An indictable offense is an offense in which enough evidence has been brought forth to warrant a defendant to be tried for a felony. Examples of indictable offenses include murder, rape, kidnapping, arson and burglary.
An indictment is a formal written accusation against an individual. It has to be brought against someone by a grand jury after the prosecution has presented all the evidence. An indictment informs a defendant that charges have been brought against him and allows him time to put together a legal defense. Indictments are only used in felony cases.
It is the grand jury's job to listen to all evidence provided by the prosecutor as well as any witness statements that may be available. Members of the grand jury decide if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. Defendants have the right to waive an indictment by pleading guilty to the charges brought against them. Should the indictment proceed, it must be presented in clear, concise writing to the defendant who then should obtain a defense lawyer before answering the charges. Sometimes the indictment is handed down after a person is incarcerated.
After the indictment, the case will be tried before either a jury or judge unless the defendant and the prosecutor can reach a plea agreement, which usually involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge to save the court time and reduce the punishment.