Glossary

Abscond : To travel covertly out of the jurisdiction of the courts, or to conceal
oneself in order to avoid their process.

Actuarial : Computation of various insurance and property cost.

Adversarial : The party on the opposite side of litigation.

Arrest. The action of the police, or person acting under the law, to take a person into custody so that they may be forthcoming to answer for the commission of a crime.

Acquittal
Judgment that a criminal defendant has not been proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, a verdict of "not guilty."

Affidavit
A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it, before a notary or officer having authority to administer oaths.

Appeal
A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that a higher court (appellate court) review the trial court's decision to determine if it was correct. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who appeals is called the "appellant;" the other party is the "appellee."

Appellate
About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of a lower court (trial court) or tribunal. For example, the U.S. circuit courts of appeals review the decisions of the U.S. district courts.

Arraignment
A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

Accused
The person against whom an accusation is made.

Absconding Debtor
A person who leaves a jurisdiction purposefully to avoid legal process.

Action
All the steps by which a party seeks to enforce any right in a court or all the steps of a criminal prosecution.

Arraign
Arraignment of an accused consists of calling upon him by name, reading to him the charges in the arrest documents, and demanding of him how he pleads. This hearing may be combined with a right to counsel hearing.

Arrest
To deprive a person of his liberty by legal authority.

 

Bail. Traditionally, bail is some form of property deposited or pledged to a court in order to persuade it to release a suspect from jail, on the understanding that the suspect will return for trial or forfeit the bail ("skipping bail", or "jumping bail", is also illegal). In most cases bail money will be returned at the end of the trial, if all court appearances are made, no matter whether the person is found guilty of the crime accused.

Bail Bondsman. A bail bondsman is any person or company that will act as a surety and pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of a criminal defendant in court.


Breach : Violation of a legal obligation, promise, contract term, etc.

Bounty Hunter. An individual who seeks out fugitives ('Hunting') for a monetary reward ('Bounty'), for apprehending by law, if such laws exist.

Bail (bond)
A written obligation with or without collateral security, given to a court to guarantee appearance before the court.

Bail Bondsman
Any person in the business of becoming or engaging in a surety on a bail bond for compensation, and includes any agent of such person.

Bail Forfeiture
Order by the court that the surety pay to the court the amount of security pledged for failure of an accused to comply with the requirements of the bond.

Bail Schedule
A bail schedule is a list of crimes and the bails required to release the accused from custody. These bails vary from municipality to municipality. Judges can also change the amount of bail needed, as can factors such as the nature of the crime, criminal history, and the accused’s standing in the community.

Cash Bond. Typically "cash only", where the defendant must provide the amount of the bail to the court.

Charge. In criminal law, the crime a person is accused of.

Collateral. A security or guarantee (usually an asset) pledged for the repayment of a loan if one cannot procure enough funds to repay.

Criminal Trial. A criminal trial is designed to resolve accusations brought by the government against a person accused of a crime.

Defendant. Any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute.

Fugitive. A person who is fleeing from custody, whether it be from a government arrest, government or non-government questioning, vigilante violence, or outraged private individuals.

Judge. An official who presides over a court and are required to be impartial and not influenced by outside factors.

Jury. A sworn body of persons convened to render a rational, impartial verdict and a finding of fact on a legal question officially submitted to them, or to set a penalty or judgment in a jury trial of a court of law.

Jury Trial. Trial is held before a group of disinterested members of the community.

Lawyer. Also known as an attorney, a person trained and licensed to practice law - to represent clients in legal matters, both in and out of court, and to give legal advice.

Offense. An act that violates a law.

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Prosecutor. Typically lawyers who possess a university degree in law, are recognized as legal professionals by the court in which they intend to represent the state.

Recognizance. A promise made by the accused to the court that said person will attend all required judicial proceedings and will not engage in further illegal activity or other prohibited conduct as set by the court. Typically a monetary amount is set by the court, but is not paid by the defendant unless it is forfeited by the court. Other forms of punishment, such as imprisonment, may still be levied by the court for those failing to appear when required. Also known as Own Recognizance.

Remand. (1.) Send back a case to the trial court or lower appellate court for action or (2.) The imprisonment of criminal suspects awaiting trial or sentencing. A prisoner who is denied, refused or unable to meet the conditions of bail, or who is unable to post bail, may be held in a prison on remand.

Sentence. -A judges formal declaration of the punishment to be given to a person convicted of a crime.

