Article 21.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that an indictment “is the written statement of a grand jury accusing a person therein named of some act or omission which, by law, is declared to be an offense.”
Black’s Law Dictionary further defines an indictment as “an accusation in writing found and presented by a grand jury, legally convoked and sworn, to the court in which it is impaneled, charging that a person therein named has done some act, or been guilty of some omission, which by law, is a public offense, punishable on indictment.”
Old Constitutional law distinguished an indictment as being ” preferred at the suit of the government, and is usually framed in the first instance by the prosecuting officer of the government, and by him laid before the grand jury, to be found or ignored.”
In Texas, the District Attorney prepares the accusation and presents it to the Grand Jury through a state’s witness, usually a law enforcement officer. The Grand Jury only has to find that a crime was probably committed, and that the person accused (in the written accusation prepared by the prosecutor) probably did it.
The Indictment is the first step into the system for a person accused of a crime. The process has begun whereby the case goes to a District Court, attorneys are retained or appointed by the court, and the person becomes a “Defendant” to be tried by a jury or a judge.