What Is the Procedure for Indictment?


Quick Answer

Prosecutors convene grand juries to hear cases and determine whether there is enough evidence to issue indictments against defendants, notes About.com. The federal government and most states have grand jury systems in place to seek indictments, as of 2015.

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Full Answer

The grand jury system in the United States has its roots in the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, explains About.com. Some states require that grand juries occur only when seeking indictments for specific crimes, while others do not impose such limits. The same pool of citizens used to select trial juries produce grand jury members. If selected, the jury members hear cases presented by prosecutors to determine if there is probable cause to indict defendants and force them to face charges.

Grand juries can invite people to testify or issue subpoenas to compel people to testify, notes About.com. People who do not want to testify in front of a grand jury can seek to squash their subpoenas, but if they are unsuccessful, they must appear or face contempt charges and jail. After prosecutors present their evidence, grand juries vote on whether to issue an indictment, initiating further proceedings. Unlike trials that require unanimous votes of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a majority of members of a grand jury must vote that there is probable cause to show the defendant committed the offense in order to return an indictment.

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