An indictment occurs when a grand jury formally decides that there is enough evidence against an individual to accuse them of a felony crime and begin with a criminal case. Once an indictment is made, the official process of charging an individual for the crime begins. A New York criminal defense attorney is necessary to protect your rights and guide you through your legal options following an indictment.
However, an indictment is not a determination of guilt or even the beginning of the trial. It is still an exceptionally stressful experience, and it’s essential you retain exceptional legal counsel if you are indicted. You are still able to plead not guilty and build a defense against the charges.
What Is the Grand Jury’s Role?
The grand jury does not meet to determine if the potential defendant is innocent or guilty. The prosecutor will present the grand jury with evidence, and the jury will decide if there is enough evidence to begin the formal legal process. In New York, all felony charges must be brought to a grand jury before they are filed, although this is not the case in every state.
The grand jury, if they vote that there is enough evidence against the defendant to try them in court, will then write out the specific charges filed against the defendant. This statement of charges is the indictment that is issued.
Process After Indictment
After an indictment, a New York felony criminal case will likely follow these steps:
- Formal Charges
The indictment is issued with a list of formal charges against the defendant, which then begins the process of a criminal case. The defendant is provided with formal notice of the charges against them. It is in the defendant’s interest to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible after receiving notice of formal charges.
An arrest may not always occur after formal charges, particularly if the charge is a non-violent felony and the defendant is not a flight risk. However, when the grand jury issues the indictment, it may also set a bond for the defendant, which could result in an order for arrest.
An arraignment is the first time the defendant must appear before the judge. This generally occurs the same day as formal charges and arrest or the day after. The defendant is:
- -Informed again of the charges against them
- -Granted or denied bail
- -Told their rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to a preliminary hearing
- -Provided their next court date
The judge determines whether to grant or deny bail to the defendant based on their prior criminal history, their time spent living at the location, and their potential danger to the general community. At the arraignment, the defendant must also plead guilty or not guilty to the charges they are faced with.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case proceeds to jury trial. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the case doesn’t go to trial. It’s essential for a defendant to talk through their legal options with an experienced attorney to determine what the ideal route is for their case. Felony charges are incredibly serious and can have life-long impacts on an individual’s future.At the trial, a jury is selected, which is a trial jury, and not the grand jury. The defendant can also waive their right to a jury trial and take a bench trial or a judge-only trial. Both the defense and the prosecution present their opening statements and their side of the case. The prosecution has the burden of proof and must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. After both sides have presented their case, the judge or the trial jury will decide the defendant’s guilt.
Q: How Long Do They Have to Indict You in New York?
A: After the initial arraignment, the state or federal prosecutors have six months to secure a grand jury indictment. The initial arrest before the arraignment must be completed before the statute of limitations is up on the specific felony the defendant is being charged with. This varies based on the criminal charge and whether it is a state or federal crime.
Q: What Is the 45-Day Indictment Rule in New York?
A: After an arraignment but before the grand jury hearing, a judge may hold a preliminary trial hearing. The defense and prosecution both present their case, and the judge will decide if there is sufficient evidence against the defendant to hold a trial. If there is enough evidence against the defendant, the prosecutor then has 45 additional days to present the case to a grand jury. Often, the prosecution will not present the case to a judge and instead move directly to the grand jury.
Q: What Is the Difference Between an Indictment and a Charge in New York?
A: For all felony charges in New York, an indictment must be made before an individual is charged with the crime. An indictment is a decision reached via a grand jury that states there is sufficient evidence to bring a felony charge against the defendant. It does not formally charge the person but enables the criminal case to move forward. When presenting the case to the grand jury, the prosecutor will present evidence and information in a similar manner to a trial.
Q: What Does Indictment Mean in New York?
A: An indictment occurs when a grand jury decides there is enough evidence to formally charge a defendant of a felony. A grand jury meets when a prosecutor wishes to charge an individual with a felony and must first present their case and evidence to the grand jury. All felony charges in New York go through this process. A grand jury will hear the evidence and determine if a felony charge can be filed. The defense and defendant are not present for a grand jury, and neither is an attorney.
Protecting Your Rights Against Felony Charges in New York
A felony conviction can result in years in prison, hundreds or thousands in fines, and a criminal record. This can alter your immediate future and opportunities after you have completed the criminal penalties. The most effective way to avoid these life-altering consequences is to hire a criminal defense attorney with significant experience and understanding of felony laws in New York. Contact the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, PLLC, to learn how we can defend you after an indictment.