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Glossary of Criminal Defense Terms

 

Following is a short answer glossary of criminal defense legal terms that will help you develop questions to ask your criminal defense attorney, better understand the criminal defense legal process, and make better use of this site and other reference materials. It is not intended to be a detailed, complete glossary and does not constitute legal advice.

Abuse Excuse: A self-defense claim where defendants seek to justify their actions by proving they were subjected to years of prolonged child and/or spousal abuse.

Accessory After the Fact: A person who takes an active role in concealing criminal conduct that has already taken place.

Accessory Before the Fact: A person who aids criminal activity but is not present when it is committed.

Accomplices: Partners in criminal activity.

Acquit: A judge or jury "acquits" a defendant by finding the defendant not guilty of the charges.

Acquittal: A finding by a judge or jury that the defendant is not guilty.

Action: Another word for a lawsuit.

Administrative Agency: A government department charged with enforcing laws and developing regulations.

Administrative Law Judge: A judicial officer who presides over cases brought by an administrative agency.

Admissible Evidence: Evidence that a trial judge can consider or can allow a jury to consider when reaching a verdict.

Admission: A defendant's out-of-court statement offered into evidence against a defendant by the prosecution. It is an exception to the hearsay rule.

Adversary: The party on the opposite side of a legal case.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts and assertions made under oath.

Aggravated Offense: A crime that is made more serious because of the way in which it was committed.

Alibi: A defense that asserts that the defendant could not have committed the crime because he or she was somewhere else at the time the crime was committed.

Allegation: In a formal written criminal complaint, a prosecutor's claim that a defendant violated the law.

Anticipatory Search Warrants: Search warrants that police obtain before contraband arrives at the location to be searched.

Appeal: A request submitted to a higher court to review the rulings or decision of a trial court judge. Decisions by courts of appeal often are made by three judges. Appeals in criminal cases rarely revisit the facts of the case, but are concerned with errors of law or procedure.

Appellant: The party who brings an appeal to an appellate court.

Appellate Court: A higher court that reviews the decisions of lower courts.

Appellee: The party who responds to an appeal brought by an appellant.

Argument: A persuasive presentation by the prosecution or defense to the jury that supports the prosecutor's or defendant's case.

Arraignment: Usually the defendant's first court appearance, in which he or she is formally charged with a crime and asked to respond by pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Other matters often handled at the arraignment are arranging for the appointment of defense counsel and the setting of bail or other conditions of release pending final disposition of the case.

Arrest: An arrest occurs when a police officer (or a citizen making a citizen's arrest) detains a person in a manner that makes it clear he or she is not free to leave, and continues to hold the person for the purpose of bringing criminal charges against him or her.

Arrest Report: A report prepared by the arresting officer summarizing the circumstances leading to the arrest.

Arson: The unlawful burning of a building.

Assault: A crime defined as either an attempt to batter (unlawfully touching) someone, or intentionally placing a person in fear of an immediate battery.

Attempt: Starting but not completing an intended criminal act. Attempts are crimes, usually punished less severely than completed crimes.

Attorney Work Product: Legal work, including the attorney's research and development of theories and strategies, that is considered to be privileged or confidential and therefore not available for review or inspection by the opposing side.

Authenticate: To identify an object for a trial.



Bail: Money paid to the court to ensure that an arrested person makes all required court appearances. If the defendant fails to appear, the bail is forfeited.

Bail Bond: A guarantee given to the court by a bail bond seller to pay a defendant's bail should the defendant fail to appear in court. The bail bond seller charges the defendant, or other person who obtains the bond, a nonrefundable premium of approximately 10% of the amount of bail as a condition for providing the guarantee.

Bailiff: A uniformed peace officer who maintains order in the courtroom and performs other courtroom duties, such as escorting defendants in custody to and from a courtroom, attending to the needs of a jury, and handing exhibits to witnesses.

