Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body formally levels charges against a high official of government. Impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it is only a formal statement of charges, akin to an indictment in criminal law, and is thus only the first step towards removal. Once an individual is impeached, he or she must then face the possibility of conviction via legislative vote, which then entails the removal of the individual from office.
Because impeachment and conviction of officials involves an overturning of the normal Constitutional procedures by which individuals achieve high office (election, ratification, or appointment), it is usually only reserved for those deemed to have commited serious abuses of their office. In the United States, for example, impeachment at the Federal level is reserved for those who may have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors". Several Federal officials, including two Presidents and several judges, have been impeached over the course of US history.