presentment | Definition

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

Presentment in the criminal justice context refers to the formal accusation of a crime by a grand jury, which may or may not result in an indictment and subsequent criminal trial.

A presentment is a formal accusation by a grand jury that a person or entity has committed a crime. It is different from an indictment, which is a formal charging document issued by a prosecutor following a grand jury’s determination that there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal trial. Presentments are generally used in common law systems and are less common than indictments in modern criminal justice systems.

In some jurisdictions, a presentment can be used to initiate a criminal case, even without the involvement of a prosecutor. However, in most cases, a presentment will be followed by an indictment or other formal charging document issued by a prosecutor.

The use of presentments has been the subject of some controversy in the criminal justice system. Some critics argue that presentments give grand juries too much power, as they can be used to initiate criminal cases without the involvement of a prosecutor or other law enforcement official. Others argue that presentments provide a valuable check on the power of prosecutors and ensure that grand juries have an active role in the criminal justice process.

Despite these debates, presentments remain an important part of the criminal justice system in some jurisdictions. It is important for judges, attorneys, and other legal professionals to understand the role of presentments in the criminal justice process and to ensure that they are used appropriately and fairly.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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