For those who haven’t studied the ins and outs of criminal law, sorting out legal terms and processes can be daunting. Regarding being accused of a crime, the two most commonly confused terms are “indictment” and “conviction.” These two are very different in terms of definitions and consequences.
Charge vs Conviction
When a person is accused of committing a felony offense, the first step is to charge that person — otherwise known as an indictment. This happens when a grand jury has determined that a serious crime has occurred and enough evidence suggests that the defendant committed it. This proceeding is not public. If the defendant is indicted, there is no immediate punishment but it 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 on trial is guilty of the crime with which they were charged. The possible consequences following a conviction depend entirely on the crime committed. A conviction can also occur through plea bargaining when a resolution short of an actual trial occurs. Any time a criminal matter is resolved by a finding or an admission of guilt, a conviction results.
Being charged with any crime is a serious matter. If this happens to you, seeking legal counsel before any proceedings occur is crucial. An experienced New York criminal attorney can help protect your rights and outline a solid legal strategy for your case.