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Last Modified: December 28, 2022


An Indictment is a formal accusation that someone has done something illegal (Black’s Law Dictionary). Nolo’s Law Dictionary explains that a prosecuting lawyer has two ways to charge a person of a crime: 1) indictment or 2) criminal complaint. For the first, a lawyer only has to show the jury enough evidence to convince them that the accused person should have to go to trial. Further, the accused is not allowed to be there, nor anyone else from the public. This also allows the prosecuting lawyer to charge the accused without revealing too much of the evidence before trial.

Example Sentence

At the indictment of Mr. Whitaker, the state’s lawyer charged him with multiple crimes including armed robbery and assault.

Case Study

In Brooklyn, a drunk driver ran a red light at 50mph. He hit and killed a father and son who were driving through the intersection. The man then fled the scene. He was later caught and the state filed charges against him. The indictment included twelve accusations against him, including murder.

Other Important Information

The criminal process does not formally begin until the indictment proceedings. However, a person cannot legally be kept in jail beyond a certain point without accusations being formally charged against him or her. Typically, an indictment includes multiple accusations. They call these accusations counts (e.g. a 12 count indictment). The lawyer can accuse a person on as many counts as he/she thinks has valid support. However, the judge can throw out any charges that fail to have any real support. Multiple people can also be charged with crimes in the same indictment if related to the same incident. In Utah, a person cannot go to trial unless three-fourths of the jury members vote as such. These jury members must find that there is “clear and convincing evidence to believe” that the crime happened and that the accused person is responsible (Utah Code). To see a recent Utah example of an indictment form, click here.