What Happens After a Criminal Indictment?

by LegalFix
Posted: April 16, 2024
indictment, information, and complaint

Imagine the gut-sinking sensation of facing state or federal criminal charges without knowing what happens after an indictment. It might feel like you're being drawn into a legal labyrinth, unsure of the next steps or what to expect. As intimidating as it may seem, navigating the post-indictment process doesn't have to be a mystery. Today, we’ll take a look at what happens after an indictment to help you understand what you need to know. 

Understanding the Indictment Process

An indictment is a formal accusation issued by a grand jury, a group of citizens who review evidence presented by the prosecution to determine if there's probable cause to believe a crime was committed. In simpler terms, it's the government's official statement saying they believe you committed a specific crime.

Think of it like a grand jury acting as a filter in the realm of due process. If they believe there's enough evidence to move forward, they issue an indictment, which formally initiates the criminal case against you.

Navigating the Steps After an Indictment

Now that you understand the indictment, let's explore what happens next.


Your first court appearance after being indicted is called an arraignment. Here, the judge will formally read the charges against you and ensure you understand your rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. This is your chance to enter a plea—not guilty, guilty, or no contest. Remember, entering a plea at this stage doesn't necessarily determine the outcome of your case.

Pre-Trial Procedures

Before the trial begins in earnest, both your team and the prosecution are given time to prepare. This pre-trial phase involves "discovery," where each side exchanges evidence and witness lists. You might also have motion hearings where your attorney argues to exclude certain evidence or dismiss the charges altogether.

Undergoing the Trial Process

If the prosecution (state or federal government) and the defense (the accused defendant) are unable to make a plea bargain agreement, the case goes to trial. The trial itself follows a specific structure.

  • Opening statements: Both sides present their opening statements, outlining their case and the evidence they plan to present.

  • Witness testimony and examination: Witnesses take the stand, swear to tell the truth, and answer questions from both sides. This can take place over several days, depending on the complexity of your case. 

  • Closing arguments: After all the evidence is presented, lawyers for each side deliver closing arguments, summarizing their case, what they believe the evidence will show or did show, and attempting to convince the jury (or judge in a bench trial) of their the defendant’s innocence or guilt.

  • Verdict: Finally, the jury (or judge) deliberates and reaches a verdict—guilty or not guilty.


If you are convicted during your trial, you'll face sentencing. The judge considers various factors, like the severity of the crime, your criminal history, any sentencing guidelines, and any mitigating circumstances, before determining your sentence, which could involve jail time, probation, fines, or community service. 

The Value of Expert Legal Advice and Representation

Remember, the legal system can be complex, and this article provides only a general overview. Seeking professional legal guidance from a qualified attorney is crucial. An experienced attorney can be your trusted advisor throughout this challenging time. They'll not only explain your legal options in detail and help you choose the best course of action, but they'll also represent you in court, ensuring your rights are protected every step of the way. 

Additionally, an attorney has the expertise to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf, potentially reducing charges or penalties. Their guidance is invaluable as they help you navigate through the complexities of the legal system and provide you with much-needed support during this difficult experience.

Know Your Rights with LegalFix

Throughout this process, it’s important to stay informed and involved. Keep an open line of communication with your attorney and ask questions if anything is unclear. Facing a criminal indictment can be overwhelming—but with knowledge and the right support, you can navigate this legal maze with confidence. 

Whether you want to learn what happens after an indictment or just want a better understanding of how our legal system works, LegalFix is your go-to source for free legal information. You can find helpful articles and state-specific explanations of nearly 1,600 legal topics and browse the state and federal statutes to better understand the laws that affect you. Just visit to find all this content—and check back often for more valuable legal products and services coming soon.