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In the U.S. legal system, a secret indictment plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of ongoing investigations. According to the United States Courts, grand juries, which are unique to the American justice system, are responsible for reviewing evidence and determining whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed (uscourts.gov).
When they conclude that the evidence is sufficient, they issue a secret indictment, a concealed formal charge that remains undisclosed until the accused is apprehended or informed, safeguarding both the legal process and potential witnesses. This covert action, which the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports as a tool in various high-profile cases (bjs.gov), ensures that suspects do not flee or tamper with evidence before trial proceedings commence. This article will help you further understand the working of the U.S. legal system and answer the question, “What is a secret indictment?”
Sometimes, it is determined that the indictment should be kept secret. This may also be known as a sealed indictment or silent indictment. In this case, the documentation surrounding the indictment is kept under seal, and no one involved may discuss the indictment outside of the grand jury hearings, or with anyone else once the hearings are over. When the seal is lifted, the contents of the indictment can be made public.
Prosecutors may request a secret indictment if they are concerned that someone may flee if he or she becomes aware that trial proceedings are being set in motion. It is also possible to ask for one to protect witnesses and other people involved with the case. If a suspected criminal is aware that grand jury hearings are occurring, the criminal may take steps to interfere with the hearings, such as intimidating witnesses or members of the grand jury. By sealing the indictment, the prosecutor ensures that the process will be safe for everyone.
Secret indictments are perfectly legal. They do not infringe upon the rights of the accused, including the right to a trial by jury and the right to hear evidence and cross-examine witnesses. Some people criticize the process because they argue that it is abused and that the information should be on the public record, but the justifications for the process often far outweigh these concerns.
The indictment will be unsealed when the government feels that it is appropriate to do so. As long as someone remains at large, the indictment typically remains sealed because the case is considered active. People who have evaded arrest must usually surrender to law enforcement before they can determine the contents of an indictment, and it is advisable for individuals to surrender with the assistance of a lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is a Secret Indictment?
A Secret Indictment is a sort of indictment issued by a grand jury and withheld from the defendant until his or her arrest. A Hidden Indictment is intended to prevent the defendant from fleeing or tampering with evidence prior to their apprehension.
What distinguishes a Secret Indictment from a typical indictment?
Typically, a standard indictment is issued in open court, and the defendant is told of the allegations against them at that time. In contrast, a defendant is not informed of a Secret Indictment until they are detained. A Secret Indictment is intended to prevent the defendant from fleeing or tampering with evidence prior to their apprehension.
Who has the authority to issue a Secret Indictment?
Typically, a Secret Indictment is issued by a grand jury, which is a group of citizens entrusted with assessing the evidence given by a prosecutor and judging if there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal trial. A court may also issue a Secret Indictment in certain circumstances.
What is the purpose of the secret indictment?
A secret indictment is used to stop a suspect from fleeing or tampering with evidence before they are apprehended. It is commonly employed when informing the defendant of the indictment may cause him or her to seek to evade arrest or otherwise impede the investigation.
What happens to a person imprisoned by a secret indictment?
A suspect arrested on a Secret Indictment will be charged when arrested. During arraignment, offenders must plead guilty or not guilty. Motions, discovery, and trial will follow.