Battery: The wrongful touching of another person. Battery is usually a misdemeanor, although it becomes a felony if the touching results in (or is intended to cause) serious injury.

Bench: A judge's courtroom chair and desk. "Bench" is also a substitute term for "judge." For example, a defendant might ask for a "bench trial," meaning a trial by a judge without a jury.

Best Evidence Rule: An evidence rule that restricts a witness from verbally testifying to the contents of a document unless the document is produced in court. This rule is also frequently used to require production of the original document rather than a copy.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The burden of proof that the prosecution must carry in a criminal trial to obtain a guilty verdict.

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Booking: The procedure in which a jail records pertinent information, often including a photograph and fingerprints, about a person who has been arrested and placed in custody.

Bounty Hunter: Person who chases down defendants who have skipped bail, and turns them in.

Bribery: The corrupt payment, receipt, or solicitation of a private favor for official action.

Brief: A legal document, written to the judge by the prosecution or defense, consisting of a persuasive statement of fact and law that supports that side's position on one or more issues in the case.

Burden of Proof: The requirement that the prosecution convince the jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of each and every element of the crime charged. In a criminal case the burden of proof always rests with the prosecution, except that, in federal courts, the defendant has the burden to prove an insanity or alibi defense.

Burglary: The crime of breaking into and entering a building with the intention to commit a felony. The breaking and entering need not be by force, and the felony need not be theft.



Capital Crime or Offense: A crime that can be punished by death or life in prison.

Caption: A heading on all pleadings submitted to the court that indicates basic information such as the defendant's name, the court, and the case number.

Challenge: A prosecution or defense request for the judge to excuse either a potential juror or to remove him or herself as judge (called a recusal) because of a conflict of interest.

Challenge for Cause: A claim made by one of the attorneys during jury voir dire that a potential juror is legally disqualified from jury service because of factors that would prevent the juror from being fair to his or her client.

Chambers: A judge's private business office, often located adjacent to the courtroom.

Charge: Formal allegation or accusation of criminal activity.

Child Pornography: Any visual depiction of actual or simulated sexual conduct by an individual under the age of 18 or lascivious exhibition of the pubic area of such an individual.

Child Procurement: The act of arranging or instigating a meeting with a child for the purpose of having sexual relations.

Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that proves a fact by means of an inference.

Citizen's Arrest: An arrest made by a private citizen. Citizen's arrests are lawful in certain limited situations, such as when a private citizen personally witnesses a violent crime and then detains the perpetrator.

City Attorney: An attorney who works for and represents a city, and who in certain circumstances has the authority to bring criminal prosecutions.

Civil: Civil lawsuits are generally between two private parties, whereas criminal actions involve government enforcement of the criminal laws.

Clear and Convincing Evidence: The burden of proof placed on a party in certain types of civil cases, such as cases involving fraud. Clear and convincing is a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence, the standard typical in most civil cases, but not as high as beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden placed on the prosecution in criminal cases.

Clerk's Office: The administrative office in a courthouse where legal documents are filed, stored, and made available to the public.

Closing Argument or Final Argument: A persuasive presentation made by the prosecution and the defense to the jury at the conclusion of a trial, arguing how, given the law and the evidence presented, that particular side should prevail.

Community Service: Unpaid work that benefits the community and that may be required of a convicted defendant as an alternative to a jail sentence.

Complaint: A pleading or legal document prepared by the prosecutor's office that formally charges the defendant with a crime or crimes. This initial charging document is also sometimes called an information.

Concurrent Sentences: Sentences for more than one crime that defendants serve at the same time.

Confession: A voluntary statement by an accused, orally or in writing, in which the accused admits guilt of a particular crime or crimes.

Consecutive Sentences: Sentences for more than one crime that defendants serve in sequence or one after the other.

Conspirators: Two or more people who join together to commit a crime.

Contempt of Court: Behavior, punishable by fine or imprisonment, in court or outside of court, that obstructs court administration, violates or resists a court order, or otherwise disrupts or shows disregard for the administration of justice.

