What is the difference between a Complaint and an Indictment?

What is the difference between a Complaint and an Indictment?

Both a Complaint and an indictment are documents that formally charge a person with a crime or crimes, and names them as a formal Defendant. They are known as Charging Documents

A Complaint is a charging document that is drafted by a prosecutor and submitted to a judge for review. If a judge finds probable cause to charge the named Defendant, the Complaint is signed, filed into the Court system, and the Defendant is summoned to court via Summons or Notice. Most charges in the State of Minnesota are charged via Complaint, though the most serious offenses, such as Murder, are charged via Indictment.

An Indictment is also a charging document, but instead of being drafted by a prosecutor alone and submitted to a judge, the charges are decided by a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is a group of random citizens convened via Jury Duty to review evidence of crimes and decide collectively if the prosecutor has enough probable cause to charge the Defendant. Most criminal cases in Federal Court are charged via Indictment.


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