Complaint, Indictment, Information – What's the Diff?

Complaint, Indictment, Information – What's the Diff?

In California, there are three types of accusatory criminal filings:

  1. Complaint
  2. Indictment
  3. Information

What is a Complaint?

A Complaint is a document filed with a court indicating that on a date certain, the Defendant committed a crime. The prosecution can file a Complaint without any input from any other entity, so long as they have a good faith belief that the charges contained in the Complaint are supported by “Probable Cause”.

Probable Cause and Filing an Information

“Probable Cause” serves as a litmus test for the provability of a criminal charge lodged against a Defendant. It can be defined as supported by facts that lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has occurred. After the Complaint is filed, the test of Probable Cause is given before a magistrate at a Preliminary Hearing. There is no jury at the Preliminary Hearing, just a judge. If the prosecution convinces a judge that there is Probable Cause to support the charges, the prosecution must then file an “Information”.

What is an Indictment?

An indictment, on the other hand, is not decided to be filed by the prosecution, but rather the grand jury. The prosecution will present evidence to the grand jury in attempts to convince them that the Defendant committed certain crimes, again by the standard of Probable Cause. If the prosecution succeeds, the grand jury will issue the Indictment.

If any criminal filing has been made against you, call our Pomona office at 213-668-7779 to get working on your defense.

Related Posts
  • Reasonable Doubt and its Intricacies Read More
  • What is a Readiness Conference? Read More
  • What is an Arraignment? Read More