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Glossary


Table of Contents

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | XYZ

A

acquit - To absolve from a criminal charge.

adjourn - To delay, defer.

aka - Abbreviation for "also known as."

alibi - Defense to a criminal action that one was not present at the scene of a crime at the time of its commission.

appeal - Generally, the request that a court with appellate jurisdiction review the judgment, decision, or order of a lower court and set it aside (reverse it) or modify it; also, the judicial proceedings or steps in judicial proceedings resulting from such a request.

arraignment - The hearing before a court having jurisdiction in a criminal case, in which the identity of the defendant is established, the defendant is informed of the charge(s) and of his or her rights, and the defendant is required to enter a plea.

arrest - Taking a person into physical custody by authority of law, for the purpose of charging the person with a criminal offense.

attorney - A person trained in the law, admitted to practice before the bar of a given jurisdiction, and authorized to advise, represent, and act for other persons in legal proceedings.

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B

bail - (1) To effect the release of an accused person from custody, in return for a promise that he or she will appear at a place and time specified and submit to the jurisdiction and judgment of the court, guaranteed by a pledge to pay to the court a specified sum of money or property if the person does not appear. (2) The money or property pledged to the court or actually deposited with the court to effect the release of a person from legal custody.

bail bond - Obligation signed by sureties for the person named as principal to appear as may be required by a court.

bench warrant - A document issued by a court directing that a law enforcement officer bring the person named therein before the court, usually one who has failed to obey a court order or a notice to appear.

burden of proof - Obligation of affirmatively proving a fact in issue between the parties, as in a criminal case the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

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C

competence - (1) Sanity, mental capacity, functional adequacy; (2) qualification, ability, adequacy, capability.

complaint - (1) In general criminal justice usage, any accusation that a person(s) has committed an offense(s), received by or originating from a law enforcement or prosecutorial agency, or received by a court. (2) In judicial process usage, a formal document submitted to the court by a prosecutor, law enforcement officer, or other person, alleging that a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s) and requesting prosecution.

concurrent sentence - A sentence that is one of two or more sentences imposed at the same time after conviction for more than one offense and to be served at the same time; or, a new sentence imposed upon a person already under sentence(s) for a previous offense(s), to be served at the same time as one or more of the previous sentences.

confession - Voluntary admission of guilt.

consecutive sentence - A sentence that is one of two or more sentences imposed at the same time, after conviction for more than one offense, and which is served in sequence with the other sentences; or, a new sentence for a new conviction, imposed upon a person already under sentence(s) for a previous offense(s), which is added to a previous sentence(s), thus increasing the maximum time the offender may be confined or under supervision.

conviction - The judgment of a court, based on the verdict of a jury or judicial officer, finding the defendant guilty after trial or the guilty plea of the defendant.

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D

defendant - In criminal justice usage, a person formally accused of an offense(s) by the filing in court of a charging document.

definite sentence - A sentence to one year or less served at a jail.

detention - The legally authorized confinement of a person subject to criminal or juvenile court proceedings, until the point of commitment to a correctional facility or until release.

determinate sentence - A sentence of imprisonment where the term is for a specified single period of time, such as three years.

discovery - Pre-trial process by which a party to an action secures information from his opponent as to facts or documents in the opponent's possession or control.

dismissal - (1) In judicial proceedings generally, the disposal of an action, suit, motion or the like without trial of the issues; (2) The decision by a court to terminate adjudication of all outstanding charges in a criminal case, or all outstanding charges against a given defendant in a criminal case, thus terminating court action in the case and permanently or provisionally terminating court jurisdiction over the defendant in relation to those charges.

district attorney - An attorney who is the elected or appointed chief of a prosecution agency, and whose official duty is to conduct criminal proceedings on behalf of the people against persons accused of committing criminal offenses; and any attorney deputized to assist the chief prosecutor.

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E

evidence - Any form of proof used to induce belief or establish a fact.

exhibit -n. (1) Physical evidence produced for examination; (2) collection of articles displayed in a public showing; -v. (3) to show, display, present for inspection, produce in public.

extradition - The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense in the second state.

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F

felony - A criminal offense punishable by death, or by incarceration in a prison facility.

fugitive - In FBI usage, includes both escapees and persons avoiding prosecution or custody: "fugitives from justice."

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G

grand jury - A body of persons who have been selected according to law and sworn to hear the evidence against accused persons and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring those persons to trial, to investigate criminal activity generally, and to investigate the conduct of public agencies and officials.

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H

habeas corpus - In criminal proceedings, the writ which directs the person detaining a prisoner to bring him or her before a judicial officer to determine the lawfulness of the imprisonment.

hearing - A proceeding in which arguments, witnesses, or evidence are heard by a judicial officer or administrative body.

huntley hearing - A pretrial proceeding, involving the taking of testimony, to determine a defendant's motion to suppress a statement.

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I

immunity - Freedom from conviction for any offense or imposition of any penalty or forfeiture concerning evidence given by a witness.

incompetent to stand trial - The finding by a court that a defendant is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the charges and proceedings against him or her, of consulting with an attorney, or of aiding in his or her own defense.

indeterminate sentence - A sentence of imprisonment where the term is for a range of time, such as two to six years.

indictment - A formal, written accusation submitted to the court by a grand jury, alleging that a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s), usually a felony.

indigent - Needy, poor, incapable of self-support.

information - In criminal justice usage, a formal, written accusation submitted to the court by a prosecutor, alleging that a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s).

interrogate - To question.

