Legal Glossary

The legal glossary is a comprehensive index of legal terms aimed at educating and helping consumers better understand some of the legal terminology and jargon that is often used in describing legal matters.

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Judgment that a criminal defendant has not been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

A written statement of facts confirmed by the oath of the party making it. Affidavits must be notarized or administered by an officer of the court with such authority.

Judgment by appellate courts where the decree or order is declared valid and will stand as decided in the lower court.

A defendant’s plea that allows him to assert his innocence but allows the court to sentence the defendant without conducting a trial. Essentially, the defendant is admitting that the evidence is sufficient to show guilt. Such a plea is often made for purposes of negotiating a deal with the prosecutor for lesser charges or a sentence.

Something that someone says happened.

The formal written statement by a defendant responding to a civil complaint and setting forth the grounds for defense.

A request made after a trial, asking another court (usually the court of appeals) to decide whether the trial was conducted properly. To make such a request is to appeal or to take an appeal. Both the plaintiff and the defendant can appeal, and the party doing so is called the appellant. Appeals can be made for a variety of reasons including improper procedure and asking the court to change its interpretation of the law.

About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of another lower court or tribunal.

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.

A written order directing the arrest of a party. Arrest warrants are issued by a judge after a showing of probable cause.

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

Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may discharge their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings.

Bar

Refers to attorneys as a group.

Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts. In a jury trial, the jury decides the facts. Defendants will occasionally waive the right to a jury trial and choose to have a bench trial.

Standard required to convict a criminal defendant of a crime. The prosecution must prove the guilt so that there is no reasonable doubt to the jury that the defendant is guilty.

A prior decision by a court that must be followed without a compelling reason or significantly different facts or issues. Courts are often bound by the decisions of appellate courts with authority to review their decisions. For example, district courts are bound by the decisions of the court of appeals that can review their cases, and all courts – both state and federal – are bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.

A written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case that explains to the judge(s) why they should decide the case (or a particular part of a case) in favor of that lawyer's client.

A crime punishable by death. In the federal system, it applies to crimes such as first degree murder, genocide, and treason.

The use of court decisions to determine how other law (such as statutes) should apply in a given situation. For example, a trial court may use a prior decision from the Supreme Court that has similar issues.

A judge's office.

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