Continuance: A delay in a scheduled court proceeding. The prosecution or defense can request a continuance when they want the court to postpone a deadline.

Contraband: Property that is illegal to possess or transport.

Conviction: A finding of guilty following a trial or plea bargain.

Costs or Court Costs: Expenses of trial other than attorney's fees, such as fees and costs for filing legal documents, court reporters, and expert witnesses fees.

Court: A government building where cases are heard. It can also mean the judge.

Court Clerk: A court employee who assists a judge with the administrative tasks of moving cases through the court system.

Court Reporter: The person who records every word that is said during official court proceedings and depositions, and who prepares a written transcript of those proceedings upon the request of the judge or a party.

Crime: A type of behavior that has been defined as warranting punishment by the state. Crimes and the punishments for committing crimes, are defined by Congress and state legislatures.

Cross-examination: The prosecution's or defense's opportunity to ask questions of the other side's witnesses.

Culpability: Guilt.

Culpable: Guilty or blameworthy.

Custodial Interrogations: Police questioning of a person under arrest.



Damages: Money that civil courts award to compensate those who have been injured or who have lost property through another's wrongdoing.

Defendant: A person who has been formally charged by the prosecutor or grand jury with committing a crime. In civil cases, the defendant is the party who has been sued by the person initiating the lawsuit.

Defense Attorney: The attorney who speaks and acts on behalf of the defendant.

Determinate Sentences: Sentences for fixed terms. Prisoners may be released on parole before they have finished serving their sentences.

Direct Examination: The initial questioning of a witness by the party who has called that witness.

Discovery in Criminal Cases: The procedures used by the defense and prosecution to find out before trial what information the other side has and intends to use if the trial takes place. As a general rule, the defense is entitled to discover more information than is the prosecution because of the Fifth Amendment rule against mandatory self-incrimination.

Disorderly Conduct: A criminal charge made when a person is disturbing the peace, drunk in public, or loitering.

District Attorney or D.A. or Prosecutor: The prosecuting attorney who works for and represents the local county government in criminal cases.

Diversion: An alternative procedure in which the case is handled outside of the court. Generally, a person who agrees to be diverted will escape criminal charges if he or she stays out of trouble for a specific period of time and cooperates in the rehabilitation services made available. Diversion is usually only available for minor crimes and drug offenses when rehabilitation appears to be possible.

Docket: A formal record of all the legal documents that have been filed, court proceedings, and orders that have taken place in a particular case.

Domestic Violence: Violence between members of a household, usually spouses; an assault or other violent act committed by one member of a household against another.

Double Jeopardy: A rule from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits a defendant from being made to stand trial twice for the same offense. There are some exceptions to this rule.

DUI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a crime. A conviction can result in jail time.

DWI: Driving while intoxicated from alcohol or other drugs is a crime. A conviction can result in jail time.



Elements of a Crime: Component parts of crimes. Each element must be proven by the prosecution to satisfy its burden of proof.

Entrapment: The act by police or their agents to induce a person to commit a crime for the purposes of prosecuting that person for that induced crime.

Evidence: Information presented to a judge or jury, including the testimony of witnesses and documents that tend to prove or disprove guilt or innocence.

Ex Parte: A contact with the judge by one party outside the presence of the other party is considered an "ex parte contact" and is generally forbidden unless it concerns a routine scheduling matter that doesn't relate to the substance of the case.

Ex Post Facto Law: A law that attempts to punish an act that was not illegal when the act took place. Such laws are unconstitutional.

Excited Utterance: An exception to the hearsay rule that finds an out-of-court statement to be reliable if it is made about a startling event while the person making the statement is experiencing that event.

Exclusionary Rule: A judge-created rule that evidence that police seize illegally is generally inadmissible at trial.

Exculpatory Evidence: Evidence that points toward a defendant's innocence. Prosecutors are required to hand over such evidence to the defense, even if the defense doesn't' request it, and a showing that this rule was violated can sometimes result in a conviction being reversed.

