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
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.