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Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity and the outcome of which, depending on the country, can lead to the removal of that official from office or other punishment.

The word "impeachment" derives from Latin roots expressing the idea of becoming caught or entrapped, and has analogues in the modern French verb empêcher (to prevent) and the modern English impede. Medieval popular etymology also associated it (wrongly) with derivations from the Latin impetere (to attack). (In its more frequent and more technical usage, impeachment of a person in the role of a witness is the act of challenging the honesty or credibility of that person.)

The process should not be confused with a recall election. A recall election is usually initiated by voters and can be based on "political charges", for example mismanagement, whereas impeachment is initiated by a constitutional body (usually a legislative body) and is usually, but not always, based on an indictable offense. The process of removing the official is also different.

Impeachment was first used in the British political system.[citation needed] More specifically, the process was first used by the English "Good Parliament" against Baron Latimer in the second half of the 14th century. Following the British example, the constitutions of Virginia (1776) and Massachusetts (1780) and other states thereafter adopted the impeachment doctrine, however they restricted the punishment to removal of the official from office. In private organizations, a motion to impeach can be used to prefer charges.[1]


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