Information (formal criminal charge)

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An information is a formal criminal charge made by a prosecutor, without the necessity of obtaining a grand jury indictment.[1]

The term is used in Canada[2] and various other common law jurisdictions, including a number of U.S. states.

The information is one of the oldest common law pleadings (first appearing around the 13th century), and is nearly as old as the better-known indictment, with which it has always coexisted.[3]


Criminal information

Section 576(2) of the Criminal Code provides that no criminal information shall be laid or granted before a grand jury.


See sections 504 to 507 and 788 and 789 and Form 2 of the Criminal Code.

United Kingdom[edit]

England and Wales[edit]

A criminal information was a proceeding in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court brought at the suit of the Crown without a previous indictment.[4]

Criminal informations other than those filed ex officio by the Attorney-General were abolished by section 12 of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1938. Any power to bring proceedings for an offence by criminal information in the High Court was abolished by section 6(6) of the Criminal Law Act 1967.

The last occasion on which there was an ex officio information by a law officer was in 1911.[5]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Any power to bring proceedings for an offence by criminal information in the High Court was abolished by section 6(6) of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967.

United States[edit]

Because the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly creates a constitutional right to be indicted by a grand jury, the information is used in federal criminal procedure only when a defendant voluntarily pleads guilty (often as part of a plea bargain) and waives the right to an indictment.

However, the Fifth Amendment right to a grand jury indictment does not apply against the state governments because the grand jury provision has not been incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, the information has always been the dominant charging document in the western U.S. states, where extremely dispersed population distribution during the American frontier era made it difficult to select and convene petit juries to hold trials. In that era, convening even larger grand juries just to indict criminals was seen as an unnecessary extravagance.

In western U.S. states, district attorneys are authorized by statute to charge criminal suspects by filing informations. The defendant is then entitled to challenge the information at a preliminary hearing, during which the prosecution must establish to the judge's satisfaction that probable cause exists to bind over the defendant until trial.

The grand jury is still available in the states where informations are used, but it is usually used only for issuing indictments for certain types of crimes or for certain types of anti-corruption investigations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Protass, Harlan J. (2009-03-11). "Madoff's "Information": Why didn't the Ponzi schemer get indicted instead?". Slate. 
  2. ^ "Criminal Code of Canada". 
  3. ^ Lester B. Orfield, Criminal Procedure from Arrest to Appeal (New York: New York University Press, 1947), 194–197.
  4. ^ Halsbury's Statutes, Fourth Edition, One of the reprints,[which?] Volume 12(1), page 360, notes to section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1967
  5. ^ The Seventh Report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee (Cmnd 2659), paragraph 63

External links[edit]