Suspect. A person, known or unknown, suspected of committing a crime.

Trial. The presentation of information in a formal setting, usually a court

Verdict. The final decision of a jury or judges on a case before a court of law.

Warrant. An authorization, typically issued by a judge or magistrate, which commands an act to be performed for instance a warrant for an arrest.

 




Indemnitor - A person that agrees to make good to another for loss caused by a third party.

Mitigate : Action taken by one party in an attempt to reduce damages caused by another.

Personal Bond : (Release On Own Recognizance, ROR) a condition under which an individual is released in lieu of bail i.e., upon his or her promise to appear in answer to a criminal charge.

Pre-trial Release
: The process involved in releasing a defendant charged in criminal court prior to trial.

Recovery Agent : An individual charged with the responsibility of apprehending an absconded defendant.

Subrogation : One's payment or assumption of an obligation for which another is primarily liable.

Surety : A party (usually an insurance company) that guarantees performance on a contract.

Surety Bond
A bond issued by one party, the Surety, guaranteeing performance of certain acts promised by another. In a criminal case the surety bond assures the appearance of the defendant or the repayment of bail forfeited upon the defendant's failure to appear in court.

Ten-Percent (10%) Bond : A provision Allowing the defendant to deposit ten percent of the full bail amount with the court.

 

 

Collateral Security
Any property or money pledged or given to guarantee bail.

Court Order
A command or mandatory direction of a judge which is made during a case. Also includes a command of the judge which established courtroom or administrative procedures.

Criminal Defense Lawyer
A criminal defense lawyer is a legal professional who organizes a case and represents someone accused of a crime. Everyone in America, citizen or not, is entitled to legal counsel before questioning can begin.

Defendant
A person required to answer a legal action or suit.

Felony
A serious criminal offense.

Incarceration
Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

Initial Appearance
The procedure by which an arrested defendant is promptly brought before a judicial officer who advises the defendant of the charges against him, his right to counsel, and his first day to appear in court and establishes conditions of pre-trial release. It also includes a probable cause determination on a warrant-less arrest and advice of preliminary hearing in felony cases.

Licensed Bail Agent
A licensed bail agent is a person or company authorized by a governmental regulatory agency to arrange bail for people accused of crimes. Licensing ensures that your bail agent engages is legitimate practices and can be held accountable for any misdoings.

Lien
A claim upon the real property of another for some debt. The property remains in the defendant’s possession.

Misdemeanor
A minor criminal offense.

Plaintiff
A complaining party in a civil action.

Plea
An answer to a charge.

Posting Bail
Posting bail is the process by which the amount needed to release a person from custody is paid to the courts.

Public Defender
A public defender is a free lawyer provided by the courts to represent someone accused of a crime.

Surety
One who makes himself responsible for the defendant’s obligation to appear in court and agrees to pay money or do other acts in the event that the defendant does not appear.

Verdict
The finding of a court.

Warrant
A written order by a judicial officer commanding a peace officer to arrest the person named in it or to search for a seize property as described in it.

 

Bail
Security given for the release of a criminal defendant or witness from legal custody (usually in the form of money) to secure his appearance on the day and time set by the court.

Bench trial
Trial without a jury in which a judge decides which party prevails.

Brief
A written statement submitted by each party in a case that explains why the court should decide the case, or particular issues in a case, in that party's favor.

Chambers
A judge's office, typically including work space for the judge's law clerks and secretary.

Capital Offense
A crime punishable by death.

Case Law
The law as reflected in the written decisions of the courts.

Chief Judge
The judge who has primary responsibility for the administration of a court; chief judges are determined by seniority.

Conviction
A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Counsel
Legal advice; a term also used to refer to the lawyers in a case.

Damages
Money paid by defendants to successful plaintiffs in civil cases to compensate the plaintiffs for their injuries.

Default Judgment
A judgment rendered in favor of the plaintiff because of the defendant's failure to answer or appear to contest the plaintiff's claim.

Deposition
An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial.

Discovery
The process by which lawyers learn about their opponent's case in preparation for trial. Typical tools of discovery include depositions, interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for documents. All of these devices help the lawyer learn the relevant facts and collect and examine any relevant documents or other materials.

Docket
A log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.

Evidence
Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case in favor of one side or the other.

Federal Public Defender
An attorney employed by the federal courts on a full-time basis to provide legal defense to defendants who are unable to afford counsel. The judiciary administers the federal defender program pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act.

