A charging foul in basketball is when the attacking player with the basketball charges into and through their defender. As a result, the defensive player falls back, to sell the call. A charging foul is referred to as a "charge" for short. Defenders often try to draw a charge by getting in good position and baiting the offensive player into committing the violation.
To signal a charging foul has occurred, the referee will emphatically point with their entire arm towards the other end of the court to signal that the possession will be "going the other way." Charges are exciting and energizing for a team, and can easily swing the momentum of a game at any given point. It also is a way for smaller defenders to even the playing field against taller and stronger players.
When excessive or forceful contact happens between an offensive and defensive player, the referee is given two options. They can either call a charging foul or a blocking foul. A charging foul means the offensive player is at fault and is called for a foul. A blocking foul is the opposite, and the defensive player is at fault. Several factors go into the deciding of what the call will be a charging foul: If the defender has their feet set and is not moving, they are not in the restricted area (under the basket), and they do not create the contact. If any of the three criteria are not met, then the play is ruled a blocking foul on the defensive player.
A charging foul always results in a personal foul for the guilty party. Whichever offensive player committed the foul has it tallied, and after either five or six fouls (depending on the league rules) they foul out of the game. The team is also punished as the play results in a turnover and the defensive team getting possession of the ball.