information | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction 

An information is a formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a criminal offense. This is limited to misdemeanors at the federal level, but states can charge felonies in this way.

See also indictment.

An information is a type of charging document that is used in criminal cases to formally accuse a defendant of committing a crime. This document is typically issued by a government attorney, such as a prosecutor or district attorney, and serves as the formal basis for bringing criminal charges against the defendant.

Unlike an indictment, which is typically issued by a grand jury, an information is issued directly by the government attorney. This means that the information process can be quicker and more efficient than the grand jury process, which can be lengthy and time-consuming.

The information process is typically used in cases involving misdemeanors, which are less serious crimes than felonies. At the federal level, the information process is limited to misdemeanors, meaning that felony charges must be brought through the grand jury process. However, at the state level, many states allow felony charges to be brought through the information process.

Once an information has been filed, the defendant will be required to appear in court to face the charges. At this point, the defendant may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will proceed to trial, where the prosecution will present evidence in support of their case, and the defendant will have the opportunity to present a defense.

One of the key benefits of the information process is that it can be faster and more efficient than the grand jury process. This can be particularly important in cases where the evidence against the defendant is strong, as it allows the government attorney to quickly and efficiently bring charges against the defendant.

However, there are also potential downsides to the information process. For example, some critics argue that the process can be subject to abuse, particularly if the government attorney is politically motivated or if the defendant is a member of a minority group. Others argue that the information process can be less transparent and less fair than the grand jury process, particularly if the defendant does not have access to legal representation.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the information process remains an important tool for government attorneys in bringing criminal charges against defendants. By providing a formal mechanism for accusing defendants of criminal offenses, the information process helps to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair, transparent, and based on solid evidence.

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Last Modified: 04/05/2023


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