Legal Glossary

Acquittal

ac·quit·tal

/əˈkwitl/

noun

When a defendant is found not guilty via jury verdict or the judge finds that there is not sufficient evidence to support a conviction.

The defendant’s case resulted in an acquittal.

Synonyms: clearing, exoneration, absolution, discharge, release, freeing, formal exculpation

Affidavit

af·fi·da·vit

/ˌafiˈdāvit/

noun

This refers to a printed or written statement one makes under oath.

She swore an affidavit in support setting out her case.

Synonyms: oath, testimony, affirmation, sworn statement

Alternate Juror

al·ter·nate jur·or

/ˈȯl-tər-nət/ ju̇r-ər/

noun

When another juror is selected in the same way as the regular jurors and hears all the evidence. However, the alternate juror does not participate in the case unless called upon in place of one of the regular jurors.

The alternate juror did not end up having to participate after all.

Synonyms: alternative juror, talesman

Appeal

ap·peal

/əˈpēl/

verb

If one party loses on one or more issues during a trial, it can launch an ‘appeal’ which is a request for a higher court to review the decision as a means of deciding whether or not the decision was correct. The party that appeals is the ‘appellant’ while the other party is known as the ‘appellee’.

After loosing the case, the defendant’s attorney began to file the paperwork to appeal the decision.

Synonyms: beseech, besiege, conjure, entreat, impetrate, implore, importune, petition

Arraignment

ar·raign·ment

/əˈrānmənt/

noun

This proceeding is when a defendant is taken to court, informed of the charges in the indictment and asked to make a plea. The defendant can plead ‘guilty’, ‘not guilty’ or ‘no contest’.

The attorney advised his client to plead “no contest” at the arraignment.

synonyms: accusation, charge, complaint, denunciation, impeachment, incrimination, indictment, prosecution

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Bail

bail(1)

/bāl/

noun

This is when a person accused of a crime is released before a trial under a set of specified conditions designed to ensure the inpidual returns to court on the date and time set by the judge. ‘Bail’ can also refer to a sum of money the defendant must pay as a condition of their release.

After spending the night in jail, he was released on bail.

Synonyms: surety, security, assurance, indemnity, indemnification

Bench Trial

bench tri·al

/benCH/ˈtrī(ə)l/

noun

When a trial takes place without a jury because the judge acts as the fact-finder.

The case was not deemed serious enough for a jury, so there was a bench trial.

Synonyms: trial by judge

Brief

brief

/brēf/

noun

Refers to a written statement which is offered during a trial; it explains the legal and factual arguments of one side of the case.

The lawyer worked on the brief for the case for hours, making sure he had all the facts.

Synonyms:compendium, conspectus, depiction, extract, legal abstract, memorandum of law, outline, statement of the case, summary, summary on the law, synopsis

Burden of Proof

bur·den of proof

/ˈbərdn/ əv/ pro͞of/

noun

This relates to one side’s duty to prove the facts being disputed. During a criminal trial it is up to the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt. During a civil case it is up to the plaintiff to prove his/her case.

The burden of proof that has to be established in a criminal case is quite different than what was before this commission.

Synonyms: onus probandi, responsibility

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Capital Offense

cap·it·al of·fense

/ˈkapitl/ əˈfens/

noun

Refers to crimes which can be punished by death. Only certain states use the Death Penalty.

The man faced the death penalty because he committed murder, which is a capital offense in Arizona.

Case File

Case Fi·le

/kās/ fīl/

noun

A full collection of all documents filed in court during any case.

Class Action

Class Ac·tion

/klas/ˈakSHən/

noun

Refers to a lawsuit where one or multiple members of a group (or class) of inpiduals sue on behalf of the whole class. It is the district court’s duty to determine whether or not the claims of the class contain questions of fact or law before the suit is permitted to proceed as a class action lawsuit.

Everyone involved in the class action received a settlement check for the case.

