As criminal defense lawyers who spend our working days in and out of the state’s courtrooms, we often get desensitized to how strange and confusing the terminology used by the court system is. Our clients often show up for their initial consultations with no clue what an “arraignment,” “deposition,” or “Information” is. One of the primary reasons it is important to consult an experienced St. Petersburg criminal lawyer is so that they can effectively explain to you all of the meanings and functions of these often-foreign terms.
One of the common terms thrown around the criminal courtroom is “Information.” Information is obviously a common word in the English language, meaning “facts provided or learned about something or someone.” However, in the legal world, the word Information takes on a much more specific meaning. An Information is one of several types of charging documents that can be filed by the State Attorney to formally initiate charges against a defendant.What is an Information
An Information is a formal document that lays out the specific criminal charges that are being brought against a criminal defendant. An Information serves several functions. First, the document serves to inform the parties involved in the case of the specific charges and statute numbers that will be at issue in the criminal case. The Information also has the effect of formally initiating the case, acting as the “complaint” to jump start the case. Without an Information or other charging vehicle, there will be no court dates and no case. The Information also serves to inform the jury of the charges that they will be hearing about in a criminal jury trial, should the case fail to resolve before trial.
If you read the United States Constitution, you might be wondering why an Information is used to bring charges against defendants instead of an Indictment. An Indictment is a formal filing document that is filed by a grand jury. In order to secure a grand jury indictment, prosecutors must present evidence before the jury in order to establish enough probable cause to convince the grand jury to bring charges. The indictment process is time consuming and expensive, and is actually only required for Federal cases.
For state criminal violations, an Information is typically filed instead of an Indictment, with a few exceptions. An Information is a simple document that is prepared by a prosecutor. There is no need for the state attorney to present evidence to a grand jury, as they can just file an Information if the individual prosecutor believes there is sufficient evidence to charge a crime. A grand jury indictment is reserved for capital cases—those punishable by the death penalty—or cases that prosecutors put before a grand jury for strategic reasons. A savvy St. Petersburg criminal lawyer will be able to develop a strategy to defend you if an Information is filed charging you with a crime.
Prosecutors often use grand juries in cases involving public figures or police officers. While in most cases they simply exercise their own discretion and file an Information, in more public cases, they tend to rely on grand jury indictments so that they can avoid responsibility if charges are dropped. The prosecution tends to allow the general public in the form of grand juries to make difficult decisions and to insulate themselves from backlash.
If you have been arrested for a crime, that does not mean that the prosecution has decided to formally file charges against you. Before they can initiate charges, the state must file an Information laying out the facts and allegedly violated laws. Prior to being formally charged, you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer who can sometimes convince the prosecution to refrain from filing an Information against you and stop the case before it even begins.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
The lawyers at Hanlon Law have the experience and dedication that you want in a defense attorney. For a consultation, call us today at 727.289.0222.