecutor has against a defendant. They will then determine if the prosecution has enough evidence to charge the individual of the crime – basically, they are seeking probable cause during the hearing.
The prosecutor can present witnesses that support the claims and show evidence, and the grand jury is even allowed to ask questions to the prosecutor as well as their witnesses. The suspect can also testify and be questioned by the grand jury. However, the suspect cannot bring their own witnesses like the prosecution can, and they cannot have their attorney question any of the prosecution’s witnesses at the grand jury hearing.
After the grand jury has reviewed the facts, they will determine if there is probable cause to move forward. The grand jury may return a true bill, which allows the prosecutor to take the indictment to the courts.
In the indictment, the criminal defendant will see all charges being brought against him or her, and there will be a short statement indicating as to what evidence the prosecution has, when and where the alleged crime occurred, and why they believe the defendant is guilty.
If the grand jury does not feel there is probable cause to charge the defendant, they will issue the “return of no bill,” which means that the prosecution may not move forward unless they gather more evidence.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney Regarding Your Indictment
If you have received word that the grand jury has issued an indictment against you, you must contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Indictments often carry serious charges, so you need to start the defense process quickly. Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices now for a free case evaluation at 505-375-4664 or request more information online.