Sociology Index

INDICTABLE OFFENSES

Indictable offenses are the most serious category of crime, carry substantial criminal penalties, and are usually tried in higher courts often before juries. Indictable offense is an offence that makes a person liable to indictment with trial by jury.

An indictable offence can only be tried on an indictment after a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case to answer or by a grand jury. In trials for indictable offences, the accused normally has the right to a jury trial, unless he or she waives that right. Indictable offense is the opposite of summary offense. To indict is to bring a charge against or accuse a person of a crime, or as a culprit by legal process.

An indictment consists of a short and plain statement of the time, place and manner in which the defendant is alleged to have committed the offense. An indictment is a formal accusation that a person has committed a criminal offense. An indictment is given by a grand jury, which returned a "true bill" if it found cause to make the charge, or "no bill" if it did not find cause.

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Military when in actual service in time of War or public danger..." - The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In jurisdictions that retain the grand jury, prosecutors often have a choice between seeking an indictment from a grand jury, or filing a charging document directly with the court. Such a document is usually called an information, accusation, or complaint, to distinguish it from a grand jury indictment.

In a direct indictment, the case is sent directly to trial before a preliminary inquiry is completed or when the accused has been discharged by a preliminary inquiry. Direct indictment is an extra-ordinary power where an error of judgment is seen to have been made in the preliminary inquiry.