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A help in serving warrants

Q: What is a sealed indictment?

Megan Clark

There were 17 sealed indictments that issued capiases — which is a writ ordering the arrest of a named person — on Sept. 19 in Prince Edward County Circuit Court. Among the indictments were 11 distribute cocaine charges, one conspiracy to distribute cocaine charge, one distribute heroin charge, one conspiracy to distribute cocaine charge, two possession of schedule I or II drug charges and one possession with intent to distribute marijuana charge. A sealed indictment does not name the individual which has been indicted. According to Virginia law, Virginia Code Section 19.2-192.1 provides that “upon ex parte motion by the Commonwealth and for good cause shown, the circuit court may seal an indictment until such time as the defendant is arrested.” 

The law basically states that given a certain reason, the indictment may remain unnamed until the capias has been served.

“There are times when the prosecution may not want an individual to know that an indictment is outstanding against him/her,” said Prince Edward County Commonwealth’s Attorney Megan Clark. “The key is that we have to have good cause to keep the indictment sealed — or secret — from the individual and community.”

She said an example would be if the defendant’s indictment is a part of a larger investigation, the prosecution may need to keep things confidential and secret until further along in the process. 

“There may be concerns about individuals fleeing, destroying evidence or witness tampering,” Clark said.