Collateral

col·lat·er·al

/kəˈlatərəl,kəˈlatrəl/

noun

Property that is used as security to service a debt.

The court document stated that if payment was not made, assets might be taken as collateral.

Synonyms: security, surety, guarantee, guaranty, insurance, indemnity

Complaint

com·plaint

/kəmˈplānt/

noun

Civil lawsuits begin with a complaint which is a list of details provided by a plaintiff referring to the crimes committed by the defendant.

The plaintiff filed a complaint yesterday,so the defendant will need to obtain council.

Synonyms: accusal, accusation, allegation, bill of indictment, case, case for the prosecution, charge, citation, count, crimination, criticism, denouncement, denunciation, expostulation, first pleading, formal allegation, gravamen of a charge, grievance, incrimination, indictment

Consecutive Sentence

con·sec·u·tive sen·tence

/kənˈsekyətiv/ˈsentns/

noun

When an inpidual must serve two or more sentences back-to-back. For example, one five-year sentence and two four-year sentences means the inpidual must serve 13 years in prison.

The man was sentenced to a consecutive sentence of two years and five years, so he will be in prison for seven years.

Conviction

con·vic·tion

/kənˈvikSHən/

noun

When a defendant is found guilty of a crime.

The defendant was found guilty and now has a conviction on his record.

Synonyms: declaration of guilt, sentence, judgment

Counsel

coun·sel

/ˈkounsəl/

noun

Refers to the attorneys taking part in a case; can also mean the legal advice provided by attorneys.

The counsel felt confident that they could win their case.

Synonyms: lawyer, advocate, attorney, attorney-at-law, counselor

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Damages

dam·ag·es

/ˈdamijes/

noun

If the plaintiff wins a civil case, the defendant must pay a sum of money. These damages can be punitive (punishment/prevent future poor conduct) or compensatory (for injury/loss).

The defendant had to pay $100,000 in punitive damages according to the judge.

Synonyms: compensation, recompense, restitution, redress, reparation(s); indemnification, indemnity

De Facto

de fac·to

/ˈdi ˈfaktō,dā/

adverb

A Latin term meaning ‘actually’ or ‘in fact’. This is something which is a fact but not a matter of law.

De Facto, the defendant was at her mother’s house when the crime was committed.

Synonyms: in practice, in effect, in fact, in reality, really, actually

De Jure

de ju·re

/di ˈjo͝orē,dā ˈjo͝orā/

adverb

A Latin term; means ‘in law’. This is something which is a matter of law.

It was on the de jure recognition of Italy’s conquest of Abyssinia that Cranborne urged Eden to make his stand.

Synonyms: by right, rightfully, legally, according to the law; rightful, legal

De Novo

De No·vo

/dā ˈnōvō,di/

adverb

A Latin term which means ‘anew’. For example, a new trial is called a ‘trial de novo’.

In a pure meritocracy, everyone must begin de novo.

Synonyms:afresh, anew

Defendant

de·fend·ant

/diˈfendənt/

noun

The person/business whom the lawsuit is filed against.

The defendant had to pay $100,000 in punitive damages according to the judge.

Synonyms: accused, appellant, litigant, respondent; suspect

Deposition

dep·o·si·tion

/ˌdepəˈziSHən/

noun

This is an oral statement one makes before an officer of law who is authorized to administer oaths. A deposition is made to obtain evidence disclosure pre-trial or to examine possible witnesses.

At the deposition, the lawyer asked questions for several hours to get the information he needed.

Synonyms: statement, affidavit, attestation, affirmation, assertion; allegation, declaration; testimony, evidence;

Dismissal With Prejudice

dis·miss·al with prej·u·dice

/disˈmisəl/wiTH/ˈprejədəs/

noun

This is a court action which means an identical lawsuit cannot be filed in the future.

The judge decided to grant a dismissal with prejudice, so that the suit could not be filed again in the future.

