What is an "information"?

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Question:

What is an “information”?

Answer:

An “information,” like a complaint or an indictment, is a document that charges a defendant with a crime or crimes.

In federal court, prosecutors use an information to charge misdemeanors. They can also use an information to charge a felony if the defendant has agreed to forego the grand jury process. (Defendants typically agree to waive a grand jury when they’ve already agreed to a plea deal with the prosecution.)

In many states, the information is what follows a felony complaint. If the prosecution has charged a defendant with one or more felonies, the case will proceed to a preliminary hearing (sometimes called a preliminary examination), unless it settles or the prosecution dismisses charges before then. At the preliminary hearing, the judge decides whether there’s probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crimes alleged in the complaint.

After the judge has held the defendant over for trial—that is, determined that probable cause exists—the prosecution files an information. The information replaces the previously-filed complaint, detailing the charges against the defendant. In some states, the information may include not only the offenses for which the judge found probable cause, but also any other crimes that are supported by the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.

by: Micah Schwartzbach

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