An indictment is required by law to contain the elements of the offense the defendant is charged with and must fairly inform the defendant of the offense so charged. The defendant is also entitled to conduct discovery as to material considered relevant to the government’s case him or her. At any subsequent trial, the Government is prohibited from presenting evidence of other crimes for the sole purpose of showing that the defendant was likely to have committed the charged offense, however other crimes may be used to show criminal intent for the charged offense if they are held to be relevant by the court. For example, if the defendant is an admitted tax protester and was previously convicted of tax evasion the previous conviction would be relevant to show the defendant most likely intended to evade taxes as to the current charges and thus the previous conviction would most likely be admitted by the current court of law.
Felonies, (defined as crimes punishable by a sentence exceeding one year), must be charged by an indictment returned by a grand jury, unless the defendant waives the right to be indicted. Misdemeanors (defined as crimes punishable by a maximum sentence of one year or less), may be charged by grand jury indictment or by information. An information is legal document listing the charges against a defendant and is filed by the appropriate federal prosecutor. An indictment or information, must be written in plain, concise, and definite terms and must include a statement of the essential facts the government is asserting constitute the charged offense.
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