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J

jail - A confinement facility administered by an agency of local government, typically a law enforcement agency, intended for adults but sometimes also containing juveniles, which holds persons detained pending adjudication and/or persons committed after adjudication, usually those committed on sentences of a year or less.

judge - An official having broad authority granted by statute or constitution to preside over sessions of courts of general jurisdiction or to conduct appellate court business.

judgment - (1) In the broadest usage, any decision or determination of a court. (2) The statement of the decision of a court, that the defendant is acquitted or convicted of the offense(s) charged.

jurisdiction - (1) Legal power, right and authority to hear and decide cases; (2) geographical area within which authority may be exercised; (3) subject matter over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court or other justice agency, as determined by statute or constitution.

juror - (1) Member of a jury sworn to deliberate on matters charged by the court; (2) person selected for jury service.

jury - Body of persons selected according to law and sworn to deliberate on matters charged by the court.

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L

law - (1) Body of principles, standards and rules prescribed and enforced by government for its own regulation and the conduct of its inhabitants; (2) rules of behavior made mandatory by society.

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M

mapp hearing - A pretrial proceeding, involving the taking of testimony, to determine a defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence.

minutes - Memoranda of a proceeding made for permanent record, as, minutes of a meeting or trial.

misdemeanor - An offense punishable by incarceration, usually in a local jail, for a period of which the upper limit is prescribed by statute in a given jurisdiction, typically limited to a year or less.

mistrial - A trial which has been terminated and declared invalid by the court because of some circumstance which creates a substantial and uncorrectable prejudice to the conduct of a fair trial, or which makes it impossible to continue the trial in accordance with prescribed procedures.

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N

not guilty - (1) Plea in criminal practice denying allegations of information, indictment or complaint and creating general issue; (2) verdict of acquittal in a criminal action.

nunc pro tunc (now for then) - Presently considered as if occurring at an earlier date.

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O

oath - Solemn pledge of faithful performance or truthfulness invoking responsibility to a supreme being.

objection - (1) Statement of disapproval; (2) adverse reason or argument.

offense - (1) Any violation of penal law; (2) breach of criminal law not amounting to a felony or misdemeanor.

order -n. - (1) Mandate, command, rule, direction; (2) written direction of a court; -v. (3) to direct, rule, require.

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P

panel - Group of persons selected for possible service as jurors during a term of court.

parole - (1) Release of a person from a penal institution, prior to expiration of maximum period of imprisonment, conditioned upon his good behavior; (2) release of a person from custody, without bail, during pendency of a criminal action.

penal law - Statutory code defining crimes and punishment for their commission.

peremptory challenge - Exercise by one of the parties to a jury trial to reject a prospective juror without giving any reason for the challenge.

plea - In criminal proceedings, a defendant's formal answer in court to the charge contained in a complaint, nformation, or indictment, that he or she is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged.

plea bargaining - Process by which prosecution and defense work out a disposition of a criminal case on mutually acceptable terms, without a trial.

prison - A state or federal facility having custodial authority over adults sentenced to a period of confinement.

probation - A sentence granting conditional freedom as long as certain conditions of behavior are met.

probation violation - An act or failure to act by a probationer which does not conform to the conditions of her/his probation.

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R

reasonable doubt - (1) That state of mind which after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence falls short of moral certainty of guilt; (2) uncertainty as to guilt, for which a reason can be given after considering all the evidence.

rebuttal - (1) Contrary evidence; (2) stage of legal proceeding in which a party may offer additional testimony, contradicting or opposing that offered by opponent.

remand -n. (1) To commit to custody, as, to deprive a person of his or her liberty in a criminal proceeding; (2) to return a case from one court or tribunal to another.

remittitur - Legal process by which an appellate court transmits to the court below the records and proceedings before it, together with its decision, for such further action and entry of judgment as is required by the decision of the appellate court.

restitution - A court requirement that a convicted offender pay money or provide services to the victim of the crime or provide services to the community.

reversal - Action of a higher body, such as an appellate court, in negating action or judgment of body subordinate to it.

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S

search warrant - A document issued by a judicial officer which directs a law enforcement officer to conduct a search at a specific location, for specified property or persons relating to a crime(s), to seize the property or persons if found, and to account for the results of the search to the issuing judicial officer.

sentence - The penalty imposed by a court upon a person convicted of a crime.

sequestration - Act of separating or keeping apart.

speedy trial - The right of the defendant to have a prompt trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. . .".

statute of limitations - Legislative enactment limiting time within which specified actions or prosecutions must be instituted.

stipulate - To agree formally with one's adversary in a legal proceeding on some matter forming part of the proceedings or record.

suppression hearing - A hearing to determine whether or not the court will prohibit specified statements, documents, or objects from being introduced into evidence in a trial.

surety - One who assumes obligation and is primarily liable for another's payment of debts or performance of duty.

sustain - To uphold.

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T

testify - To give evidence as a witness under oath.

trial - In criminal proceedings, the examination in a court of the issues of fact and law in a case, for the purpose of reaching a judgment of conviction or acquittal of the defendant(s).

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V

verdict - In criminal proceedings, the decision of the jury in a jury trial or of a judicial officer in a non-jury trial, that the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the offense for which he or she has been tried.

voir dire (to speak the truth) - Preliminary examination of a witness or juror to test competency for service as witness or juror.

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W

wade hearing - A pretrial proceeding, involving the taking of testimony, to determine a defendant's motion to suppress identification evidence.

warrant - In criminal proceedings, any of a number of writs issued by a judicial officer, which direct a law enforcement officer to perform a specified act.

writ - A document issued by a judicial officer ordering or forbidding the performance of a specified act.

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