Dismissal Without Prejudice

dis·miss·al with·out prej·u·dice

/disˈmisəl/wiTHout/ˈprejədəs/

noun

A court action which allows the same lawsuit to be filed at a future date.

The suit may come up again because the judge issued a dismissal without prejudice.

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Evidence

ev·i·dence

/ˈevədəns/

noun

This is information provided in the form of documents or testimony and is used to persuade the jury/judge to find in favor of one party over the other.

There was not enough evidence to convict the defendant of the crime.

Synonyms: proof, confirmation, verification, substantiation, corroboration, affirmation, attestation

Exclusionary Rule

ex·clu·sion·ar·y rule

/ikˈsklo͞oZHəˌnerē ˌro͞ol/

noun

This relates to evidence found to have been obtained in violation of a criminal defendant’s statutory and constitutional rights; such evidence is to be ‘excluded’ and is inadmissible in court.

Because the suppressed evidence was not the product of an illegal seizure, the exclusionary rule does not apply.

Synonyms: rule of evidence

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Federal Public Defender

fed·er·al pub·lic de·fend·er

/ˈfed(ə)rəl/ˈpəblik/diˈfendər/

noun

When the federal courts hires an attorney for defendants unable to afford legal counsel. This program is administered in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act.

A Federal Public Defender represented the defendant because he could not afford to hire an attorney.

Synonyms: right to counsel, Public Defender

Felony

fel·o·ny

/ˈfelənē/

noun

Deemed to be a serious crime, being convicted of a felony normally means at least one year in prison..

Armed robbery is a felony charge in Arizona and a conviction will result in prison time.

Synonyms:serious criminal offense

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Grand Jury

grand ju·ry

/grand/ˈjo͝orē/

noun

This is a group of 16 to 23 selected citizens who must listen to the evidence presented by prosecutors during criminal trials and decide if there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime.

The grand jury had been chosen and the trial was about to begin.

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Habeas Corpus

ha·be·as cor·pus

hābēəs ˈkôrpəs/

noun

This Latin term means ‘you have the body’. It is a writ which forces law enforcement to both produce a prisoner and justify the continued detainment of the inpidual. State prison inmates who believe their prosecutions involved a breach of federally protected rights commonly issue a writ of habeas corpus to federal judges.

He believed he was being detained unjustly so he filed a writ of habeas corpus.

Synonyms: civil rights

Hearsay

hear·say

/ˈhi(ə)rˌsā/

noun

Refers to evidence provided by a witness who did not hear or see the incident in question but heard about it from another inpidual. Generally speaking, hearsay is deemed to be inadmissible as evidence.

Everything they told the man they heard from others would have been ruled out as hearsay.

Synonyms: rumor, gossip, tittle-tattle, idle talk; stories, tales; the grapevine

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Indictment

in·dict·ment

/inˈdītmənt/

noun

When the Grand Jury issues a formal charge which states there is enough evidence to suggest the defendant could have committed the crime; this is deemed to be justification for a trial. Indictments are normally used in felony cases.

On the 26th of June, accompanied by fourteen others, he presented to the grand jury of Westminster an indictment of the duke of York as a Popish recusant.

Synonyms: complaint, count, allegation, citation

Injunction

in·junc·tion

inˈjəNG(k)SHən/

noun

This is a court order which prevents a named party or parties from taking any action. A preliminary injunction is normally issued to give the judge enough time to determine if a permanent injunction is justified.

An anti-smoke injunction in 1908 closed the furnaces in the immediate vicinity of Salt Lake City.

Synonyms: order, ruling, directive, command, instruction; decree, edict, dictum, dictate, fiat, mandate, writ; warning, caution, admonition

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Joint Petition

joint pe·ti·tion

/joint/pəˈtiSHən/

noun

Refers to a bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.

The couple filed a joint petition for bankruptcy.