Exhibit: A tangible object presented to the judge or jury during trial to help the prosecution or defense present its case.

Expert Witness: A person who, because of his or her special knowledge or training, is permitted to offer an opinion about a set of facts when testifying before a jury. Nonexpert witnesses, by contrast, usually may only testify as to their firsthand observations, but not their opinions.

Expunge: Destroy, erase, or blot out.



Failure to Register: Failure to register as a sex offender.

False Arrest: A civil tort that alleges a person was unlawfully detained.

Felony: Serious crime usually punishable by a prison term of more than one year or in some cases by death.

Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-incrimination: The constitutional right of every person to remain silent when being questioned by the police and to not take the witness stand at trial or other court proceedings.

Forfeiture: Forfeiture laws authorize the government to seize property that was used in connection with certain types of criminal activity.
Forgery: The act of altering or falsifying a document with the intent to defraud someone.

Foundation: A set of facts explaining the origin of evidence such as documents and photographs, thereby establishing their authenticity. Before admitting these and other items into evidence, the judge will require that the party trying to admit them establish an adequate foundation.

Frivolous Motion: A motion that is made without legally valid grounds, such as a motion that is designed solely to delay the legal proceedings.



Grand Jury: A group of 15-23 citizens selected for court service to decide, based on the prosecutor's evidence, whether or not there is probable cause to charge a defendant with a crime.

Guilty: One of the pleas a defendant may enter in response to being charged with a crime. A guilty plea admits the charges and subjects the defendant to punishment for them. The state of being found guilty or culpable by a jury is the opposite of innocent.



Harmless Error: A trial judge's mistake that an appellate court decides did not have an impact on the case's outcome.

Hate Crimes: A hate crime refers to a crime committed not out of animosity toward a victim as an individual, but out of hostility toward the group to which the victim belongs.

Hearing: A court proceeding before a judge, much shorter than a trial.

Hearsay: An out-of-court statement offered in court to prove the truth of what that statement asserts. As a general rule, hearsay cannot be used as evidence because it is not reliable and cannot be cross examined.

Holding: The rule for which an appellate court opinion stands.

Holding Cells: Courthouse jail cells, lockups, or bullpens where defendants who are in custody and who are appearing in court are required to wait. After their court appearance, the defendant is taken back to the regular jail where he or she
is being held.

Hostile Witness or Adverse Witness: A witness so hostile to the party who called him or her that cross-examination is permitted.



Immunity: Freedom from prosecution. Prosecutors often grant one defendant immunity as an incentive to testify against another defendant. Prosecutors can also force immunized defendants to testify because if they refuse they can be held in contempt of court.

Impanel: Assembling a panel (group) of prospective jurors for jury selection.

Impeach: To discredit a person's believability.

In Camera: Court session that is closed to the public, often conducted in the judge's chambers.

Inadmissible: When evidence offered by a party is ruled inadmissible by the judge, it means that it is not allowed to become a part of the court record and may therefore not be considered as evidence.

Incompetence to Stand Trial: Lacking the mental ability to understand or participate in legal proceedings. A defendant may be sane at the time a crime was committed yet be incompetent to stand trial.

Indeterminate Sentences: Sentences for an unfixed period of time, such as "ten years to life." A parole board often decides how long an offender given an indeterminate sentence actually serves in prison.

Information: The term commonly used for the initial document filed in court by the prosecutor that charges a defendant with one or more crimes.

Insanity: A mental disease or defect that sufficiently interferes with a defendant's ability to control his actions or appreciate the nature of his act that the defendant is not considered to be legally responsible for his criminal acts.



Jurisdiction: A court's geographic power and legal authority to hear a particular type of case.

Juror: A person selected to serve on a jury.

Jury: A group of people who decide the facts of a case and render a verdict of guilty or not guilty, on specific criminal charges defined by the judge in jury instructions.

