Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

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What is an indictment?

Atlanta readers of our blog may have read about the recent indictments being issued in multiple fraud cases and how this may speed up a trial. However, some readers may be unsure of what that actually means and why this is so. According to one news source, an indictment is issued by a grand jury. Again, the term grand jury is misleading because a grand jury does not actually decide on someone’s guilt or innocence. Rather, a grand jury decides whether to pursue charges against an individual or not.

Usually, only the prosecutor is present in front of the grand jury members of 23 people. After explaining the relevant law to the grand jury, the prosecutor works with them to collect evidence and listen to testimony. A grand jury can view almost any evidence they wish to and are not subjected to the same rules of admissibility as a normal jury. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in confidentiality, which protects the accused, if the case does not end up going to trial.

If a grand jury decides to indict, the subsequent trial usually takes place faster. This is because the prosecutor no longer has to demonstrate to a trial judge that they have enough evidence to pursue a case. The prosecutor can skip directly to the trial stage. The prosecutor can still pursue the case, if the grand jury does not indict, but the decision of the grand jury serves as a test run for the actual trial.

Depending on the scope of the case, the case may end up going through the legal system faster, and, therefore, Atlanta residents facing criminal charges may want to consider their legal options as soon as possible and work aggressively to fend off the charges.

Source: FindLaw.com, “How Does a Grand Jury Work?” accessed on Aug. 11, 2014

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Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

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