Judge

Judge

/jəj/

noun

The official who has authority to decide any lawsuits brought before the court. This term refers to all officials of the Judicial branch.

The judge ruled that the man was not guilty.

Synonyms: justice, magistrate, sheriff, jurist

Judgement

judg·ment

/ˌˈjəjmənt/

noun

This is the official decision of the court; a judgment brings proceedings to a close.

After the judgement was made, all the jurors got to go home.

Synonyms: verdict, decision, adjudication, ruling, pronouncement, decree, finding

Jurisdiction

ju·ris·dic·tion

/ˌjo͝orisˈdikSHən/

noun

Relates to a court’s legal authority to hear and decide certain types of cases. Also refers to the geographic area where the court is allowed to decide cases.

The case was out of the court’s jurisdiction.

Synonyms:authority, control, power, dominion, rule, administration, command, sway, leadership, sovereignty, hegemony

Jury

ju·ry

/ˈjo͝orē/

noun

A group of inpiduals chosen to hear evidence during a trial and come to a verdict on matters of fact.

The jury came to a unanimous decision that the defendant was guilty.

Synonyms: board, tribunal, peers, judges

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Lawsuit

law·suit

/ˈlôˌso͞ot/

noun

When a plaintiff begins a legal action against a defendant because of the latter’s failure to perform a legal duty which caused some form of harm to the former.

His lawyer filed a lawsuit against the City of Mesa.

Synonyms: legal action, suit, case, action, legal proceedings, judicial proceedings, proceedings, litigation, trial, legal dispute, legal contest

Litigation

lit·i·ga·tion

/ˌlitəˈgāSHən/

noun

Another term for a lawsuit, controversy or case. All participants in such a case are known as ‘litigants’.

The company wishes to avoid litigation.

Synonyms:legal proceedings, legal action, lawsuit, legal dispute, legal case, case, suit, prosecution, indictment

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Misdemeanor

mis·de·mean·or

/ˈmisdiˌmēnər/

noun

This is a less serious offense than a felony and normally results in 12 months or less in prison.

If the crime is not too serious, it is classified as a misdemeanor.

Synonyms: wrongdoing, evil deed, crime, misdeed, misconduct, offense, error, peccadillo, transgression

Mistrial

mis·tri·al

/ˈmisˌtrī(ə)l/

noun

When a fundamental error results in a trial being rendered invalid. Once the judge rules a mistrial, a new jury must be selected and the trial begins again.

After the critical evidence was compromised, the judge had to rule a mistrial.

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Nolo Contendre

no·lo con·ten·de·re

/ˌnōlō kənˈtendərē/

noun

Also known as ‘no contest’, this is a plea similar to a guilty plea when it comes to a criminal sentence but it cannot be considered as an admission of guilt otherwise.

The man pleaded nolo contendre to his driving under the influence charges.

Synonyms: no contest

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Oral Argument

o·ral ar·gu·ment

/ˈôrəl/ˈärgyəmənt/

noun

When attorneys take the opportunity to summarize their position before the court; it is also a time for them to answer any questions a judge may have.

The attorney took his time explaining everything during his oral argument.

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Parole

pa·role

/pəˈrōl/

noun

When the U.S Parole Commission releases an inmate once the inpidual has completed part of his/her sentence in a federal jail. A U.S probation officer supervises the released inmate. The 1984 Sentencing Reform Act got rid of parole and recommended a system where the jail sentence allocated by the court was the sentence served by the inpidual.

After finishing his sentence, the man was released on parole.

Synonyms: free, liberate, release, unloose, unloosen, loose

Plaintiff

plain·tiff

/ˈplāntif/

noun

An inpidual/business that files a complaint with the court.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for $500,000.

Synonyms: Litigant, prosecutor, suer

Pro Se

pro se

/prō/se/

adverb

The practice of representing yourself in court.

The defendant is conducting pro se representation.

