Interviewer: What does it mean to be indicted versus just have a warrant out for you? Is it the same thing or is it completely different?
Stuart Austin: They are two separate things. An indictment it is that a case has been presented to a grand jury, secret proceedings and they have voted that there is enough evidence against you to go forward to trial.
A warrant means that somebody has usually filed a case; for example, your girlfriend signed a statement against you and said you beat her up or you did something to her, and then the police are then going out to be on the lookout for you.
It’s a lower standard for a warrant because the police have only looked into that case. It hasn’t gone before a tribunal or a grand jury. It just doesn’t have that legal ramification yet. Once the warrant is issued and executed, it then goes in front of judge, which would be the first step to decide whether that probable cause for the arrest, to hold you, and set bail or release you. Then after that stage, it’s an indictment. It’s really goes through 2, 3, or 4 stages before the issuance of a warrant.
Which Is More Serious, An Indictment or a Warrant?
Interviewer: It’s more serious if you’re under indictment?
Stuart Austin: Correct. It shows that there is a case against you and to have a trial is one of the next steps. With a warrant there may just be somebody who lied about you and the allegation wasn’t investigated well enough.
In Jail and Awaiting Trial: Are You Always Eligible to Have Bail Set?
Interviewer: If you’re arrested, under what circumstances will you have bail set and you’ll be able to get out, or even to be released on your own recognizance? Alternatively, is it possible you’ll have no bail set and you’ll just have to stay in jail until your trial?
An Example of a Case Where Attorney Austin’s Practice Was Successful in Reducing a Very High Bail
Stuart Austin: The law says that a judge who is setting bail could look at three factors. The first factor is the nature of the charge; how bad is it? What does it look like? Meaning, a simple marijuana possession is very different than an armed robbery.
The second factor is; how likely is this person to come back to court? Meaning, if he releases you on $5 bail, are you going to go off to Mexico and never come back again? That deciding factor of it is really what your ties are to the community. Do you live here? Do you own a home, do you have children in the school system, and is your job here? Have you been at that job 20 years or two years? Those are the things that are ties to the community.
Then the last factor is if he or she releases you, is it going to shock the public conscious? Meaning, is it a person who, if it’s a criminal case and he or she been released 10 times and never shown up in court before and who’s history is pretty bad, then the public is going to say, “Why’d you do that?” Is the nature of the crime so heinous that it is impossible to set bail for the accused?
We just had an arraignment a little while ago where the client was accused of terrible sexual abuse crimes. The defendant was somebody that we had represented previously. We knew him well, and we also knew the person who made the allegations against him.
We convinced the judge, based on our previous file, as well as some information that we had gleaned even before the arraignment, that the charges probably were not real, that accuser had probably made them up. On a case where he probably should have set $20,000 to $40,000 bail, the judge ordered only a $500 bail, which was nothing, but we had to really explain to him about the situation and about the defendant, and we had done our homework beforehand and he released him on that.
An Attorney Can Assist in Modifying Bail or Release Conditions
Interviewer: If you’ve been assessed a very high bail or no bail, can you call an attorney to try to get your bail conditions or release conditions modified? Is that a tactic that attorneys can help with?
Stuart Austin: Maybe the judge didn’t initially have all the information and the judge can then reissue. Sometimes, we can put together a bail package for you, saying, “Instead of setting that $20,000 bail, what if we just put an ankle bracelet on him and we had a guard, a system where somebody would check up on him every 5 or 4 hours so we would know what’s going on and the ankle bracelet would monitor in there.” That might suffice instead of the client paying a large cash amount.
Also as I said, sometimes, when you as a defendant arrive in court, it is common to get very nervous and you forget to tell your attorney certain things. Sometimes, the attorney that represented a client at the arraignment may not have done a thorough job, so now we can come back and say to the judge, “We’ve spoken to the victim in this case, and the victim, it turns out, was wrong in the description; that he was a tall man, very thin, and we found out that what they really wrote in their paperwork was that he’s a short, fat man.”