Felony
A serious crime carrying a penalty of more than a year in prison.

Grand Jury
A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense.

Habeas Corpus
A writ (court order) that is usually used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine the legality of his imprisonment. Someone imprisoned in state court proceedings can file a petition in federal court for a "writ of habeas corpus," seeking to have the federal court review whether the state has violated his or her rights under the U.S. Constitution. Federal prisoners can file habeas petitions as well. A writ of habeas corpus may also be used to bring a person in custody before the court to give testimony or to be prosecuted.

Hearsay
Statements by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay is usually not admissible as evidence in court.

Impeachment
1. The process of calling a witness's testimony into doubt. For example, if the attorney can show that the witness may have fabricated portions of his testimony, the witness is said to be "impeached;"
2. The constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may "impeach" (accuse of misconduct) high officers of the federal government, who are then tried by the Senate.

Indictment
The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it is used primarily for felonies

Injunction
A court order prohibiting a defendant from performing a specific act, or compelling a defendant to perform a specific act.

Jurisdiction
1. The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case;
2. The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases.

Jury
The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact.

Jury Instructions
A judge's directions to the jury before it begins deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal rules that it must apply.

Jurisprudence
The study of law and the structure of the legal system.

Magistrate Judge
A judicial officer of a district court who conducts initial proceedings in criminal cases, decides criminal misdemeanor cases, conducts many pretrial civil and criminal matters on behalf of district judges, and decides civil cases with the consent of the parties.

Misdemeanor
An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less.

Mistrial
An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.

Motion
A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.

Nolo Contendere
No contest. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.

Opinion
A judge's written explanation of the decision of the court.

Oral Argument
An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges' questions

Petit Jury (or trial jury)
A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons. Federal civil juries consist of at least six persons.

Petty Offense
A federal misdemeanor punishable by six months or less in prison.

Plea
In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges.

Pleadings
Written statements filed with the court which describe a party's legal or factual assertions about the case.

Precedent
A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally "follow precedent"-meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it differed in some significant way from the current case.

Pre-Sentence Report
A report prepared by a court's probation officer, after a person has been convicted of an offense, summarizing for the court the background information needed to determine the appropriate sentence.

Pretrial Conference
A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan the trial, to discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, to review proposed evidence and witnesses, and to set a trial schedule. Typically, the judge and the parties also discuss the possibility of settlement of the case.

Pretrial Services
A department of the district court that conducts an investigation of a criminal defendant's background in order to help a judge decide whether to release the defendant into the community before trial.

Probation
A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision of a probation officer, who makes certain that the defendant follows certain rules (e.g., gets a job, gets drug counseling, etc.).

Probation Officer
Officers of the probation office of a court. Probation officer duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.

Pro Se
A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.

Prosecute
To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Record
A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.

Remand
The act of an appellate court sending a case to a lower court for further proceedings.

reverse
The act of an appellate court setting aside the decision of a trial court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.

Sentence
The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.

Sentencing Guidelines
A set of rules and principles established by the United States Sentencing Commission that trial judges use to determine the sentence for a convicted defendant.

Sequester
To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations.

Statute
A law passed by a legislature.

Subpoena
A command, issued under authority of a court or other authorized government entity, to a witness to appear and give testimony.

Subpoena Duces Tecum
A command to a witness to appear and produce documents.

Summary Judgment
A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when it is not necessary to resolve any factual disputes in the case.

Temporary Restraining Order
Prohibits a person from taking an action that is likely to cause irreparable harm. This differs from an injunction in that it may be granted immediately, without notice to the opposing party, and without a hearing. It is intended to last only until a hearing can be held. Sometimes referred to as a "T.R.O."

Testimony
Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.

Transcript
A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial, or during some other formal conversation, such as a hearing or oral deposition.

U.S. Attorney
A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government. The U.S. Attorney employs a staff of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who appear as the government's attorneys in individual cases.

Venue
The geographical location in which a case is tried.

Verdict
The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.

Voir Dire
The process by which judges and lawyers select a trial jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to make certain that they would fairly decide the case. "Voir dire" is a phrase meaning "to speak the truth."

Warrant
A written order authorizing official action by law enforcement officials, usually directing them to arrest the individual named in the warrant. A search warrant orders that a specific location be searched for items, which if found, can be used in court as evidence.

Witness
A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.

Writ
A formal written command or order, issued by the court, requiring the performance of a specific act

 

 
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