Synonyms: self representation, for oneself

Prosecute

pros·e·cute

/ˈpräsiˌkyo͞ot/

verb

When someone is charged with a crime. A prosecutor is hired to find the evidence to convict the accused.

The state decided to prosecute the defendant.

Synonyms: take to court, bring/institute legal proceedings against, bring an action against, take legal action against, sue, try, impeach, bring to trial, put on trial, put in the dock, bring a suit against, indict, arraign

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Remand

re·mand

/riˈmand/

verb

The process of a case being sent back to the trial court by the appellate court. Also refers to the detention of a suspect before a trial.

They requested to have the appellate judge remand the case, so it went back to trial.

Synonyms: defer, immure, lag, send back, hold over, imprison,put behind bars, remit, gaol, jail, incarcerate, prorogue, shelve, put off, put away, set back, postpone

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Sentencing Guidelines

sent·enc·ing guide·lines

/ˈsentnsiNG/ˈgīdˌlīns/

noun

This is a set of rules established by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and is used by judges to determine the appropriate punishment.

The sentencing guidelines state that the minimum sentence for an Arizona extreme DUI requires one day in jail.

Statute of Limitations

stat·ute of lim·i·ta·tions

/ˈstaCHo͞ot/əv/ˌliməˈtāSHəns/

noun

In some cases, a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal prosecution needs to begin within a set period of time which varies depending on the type of crime/civil case.

Seven years had passed since the crime had been committed, so the statue of limitations prevented the prosecution with filing charges.

Subpoena

sub·poe·na

/səˈpēnə/

noun

This is a command issued under the authority of the court given to a witness; it tells that inpidual to appear and provide the court with testimony.

A subpoena may be issued to a witness to appear in court.

Synonyms: decree, mandate, summons, warrant, command

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Testimony

tes·ti·mo·ny

/ˈtestəˌmōnē/

noun

Relates to oral testimony given by witnesses before a Grand Jury or during a trial.

The witness appeared before the court to give his testimony.

Synonyms: evidence, sworn statement, attestation, affidavit, statement, declaration, assertion, affirmation; allegation, submission, claim, deposition

Tort

tort

/tôrt/

noun

This is a civil wrong rather than a criminal one. It relates to an intentional or negligent injury against property or a person. Breach of contract is deemed to be an exception.

He was suing for several torts that the man committed.

Synonyms: negligence, damages, assault, battery, fraud, wrongful death, conversion, trespass, defamation, libel, slander

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Uphold

up·hold

/ˌəpˈhōld/

verb

When the appellate court agrees with the decision made by a lower court and allows it to stand.

The prosecutor wondered if the appellate court would uphold his claim for damages.

Synonyms:confirm, endorse, sustain, approve, agree to, support champion, defend

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Verdict

ver·dict

/ˈvərdikt/

noun

A jury or judge’s final decision which determines the guilt or innocence of the accused; the verdict is also the final outcome of a civil case.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Synonyms: judgment, adjudication, decision, finding, ruling, decree, resolution, pronouncement, conclusion, opinion

 

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Warrant

war·rant

/wôrənt,ˈwä-/

noun

A court authorization for a search to take place or an arrest to be made. Law enforcement officials usually ask the court for a warrant.

The judge issued a warrant for the man’s arrest.

Synonyms: authorization, order, license, permit, document; writ, summons, subpoena; mandate, decree, fiat, edict

Writ

writ

/rit/

noun

This is a written court order which either outlines an action someone must take or prevents them from taking certain action.

The writ stated that the two parties were not to see each other before the court date.

Synonyms: summons, subpoena, warrant, arraignment, indictment, citation, court order

* These terms are general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Different states may define terms differently. These terms are not designed to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always seek advice from an attorney licensed in your state who is familiar with how your jurisdiction defines key legal terms that are important in your particular matter.

Schedule Your Consultation

Give Edwards & Petersen a call to get your Free Consultation today!