If you learn that you are facing a potential indictment, you should act quickly to retain a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, because you may very well be facing serious criminal charges. Prosecutors for the State of Florida rarely use indictments. Charges are formally filed by submission of a document called an Information, and less serious charges can be filed by a citation issued by a police officer. Indictments are required, however, for the charging of capital offenses, or ones that are punishable by the death sentence.
Indictments are required for all criminal charges at the Federal level. However, federal charges are commonly much more serious and carry far stiffer penalties than state level cases, so an indictment on any federal case is something to take very seriously. If you believe you are under investigation for a crime and may be indicted, it is critical that you retain a seasoned Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to build your defense.The Grand Jury
While state prosecutors can decide to file most charges with an Information, they can choose to convene a grand jury to make a filing decision regarding certain cases. Capital cases that are punishable by the death sentence, such as first degree murder, require a grand jury indictment to go forward. State prosecutors sometimes choose to use a grand jury to file charges in controversial cases, however. For example, in police shooting cases, prosecutors will often convene a grand jury to make the decision about filing charges against a police officer so that they do not have to have the burden of making the decision themselves.
A grand jury is much different from the trial jury. A grand jury will typically be composed of fifteen to twenty people, and they may be asked to serve for months at a time. Federal grand juries usually convene for six months and hear many different cases. A grand jury will meet exclusively with prosecutors and witnesses. They can issue subpoenas and ask their own questions, actions which are prohibited for trial juries. A unanimous decision is also not required. Only twelve jurors are required to vote for an indictment in order for charges to be formally filed. This is because the standard for filing charges, probable cause, is much lower than the standard to secure a conviction: beyond a reasonable doubt.
The grand jury process is one sided. You and your lawyer will not be allowed to be present at the grand jury proceedings. Even so, it is important that you hire an experienced Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to begin to build your defense before and during the grand jury process.Indictments
If the grand jury decides not to indict, that will be the end of the case. Charges will not be filed against you and you will not need to face a trial. If a grand jury votes to indict, then charges will be formally filed and the criminal trial process will begin with your arraignment. At the arraignment, the judge will present to you the formal charges for which the grand jury has found probable cause to charge you.
If you have been indicted, you need to contact a lawyer right away. Because the grand jury process is so one sided, a defense lawyer will need to get involved in order to collect and preserve evidence that supports your innocence, because it is likely that the prosecutors only presented evidence to the grand jury to support your indictment and conviction. Thankfully, the trial process is much more fair and allows criminal defendants an opportunity to defend their case and assert their constitutional rights.Consult an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Clearwater
Indictments often lead to serious criminal charges. A skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney can sometimes make all the difference in your case. The lawyers at Hanlon Law have the experience and knowledge you need to have the best chance of success. Call us today at 727.897.5413.