A written accusation charging that an individual named therein has
committed an act or omitted to do something that is punishable by law.
Indictment: The formal charging instrument issued by a grand jury. An indictment is required in all capital cases, but the prosecution can elect to present any case to the grand jury. In all other cases the prosecution can simply file what is called a "bill of information" to formally charges a person with a crime.
The Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provides that "No person
shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,
unless on presentment of a Grand Jury..." However, while grand juries
are common in charging Federal crimes, many states use grand juries
sparingly, and use the criminal complaint (the bill of information) followed by a "preliminary
hearing" presided over by a judge, who will
determine whether or not the prosecutor has presented sufficient
evidence that the accused has committed a felony. If the judge finds
there is enough evidence, he/she will order the case sent to the
appropriate court for trial.
An indictment is found and presented by a grand jury. It originates with a prosecutor and is
issued by the grand jury against an individual who is charged with a
crime. An indictment does not mean that a person is guilty of a crime. If you remember from my "Grand Jury" post~ there is a saying that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich.
An indictment only means that a grand jury concluded that there is sufficient evidence to believe a person has committed a crime. Before such individual may be convicted, the charge must be
proved at trial by a much higher standard of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt.