When a federal prosecutor has reason to believe you have committed a crime in South Carolina, they will conduct their investigations and present their evidence to the grand jury. If the grand jury finds that evidence convincing enough, they will issue an indictment so that you can defend yourself against the allegations made against you in federal court.
Understanding a federal indictment
An indictment is not a conviction – it is simply an accusation that you have committed a crime. The grand jury only issues it when there is sufficient probable cause.
A federal indictment is often issued for offenses such as:
- Possession, manufacture and distribution of controlled substances
- Assault, battery, murder and manslaughter
- All types of white collar crimes, including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud and tax evasion
- Sexual assault, child pornography and sex trafficking
What to expect
If you have been indicted, you will be summoned to appear in court, where the charges against you will be read. You will then have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, the trial will end, and you will be sentenced according to the crime you committed. If you plead not guilty, the trial will proceed, and a jury will decide whether or not to convict you based on the prosecutor’s evidence and facts of your case.
Challenging an indictment
Going to court can be expensive, and you can never really tell how the case might go, so it may be possible to challenge an indictment and have it dismissed by the court before the trial date. One way to do this is to convince the judge that the indictment failed to plead all the required elements of the crime you are being charged with, or it doesn’t clearly state the specific crime you allegedly committed.
It is also possible to challenge the indictment on the grounds that your constitutional rights were violated during the investigation or grand jury proceedings. For example, if the police searched your home without a warrant, any evidence they found could be excluded from the trial.
An indictment can have serious consequences, even if you are ultimately found not guilty. Just the accusation of a crime can damage your reputation and make it difficult to find employment or housing. And if you end up getting convicted, you may face jail time, heavy fines, and a criminal record.