Trump indictment: What does it mean? Here's what we know about the process
WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump was indicted in New York Thursday as an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's office comes to a close.
The indictment stems from an investigation into the former president for his alleged role in making a $130,000 hush-money payment to an adult film actress just before the 2016 presidential election to silence her about a past affair.
Trump's indictment is the first time in American history a former president faces criminal charges.
What does the indictment mean for Trump? Here's what to know about the process:
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What does indicted mean?
An indictment is a formal charging document used when it is believed a person committed a crime. It includes charges against the person and has to be filed before a case can move forward in court, said David Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor.
Weinstein, a partner at Jones Walker law firm in Miami, said an indictment means a grand jury decided that there is "more likely than not" enough evidence based on testimony to move forward with charges.
In federal court, every case proceeds by way of indictment, and some states, like New York, use a grand jury and indictments to proceed with cases.
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What we know about indictment process
A district attorney presents evidence to the grand jury and asks the jurors to consider certain charges, Weinstein said. The jury then votes in secret on whether enough evidence exists to charge someone with a crime. In federal court, the grand jury consists of 23 members. The number varies depending on the state.
If the majority of the jury believes a person committed a crime, it returns with an indictment.
People who are indicted can hire an attorney or choose to be represented by a public defender provided by the government.
If the grand jury votes against an indictment, the person is not required to plead to a criminal charge and there is no trial. Weinstein said this rarely happens.
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Is getting indicted the same as being arrested?
Weinstein said that if a person is indicted, it does not necessarily mean they are arrested. But the indictment process includes the defendant providing fingerprints and having a mugshot taken.
In situations where the grand jury moves forward with indictment, a person can either surrender to officials or law enforcement will track them down with an arrest warrant.
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Can charges be dropped after an indictment?
Weinstein said charges can be dropped after an indictment and it frequently happens.
The standard for a grand jury is "more likely than not," he said, while the standard for conviction is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
"Just because the charges are filed doesn't mean that down the road they could not be dismissed," Weinstein said.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump indicted: Here's what we know about the process