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Impeachment is the first of two stages in a specific process for a legislative body to remove a government official without that official's agreement. The second stage is conviction.
Impeachment is so rare that the term can be misunderstood. A typical misconception is to confuse it with involuntary removal from office; in fact, it is only a legal statement of charges, paralleling an indictment in criminal law. An official who is impeached faces a second legislative vote (whether by the same body or another), which determines conviction, or failure to convict, on the charges embodied by the impeachment. Most constitutions require a supermajority to convict. The word "impeachment" derives from Latin roots expressing the idea of becoming caught or entrapped, and has analogues in the modern French verb empĂȘcher (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 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 based, but not always, on indictable offenses. The process of removing the official is also different.
Impeachment is a British invention. Following the British example, the constitutions of Virginia (1776) and Massachusetts (1780) and other states thereafter adopted the impeachment doctrine. In private organizations, a motion to impeach can be used to prefer charges.