Skip to main content

When you are arrested what does indictment mean?

Riverside, CA |

A family member was arrested and it said that a grand jury returned a indictment with 9 counts we would like to know what does the 9 counts mean? Would it mean 9 different charges?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 2


There are two ways for one to be brought before the court in either a state or federal criminal case. The most common way is to be arrested and then have a criminal complaint filed against you. If that is the case, you then have the right to a preliminary hearing. This is a hearing when a magistrate, usually a judge, determines if there is probable cause for the case to continue. This is done after the judge hears testimony of witnesses in the case, usually law enforcement. If the judge found reason to believe a crime was committed or about to be committed and the defendant was the one involved, then the government is allowed to file an information. After an information is filed, the defendant has to be tried within 60 days in a state case, or within the parameters of the Speedy Trial Act if federal.

The other way on can be brought before the criminal courts in either a state or federal matter is by way of an indictment. An indictment is issued is a grand jury determines that probable cause exists for charges to be filed. A grand jury is made up of citizens who serve on either a county (state) or federal grand jury. They generally serve for a year and generally meet on a weekly basis. The grand jury makes a ruling as to each charge the government presents evidence upon. Each charge that is found true by the grand jury is then alleged as a separate count in the indictment.

Once an indictment is issued, the next step in the process is trial. Sometimes indictments remained sealed until related matters are investigated, and then unsealed at a later time.

Unfortunately, indictments are generally only sought on more serious and/or complex matters.

I highly recommend that your family member hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.


It doesn't definitely mean nine separate actions, sometimes there are multiple counts of the same charge. In any event, it sounds like a serious situation and you need to find an attorney for the family member, like yesterday.

But an indictment does not mean that your family member is guilty, the indictment rate is about 98-99%. It's been said that you can indict a ham sandwich.

Best wishes,

Jason Beahm
Beahm Law

Criminal defense topics

Recommended articles about Criminal defense

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer