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Sealed Indictments (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

What are Sealed Indictments?

How do you legally define it?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s dig into our criminal procedure knowledge!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Are Sealed Indictments

Sealed indictments are essentially indictments that are non-public.

An indictment, in turn, is a formal accusation of felony filed against a person by the state (public prosecutor or District Attorney).

The objective of keeping an indictment under “seal” is to ensure that the information is not made available publicly in such a way that may compromise the arrest of the defendant.

Eventually, when the indictment is unsealed, the information will then be made available to all publicly.

In the context of a sealed indictment, the court will generally confidentially share the name of the defendant with the local law enforcement authorities allowing them to execute a warrant.

Sealed Indictments Definition

A “sealed indictment” is an indictment that is private, confidential, and non-public.

When the sealed indictment is unsealed, then the content of the indictment becomes available for the public to see and access.

An “indictment” by definition is a criminal accusation filed by the state against a person when there are strong reasons to believe that a person committed a crime.

In the United States, there are different types of accusations that may be filed against a person.

The most serious crime is a felony and the ones that are considered minor are misdemeanors. 

Sealed Indictment Procedures

Every state has its rules with regards to the procedures that apply to sealed criminal documents and indictments.

For example, when a sealed indictment is filed, all documents in the case will be sealed.

Then, eventually when the indictment is unsealed, it will have an impact on unsealing the entire case as well.

There are instances when counsel may want to file a Motion to Seal or file other motions to access or “unseal” certain documents. 

Propose state rules and court rules must be observed to that effect.

In many states, instead of presenting evidence to a grand jury for the issuance of a sealed indictment, they may have criminal procedures in place where a preliminary hearing is held before a judge or magistrate to present the evidence against the defendant.

If the judge or magistrate finds that there was enough evidence presented that the defendant may have committed a crime, then an indictment will be issued.

Grand Jury’s Role

To indicate a person, the prosecutor or District Attorney must present evidence to a grand jury demonstrating that there is evidence justifying that the defendant committed a crime and must be indicted.

The grand jury’s role is to decide whether there was a probability that the defendant committed a crime (a felony) and vote to issue an indictment or not.

The evidence presented by the District Attorney is not intended to achieve beyond reasonable doubt evidence that the defendant committed a crime but summarily show key facts establishing the “probability” that a crime was committed.

In fact, the U.S. Constitution, under its Fifth Amendment, states that “no person shall be held to answer for capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment of a Grand Jury”.

Sealed Indictment Takeaways 

So what is the legal definition of Sealed Indictments?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Federal Sealed Indictments

  • An indictment is a when the state, acting through a prosecutor, charges a person with a crime
  • Sealed indictments are when the criminal file is kept confidential or “under seal” preventing the spread of information that a named individual is indicted
  • The objective is to ensure that law enforcement agents can apprehend the named individual in the sealed indictment before the criminal accusation becomes public information
  • Many states use a preliminary hearing before a lower court judge or magistrate judge to present evidence justifying the issuance of a sealed indictment 
Federal crime 
Fifth Amendment 
Flight risk 
Grand jury
Indictable offense 
Magistrate judge
Sealed evidence
Sealed verdict 
Speaking indictment 
Superseding indictment
US Constitution
Author
Arraignment
Arrest warrant 
Chief judge 
Complaint 
Court clerk 
Court summons
Criminal attorney 
Criminal charge
Criminal procedures 
Direct indictment
Jail vs prison
Police officers 
Preliminary hearing 
Public defender 
Signature bail
Author

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!

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