A criminal indictment is essentially a formal accusation based on a severe or serious criminal offense. The prosecution files a complaint, legally referred to as information or accusation, in a court of law. Upon the filing and recording of the complaint, a criminal indictment is issued by a court of law that becomes the written document detailing the accusations brought up against an individual. A grand jury usually hands out a criminal indictment upon verification of a criminal act committed by an individual.
The prosecution provides the evidence and information based on the investigations they have conducted regarding the crime. Once the prosecution is sure of its case, it approaches the grand jury to request for an indictment. A grand jury, a jury composed of 16 - 23 citizens called to jury duty, reviews the evidence and the information provided for by the prosecution in order to determine if the case is strong enough to hold up in a court of law. Once it has been proven to be strong enough, the grand jury returns the criminal indictment and the legal proceedings against the defendant continue.
A criminal indictment usually details the information relevant to the case such as the name of the defendant, the crimes committed and how it was committed as well as when and where it was done. When listing the crimes committed, a separate count for each crime committed is detailed, such as one count for assault and another count for murder.
A criminal indictment is a formal accusation but not equivalent to a guilty verdict.