Jury Instructions: Legal rules given by the judge to the jury. The judge typically gets some of these rules from jury instruction books which contain the standard rules given by other criminal courts in that state and rules that are custom drafted by the prosecution and defense for the particular facts of the case.

Juvenile: A minor. Juveniles are entitled to special treatment under the law.



Larceny: Another word for theft. The taking of property belonging to another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property of its possession.

Law Clerk: An assistant to a judge or attorney, usually a recent law school graduate.

Leading Question: A question that suggests the answer, often a statement asked as a question.

Lesser Included Offense: A crime that is made up of some but not all of the elements of a more serious crime.

Liable: A legal conclusion that an offender is civilly responsible for a victim's losses.

Lineup: A procedure in which the police place a suspect in a line with a group of other persons and ask an eyewitness to the crime to pick the person he or she saw at the crime scene out of the group. If the suspect is selected and later charged with the crime, the fact of the lineup identification may be introduced as evidence.



Magistrate: A court official who acts as a judge in certain court proceedings.

Malice: Typically, a willful or intentional state of mind to bring about some injury or wrongdoing. Malice can sometimes be found in other ways, such as where someone's actions show recklessness.

Manslaughter: The crime of killing a person but without the malice (evil intent) required to classify the killing as murder.

Mayhem: Dismemberment or permanent disfigurement.

Memorandum of Points and Authorities: A document that cites legal authorities such as statutes and court cases, and explains how those authorities support the position advocated by the party who wrote the memorandum. Usually written to support a motion.

Miranda Warning: A warning that the police must give to a suspect in custody before interrogating the suspect if the police want to use the suspect's answers as evidence in a trial. The Miranda warning requires that the suspect be told that he or she has the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney present when being questioned, the right to a court-appointed attorney if a private attorney is unaffordable, and the fact that any statements made by the suspect can be used against him or her in court.

Misdemeanors: Crimes, less serious than felonies, punishable by no more than one year in jail.

Mistrial: A trial that ends before the full proceeding has been completed because of some prejudicial error or wrong that has occurred.

Money Laundering: The federal crime of transferring illegally obtained money through legitimate persons or accounts so that its original source cannot be traced.

Motion: A request to the court for an order or ruling. Some motions are made orally, others in writing. Depending on the ruling sought, a motion can be made before, during, or after trial.

Motion in Limine: A request for a court order excluding irrelevant or prejudicial evidence in advance of it being offered in open court, usually made in jury trials.

Movant: Party making or bringing a motion.

Moving Party: See movant.

Mug Shot: Photo taken of the defendant, by police, during the booking process after arrest.

Murder: The unlawful killing of another person when the killing was deliberate and lacked legal justification, or the result of willful behavior that disregarded the inherent risk to human life, or occurred while the defendant was committing an inherently dangerous felony.



No Contest: A plea entered by the defendant in response to being charged with a crime, whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies guilt of the crime, but agrees to submit to punishment as if guilty. The reason why this sort of plea is typically entered is that it often can't later be used as an admission of guilt if a civil trial is held after the criminal trial.

Nolo Contendre: See no contest.

Not Guilty: A verdict that the defendant has not been proven guilty of the offense charged. Although a not guilty verdict is often taken to mean that the jury finds the person innocent, it actually only means that the jury were unable to find the defendant guilty.

Notice of Motion: A document that notifies an adversary about when and where a motion will be made, what the reason for the motion is, and what supporting documentation will be relied on in making the motion.



Objection: Taking exception to or not agreeing with some statement made by or document filed by an adversary. Usually refers to the response the prosecution or defense makes in court when they don't want some testimony or document admitted into evidence during the trial.

Opening Statement: A statement made by an attorney before the evidence is actually introduced to preview the evidence and set the stage for the trial.

Opinions: Appellate court judges' written explanations for and justifications of their decisions.

