For those who haven’t studied the ins and outs of criminal law, sorting out legal terms and processes can be daunting. When it comes to being accused of a crime, two of the most commonly confused terms are “indictment” and “conviction.” These two are actually very different, both in terms of definitions and their consequences.
When a person is accused of committing a felony offense, the first step is to formally charge that person — otherwise known as an indictment. This happens when a grand jury has determined that a serious crime has occurred and there is enough evidence to suggest that the defendant committed it. This proceeding is not public. If the defendant is indicted, there is no immediate punishment, but is merely the formal process by which a person is charged.
During the trial, the prosecutor will attempt to secure a conviction — an official finding by a judge or jury stating that the defendant who has been on trial is guilty of the crime with which they were charged. The possible consequences following a conviction depend completely on the type of crime committed. A conviction can also occur through the plea bargaining process, which is the process by which a resolution short of actual trial occurs. Any time a criminal matter is resolved by a finding of guilt or an admission of guilt, a conviction results.
Being charged with any crime is a serious matter. If this happens to you, it is important to seek legal counsel before any proceedings have taken place. An experienced New York criminal attorney can help protect your rights and outline a strong legal strategy for your case.