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What is an “information”?
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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