Indictments

Lawyer for Tampa Residents Facing Criminal Charges

An indictment is a formal accusation that a grand jury delivers once it decides there is probable cause that you perpetrated the crime at issue. In Florida, state prosecutors need only obtain a grand jury indictment for a first-degree murder charge. Federal prosecutors must obtain an indictment for any felony offense including drug conspiracy, insurance fraud or embezzlement. Receiving an indictment can be threatening because by the time you’re indicted, prosecutors may have gathered quite a bit of evidence in hopes of getting a grand jury to indict. It is important to consult an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney right away if you believe you may be indicted.

Grand Jury

Grand juries may be convened in both the federal and Florida state judicial systems. The purpose of a grand jury is to decide whether there is enough evidence to indict someone for a crime. The grand jury can investigate and it has subpoena powers. Under Florida law, a grand jury indictment is only necessary for someone to be tried for a capital offense. Otherwise a state prosecutor may file what’s known as an information. An information is utilized by prosecutors more often than an indictment to charge people in Florida. More commonly, grand juries are convened for controversial or publicly visible cases.

In noncapital cases where a grand jury isn’t mandated, the prosecutor can decide whether to go forward with an indictment or an information. Where a prosecutor seeks an indictment, he can bring his case to a grand jury by interrogating subpoenaed witnesses and presenting relevant evidence.

Usually, a grand jury is made up of 15-21 people. Twelve grand jurors are needed to indict. A grand jury can investigate on any official misconduct in addition to determining whether there’s probable cause to believe a crime was perpetrated and that the accused perpetrated the crime. The grand jurors are permitted to ask questions of the witnesses or to ask for further witnesses or proof. The probable cause standard is significantly less burdensome than the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, which is what is necessary to convict in a criminal trial. Probable cause to indict exists where there’s a reasonable amount of evidence to make a cautious person believe a particular crime was perpetrated.

During grand jury proceedings, you won’t be able to present evidence in your defense or cross-examine the witnesses. However, it is still important to retain an experienced attorney as soon as possible when a criminal investigation or proceedings before a grand jury are anticipated.

Indictments

If there is no grand jury indictment, there won’t be a trial. However, the grand jury can issue what’s called a presentment. The presentment will include its findings and in it, the grand jury may make recommendations. If the presentment isn’t accompanied by an indictment it is confidential and won’t be made public until you’ve been given a copy and have been provided 15 days to file a motion to suppress or expunge it.

A jury determines guilt or innocence, while a grand jury only determines whether there’s enough evidence for formal charges. If it decides there is enough evidence, it will return a true bill. An indictment will then be issued. Formal charges will be filed and the case can proceed to trial.

Consult a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney in Tampa

Prosecutors have significant discretion over whether to prosecute a defendant, what charges to pursue, and how to file charges. A grand jury indictment involves very serious felony or capital felony charges. Often the grand jury process gives prosecutors a chance to see how a jury will react to evidence in a trial. As a defendant, you would likely prefer to be charged with an information, which allows you to challenge the charges during a preliminary hearing and possibly avoid them. If you are facing the possibility of indictment in Tampa, it is critical to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Our founder Will Hanlon has represented the accused since 1994. Please call Hanlon Law at (813) 228-7095 or contact us via our online form.