Own Recognizance: A way the defendant can get out of jail, without paying bail money, on the defendant's promise to appear in court when required to be there.

Order: A ruling or decision by a court. A court order can be made orally or in writing.

Overrule: Deny. When the judge overrules an objection, the judge denies the objection and the evidence objected to is allowed in.



Party or Parties: The prosecution and the defendant are the parties to a criminal case.

Percipient Witness: A witness who perceived the facts he or she testifies about.

Peremptory Challenge: An opportunity to challenge (dismiss or excuse) a potential juror during jury selection without having to give a reason.

Perjury: A crime committed by lying while under oath.

Petty Theft: Taking property valued less than $400. Where the property is worth $400 or more, the crime is grand theft.

Plea: The defendant's formal answer to criminal charges. Defendants enter one of the following pleas: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Although this plea may be entered at any time during the case, or not at all, it usually comes shortly before the case is scheduled to come to trial.

Plea Bargaining: The negotiation between the defense and prosecution of the settlement of a criminal case.

Pleading: Written document setting out the criminal charges.

Prejudice: Bias or discrimination.

Prejudicial Error: A wrong decision by the judge that in retrospect deprived a convicted defendant of a fair trial and therefore justifies a reversal of the case by an appellate court.

Preliminary Hearing: A court proceeding in which the prosecution must present enough evidence for the judge to justify holding the defendant to answer for the crime, or the case is dismissed. If the case is dismissed, charges may be refiled.

Preponderance of the Evidence: The burden of proof in most civil actions. Contrasted with the much higher prosecution burden in criminal cases of beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prescription Fraud: The act of obtaining prescription (legal) drugs through forged or stolen prescriptions.

Presentence Report: A written report of an investigation conducted by a probation officer, social worker, or psychologist working to assist the judge determine a defendant's sentence.

Presumption of Innocence: One of the most sacred principles in American criminal justice, which holds that a defendant is innocent until the prosecution proves each element of the crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pretrial Conference: A meeting between the prosecutor, the defense, and the judge before trial to identify undisputed facts, share witness lists or any other required discovery, and sometimes attempt to settle the case.

Pretrial Motion: A request to the court made before trial or an order or ruling. Typical pretrial motions include a motion for continuance, motion to exclude evidence that was illegally seized, or evidence of lineup that was unfairly conducted.

Prior Inconsistent Statement: A procedural rule that allows certain out-of-court statements to be admitted into evidence for the purpose of discrediting a witness by showing that the witness gave a contradictory account of something on a prior occasion.

Priors: Past convictions.

Privileged: Confidential.

Privileges: Legal principles that keep certain communications confidential and thus out-of-court or discovery proceedings. Some common privileges include confidential communications made to a spouse, doctor, attorney, psychotherapist, or clergy.

Pro Bono: Legal services performed pro bono or on a pro bono basis are done for free or a reduced fee.

Probable Cause: Reasonable basis for certain actions by the police. Probable cause is more than a mere hunch but not so much as to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

Probative Evidence: Evidence that tends to prove or disprove some contested issue.

Procedural Law: Laws or rules that govern the method of how a criminal case is administered and tried in court. Procedural rules are contrasted with rules of "substantive law" that define the rights and duties of parties, and the elements of particular crimes.

Prosecution: To prosecute or the prosecution of a case, means to bring a criminal case against a defendant. The prosecution can also refer to the government's team.

Prosecutors: Attorneys who work for the government to litigate criminal cases.

Prostitution: The crime of engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual activity for hire.



Rap Sheet: A defendant's arrest and conviction record as maintained by one or more criminal justice agencies.

Rape: Unlawful sexual activity with a person without consent and usually by force or threat of injury.

Reasonable Doubt: Continuing doubt following serious consideration of a matter. Reasonable doubt is the same as not being convinced of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rebuttal Evidence: Evidence offered to contradict evidence presented by the adversary.

Record: The official written transcript of court proceedings in a case. When something goes on the record, it appears in the official transcript.

