What does being indicted actually mean?

President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has been charged with three counts of lying when buying a firearm (AP)
President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has been charged with three counts of lying when buying a firearm (AP)

Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, has been prosecuted by the Justice Department in connection with a firearm he bought in 2018. The charges were brought by special counsel David Weiss.

The three counts include unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and making false statements on a federal firearms form.

After his initial plea agreement fell through, the situation has taken an unprecedented turn, possibly setting up an interesting trial during his father's 2024 reelection campaign.

But he isn’t the only one dealing with the court.

In April, Donald Trump greeted his supporters after pleading not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. After entering his plea at a Manhattan courthouse, the former US president flew to his Mar-a-Lago ranch to deliver a televised address as he sought to bolster support for his effort to be re-elected next year.

Trump was accused in New York of orchestrating hush-money payments to cover up claims of extramarital affairs that dated back to when he originally ran for office in 2016. He has denied all the claims.

Appearing alongside supporters and in front of an audience wearing pro-Trump baseball caps, the 76-year-old said: “I never thought anything like this could happen in America. I never thought it could happen. The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”

While Trump will not be prosecuted for the “crime” he has confessed to, he remains under the cosh as his affairs are investigated.

Donald Trump has returned to Florida, where he now lives (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump has returned to Florida, where he now lives (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump became the first former US president to have been indicted — but it was not until the hearing in April that the world learned what for.

At the court hearing, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg accused Trump of falsifying business records to conceal a violation of election laws.

Trump is accused of making payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed the ex-president of fathering a child out of wedlock.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all indictments.

Trump has been charged criminally four times and will have to appear in court for many trials in 2024 as he seeks re-election.

What does indicted mean?

Indicted is the American legal term for someone who has been formally accused of a crime.

Does this mean Donald Trump has been charged with a crime?

Yes. As per the US legal process, a ‘grand jury’ — a group of citizens who decide whether there is evidence for prosecutors to proceed with a legal case — agreed in March that Trump’s case should be brought forward. This preceded the events on Tuesday.

The case has been named The People of the State of New York v. Donald J. Trump.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records is considered a misdemeanour — the US equivalent of a tort (an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability). However, if it leads to further and more serious lawbreaking, it can be considered a felony — the American version of a crime.

Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 indictments (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 indictments (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

What happens next?

Following Trump’s arraignment, prosecutors are expected to produce their evidence in the next 65 days.

Trump’s legal team then had until August 8 to file any motions — requests to the court for a judge to make a decision about the case.

The prosecution will respond by September 19.

Judge Juan Merchan said he will rule on the motions at the next in-person hearing, scheduled for December 4.

Trump’s lawyers are expected to work over the next few months to get the case, and any possible trial, dismissed.

Trump’s appearances led to a boost for his re-election campaign as he enjoyed a surge in support in the Republican polls after his address. There was also an influx of donations to his cause as he seeks to return to the White House.

There is no doubt that Trump will seek to use the situation as a springboard to press ahead with his presidential ambition.

A trial is not guaranteed but now seems likely to happen in 2024 and Stormy Daniels would be set to feature as a witness.

If Trump is convicted, each count could result in a prison sentence of up to four years, to be served consecutively. This means that, in a worst-case scenario for Trump, he could be given 136 years. But it is also possible a prison sentence could not be invoked at all by the judge.