What Is A Federal Indictment?

An indictment is the charging document that the prosecutor uses to show what a particular criminal defendant is charged with. That indictment will be read to you at the time of your initial court appearance. The judge is very careful to make sure that you know what all the charges are in the indictment, that you understand those charges, and that you have a right to go over all those charges with your attorney. The indictment, in a federal case, is how they will let you know exactly what you are charged with.

What Are The Parts To A Federal Indictment?

Leading up to the indictment, you are probably going to be arrested by a federal law enforcement agency, such as the FBI, Homeland Security, or the Secret Service. Once one of those branches arrests you, they are going to give whatever information they have related to you, by way of surveillance, police reports, your statements, or any witness statements to the prosecutor.

The prosecutor is there to assist the United States Attorney. They will review the evidence that has been collected by the federal authorities and then they will make a decision on exactly what they think they need to file against you in your federal criminal case. Once they make that decision, they will issue an indictment against you with all the charges related to your arrest.

If the federal government decides to add additional charges against you during the pendency of your federal case, they will supersede the indictment and add the charges to the indictment against you.

Prosecutors are vested with the authority to prosecute individuals who commit federal crimes. If they are a federal prosecutor, they have the ability to issue an indictment. Their office writes it up, and it's filed in the federal court. If the defendant is there, they will be read the indictment. A federal warrant will likely be issued for their arrest if they are not there.

They will be brought into federal court and read the indictment, and they will either have their own attorney available to represent them or they will be assigned a federal public defender to represent them. Then, they can challenge the indictment in a variety of different ways, which should be discussed with their federal criminal defense attorney.

A federal indictment can be changed. Prosecutors threaten new charges all the time in federal criminal cases. They will threaten to supersede the indictment, which means adding additional charges. A lot of times, if they supersede the indictment in a federal case, the defendant is looking at a significant amount of added prison time.

Prosecutors often threaten to add charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. The superseding of an indictment is a very serious thing that you want to talk to your attorney about so that they can strategically handle it.

Can A Federal Indictment Be Challenged?

If someone is not guilty of any crimes and gets indicted in federal court, they can challenge the indictment for various reasons. Certain pre-trial motions can be filed. For example, if they are illegally stopped, illegally searched, or evidence is illegally seized against them, that can be challenged. If you win any of those motions, the evidence that flowed from that motion can be suppressed.

That's one way to challenge an indictment. The clearest way to challenge an indictment is by way of pleading not guilty, going to trial, fighting the case, and proving that you are innocent by getting a not guilty verdict. In that case, the indictment against you will be dismissed.

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