Recross-examination: Additional cross-examination of witnesses called by an adversary on redirect examination.

Redact: To delete or cover up part of a document because it refers to inadmissible evidence.

Redirect Examination: Additional direct examination questions of a witness by the party who called that witness just after that witness has been cross-examined by the adversary.

Regulations: Rules made by administrative agencies.

Relevancy: A connection to the issues in the case. Relevant evidence is evidence that helps to prove or disprove some fact in connection with the case.

Respondent: The name for the defendant in cases where the plaintiff is called a "petitioner."

Response or Responsive Pleading: A legal document in which a party responds to an adversary's pleading, motion, or brief.



Sanctions or To Sanction: Fines imposed by the court on one or both of the parties for improper conduct during the case.

Seal: To conceal from the public records.

Self-defense: The use of reasonable force against an aggressor by one who reasonably believes it necessary in order to avoid imminent bodily harm. Self-defense is a justification for conduct that would otherwise be a crime.

Sentencing Guidelines: Laws that either suggest or dictate the sentence a judge is required to give for specific crimes.

Stalking: The act of threatening, harassing, or annoying someone, especially with the intent of placing the recipient in fear that an illegal act or an injury will be inflicted on the recipient or a member of the recipient's family or household.

Statute of Limitations: The legal time limit in which criminal charges can be filed against a defendant for a particular crime. Some crimes, such as murder, do not have a statute of limitations, and the statute of limitations for criminal acts against children are much longer than for crimes against adults.

Stipulation: An agreement between parties.

Stop and Frisk: A police officer's brief and limited pat down of a person's outer clothing. It is less invasive than a full-scale search.

Strike: To delete testimony from the official court record.

Subpoena: A court order compelling a person to appear in court.

Subpoena Duces Tecum: A court order compelling a person to appear in court and bring along with them certain objects or documents.

Substantive Law: Rules defining crimes and rights and duties of parties as opposed to procedural laws.

Suspended Sentence: A sentence that the judge hands down but does not require the defendant to serve right away or at all if certain conditions, such as successfully completing probation, are satisfied.

Sustain: Uphold. When a judge sustains an objection, it is upheld and the evidence objected to is not allowed into evidence.



Tax Evasion: The willful attempt to defeat or circumvent the tax law in order to illegally reduce one's tax liability.

Tax Fraud: The crime of intentionally filing a false tax return or making other false statements under penalties of perjury to taxing authorities.

Testimony: Evidence given under oath, in a court or in a deposition.

Time Served: The time a defendant spends in jail awaiting resolution of his or her case. If convicted, the time served may be credited toward the sentence.

Tort: A civil wrong other than a breach of contract. Some actions, such as assault and battery, can be both crimes and torts.

Transcript: A written record of a court proceeding or deposition.

Trial: A judicial examination and determination of issues between parties before a court.



U.S. Attorneys: Prosecutors for the federal government.



Vacate: To overturn a lower court's decision.

Vehicular Manslaughter: Any person who drives a vehicle and unintentionally but unlawfully kills another human being.

Verdict: The jury's final decision in a criminal case: guilty or not guilty.

Voir Dire: The process of questioning and selecting a jury. The judge, the prosecution, and the defense all question potential jurors for the purpose of deciding whether the jurors are acceptable.



Waive: Give up.

Waive Time: Give up one's rights to have a criminal case prosecuted according to speedy trial rules.

Warrant: Order from a judge or magistrate authorizing the police to arrest a person or to search a particular location for evidence (search warrant).

White Collar Crime: A crime that usually involves money or property obtained through deception, including fraud, forgery, embezzlement, counterfeiting, and computer tampering.

Witness: A person who testifies in court.

Wobbler: A crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Writ: A written court order to perform a specified act or giving authority to have it done. Often a writ is directed to a sheriff who takes the appropriate action. An example would be a Writ of Attachment.

 

 

 
 





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