charging instrument – any of three formal legal documents used to officially charge someone with a crime

     This page is continued from Criminal Proceedings >>>> Preliminary Hearing or Grand Jury Proceedings.

     This page is also continued from Legal Instruments.


charging instrument:

1. Criminal procedure. Any of three formal legal documents by which a person can be officially charged with a crime: an indictment, information, or presentment. — aka accusatory instrument. [1]

information – a formal criminal charge made by a prosecutor without a grand-jury indictment; technically, an accusation of the commission of a crime, otherwise known as a complaint or affidavit. — aka bill of information.

indictment – a formal written accusation of a felony, made by a grand jury and presented to a court for prosecution against the accused person.

  • bill of indictment – an instrument containing a criminal charge, presented to a grand jury by a prosecutor, used by the jury to determine if there’s enough evidence to formally charge the accused with a crime.  After it is found and all the blanks are filled in, it is called an “indictment.”
  • true bill – an indorsement that a grand jury enters onto a bill of indictment when it indicts a criminal defendant; by writing “true bill” on the bill, the determination that a criminal charge should go before a petty jury for trial is officially indorsed by the grand jury. — aka billa vera.
  • no bill – an indorsement by a grand jury on a bill of indictment, indicating “not found” or “not a true bill”; the party is then discharged without further answer.  A grand jury may instead write “not found,” “not a true bill,” or “ignoramus” to indicate the same thing.

presentment – a written accusation returned by a grand jury on its own motion, without a prosecutor’s previous indictment request, which may be used by the prosecutor as the basis for a true bill or indictment.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6


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