What Happens After a Federal Indictment?

Following a federal indictment, the accused individual is arrested by federal authorities.
A preliminary hearing takes place after a federal indictment.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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In the United States, a federal indictment is written statement formally accusing a person of a crime. This is usually handed down by a grand jury after they have reviewed evidence and decided that there is sufficient to try a person for the crime. After a federal indictment, the accused person is arrested and detained, unless he can pay his set bail. He will then plead not guilty or guilty. In the case of a not guilty plea, the case will usually proceed to trial.

After a federal indictment, if an accused person has not already been detained, law enforcement officials will attempt to locate and arrest him. In many cases, an arrest warrant will be issued. This is a document officially stating that police officers can and will arrest him. When the accused has been arrested, he may then go before a judge for a bail hearing.

During the bail hearing, a judge will look at the details of the case and determine whether the accused is a serious flight risk. In cases involving particularly violent crimes or repeat offenders, the accused may be denied bail. Other times, the judge will set an amount that the accused must pay to get out of jail, known as a bail amount.


The next step after a federal indictment and bail hearing is usually a preliminary hearing known as an arraignment, or a post federal indictment arraignment. This is a short hearing in which the defendant is formally read the details concerning the crimes of which he is accused. He is then given a chance to plead guilty or not guilty.

A person may choose to plead guilty because of an overwhelming amount of evidence against him. Sometimes, federal prosecutors may also offer him a plea bargain, or plea agreement. With a plea agreement, prosecutors typically offer to charge the defendant with a lesser crime or impose a lighter sentence in exchange for him pleading guilty.

Defendants who choose to plead not guilty will typically go through a criminal trial. During this trial, prosecutors will present the evidence against the defendant, including any eyewitness and forensic evidence. A defendant's attorneys will also be allowed to state their case, presenting evidence in defense of the accused.

When both parties have presented all of their evidence, a jury will then deliberate before making a decision whether the defendant is guilty. If found guilty, a judge will then decide on a sentence. This can include stiff fines, along with incarceration. Defendants who have been found not guilty are free to leave.


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Post 5

How is sending someone to prison for 10-plus years on a drug conspiracy charge justifiable? In most cases, you have a person who sells to other addicts. Don't get me wrong; selling dope to kids isn't cool at all. But for the most part, kids sell to kids. Most sellers are selling to support their habit or pay bills.

What makes it justifiable for one person to get caught selling, and instead of owning up to his own wrong doing, the detectives offer deals to tell on other people? This makes no sense when they could say any name they want. It could be someone they hate, and they say that person is dealing just to get out of trouble. How is his word good enough to put a person away for a quarter of a lifetime in a lot of cases, when he's doing the same thing? He's telling on someone else to save his own butt.

I think that the government needs to take a look at how they handle conspiracy theories and how harsh they are on drug charges and maybe be more for rehabilitating than punishing. Prison doesn't make people better. They should focus more on violent crimes. How is fair that someone can be sentenced 25 to life for drugs, yet somebody can rape a baby and get five years with three and a half suspended? Priorities need to be checked.

Post 4

I was served an indictment today from 11 years ago! Is there no statue of limitations on this? Why would they serve this after 11 years? I have lived in the same place. There's no reason they couldn't "find" me.

Post 2

After an indictment, how long does the prosecutor have to do the preliminary hearing?

Post 1

I hope these jurors read the fine print in those company policies that they are ready to put out of business and ultimately destroy. Companies who are destroyed by bad investigation work by the prosecutors should be paid damages by the Department of Justice for generations to come.

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