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Court Terms


The following legal terms will help you better understand your reports:
Abet: See Aiding and Abetting.
Accessory: Not the perpetrator of the crime but in some way involved without being present in the commission of the crime.
Accessory After the Fact: One who helps a criminal to elude arrest.
Accessory Before the Fact: One who induces another to commit a crime.
Acquittal: A legal judgment that an accused is not guilty of the crime for which he or she has be charged and tried.
Adjudication: The judicial decision that ends a criminal proceeding by a judgment of acquittal, conviction, or dismissal of the case.
Adjudication Withheld: The court will withhold a decision until a future date. Usually some sort of probation is added and if the defendant complies with the conditions for a specified period of time, the case will be dismissed. Synonymous with Deferred Adjudication.
Affidavit: A written statement of fact confirmed by oath.
Affray: A spontaneous brawl or disturbance.
Aggravated (assault, battery, arson, etc.): Circumstances surrounding the commission of a crime or tort which increase or add to its injurious consequences.
Aiding and Abetting: To assist and/or incite another to commit a crime.
Alias: An alias is a name used other than the given name of a person, which may be an attempt to hide his/her identity. May be noted as AKA (Also Known As) on criminal records.
Alias Warrant: A second or subsequent warrant issued in a case when the first warrant was returned unserved.
Appeal: A complaint to a superior court to review the decision of a lower court.
Appellant: One who makes a complaint to a superior court to review the decision of a lower court.
Appellate Court: A court having jurisdiction of appeal and review. Not a trial court.
Arraignment: A call to the accused to come before the court to hear charges or enter a plea.
Arson: The attempted or actual destruction of property by an intentionally set fire or explosion.
Assault: An assault is defined as the (intentional) threat of violence caused by an immediate show of force. Physical contact is not necessary for an assault, only that a person perceives immediate physical harm. The classification of "aggravated" is assigned when any injury received coincidental to the assault is serious or when threatened injury is carried out with the use of a deadly or dangerous weapon. The classification of "simple" is assigned when the injury inflicted or threatened is not serious and a deadly weapon is not used. Battery is added to the charge when actual physical contact has occurred. Battery means physical contact with the intent of causing harm. A battery can be something as simple as spitting on someone. The reason you hear these terms frequently coupled is they typically happen one after the other, but they are distinctly different charges.
Bail: An amount of money set by a judge during a first appearance to ensure the return of the accused at subsequent proceedings.
Battery: Non-consensual, unlawful contact such as touching, beating, or wounding of another.
Bench Trial: Trial by judge, without a jury.
Bench Warrant: An order by the court directing a law enforcement agency to bring a specified individual before the court.
Bind Over: To put under bond to appear in court. The term is also used when a case is shifted from a lower court to a higher court.
Bond: A certificate of obligation, either unsecured or secured with collateral, to pay a specified amount of money within a specified period of time.
Bond Forfeiture: A disposition of Bond Forfeiture is entered when a defendant fails to appear in a case by the date specified by the judge and the bond agent must remit the amount of the original bond to the court. Depending on the type of case and the laws of the state in which the case occurred, bond forfeiture may or may not be classified as a conviction.
Burglary: The act of entering a premise, without the privilege to enter, with the purpose of committing a crime. States may classify as first, second, or third degree burglary. Burglary is usually, but not always classified as a felony.
Capias: A writ that requires that a law enforcement official take a named defendant into custody.
Capital Case/Crime: Case or crime for which the death penalty may be imposed.
Capital Punishment: Punishment by death for capital crime.
Carnal: Sexual, sensual. Carnal knowledge is sexual intercourse.
Cause of Action: One or more related charges combined and made against a defendant for wrongs committed.
CDS: Controlled Dangerous Substance
Charge: A charge is an allegation that an individual has committed a specific offense.
Citation: An order issued by a law enforcement officer requiring appearance in court to answer a charge. Bail is not accepted in lieu of appearance.
Circuit: Judicial division of the United States or of an individual state.
Circuit Courts: Courts whose jurisdiction extends over several counties or districts. (There are thirteen judicial circuits wherein the U.S. Courts of Appeals reside).
City Court: Courts that try persons accused of violating municipal ordinances. City courts may have jurisdiction over minor civil or criminal cases, or both.
Civil Disorder: A violent public disturbance by three or more people, which causes danger, damage or injury to property or persons.
Co-defendant: One of a group of two or more people charged in the same crime.
Coercion: The use of physical force or threats to compel someone to commit an act against his or her will.
Community Supervision: A type of correctional supervision where the youth may reside in the parental/guardian’s home or alternatively in a foster home, group home, or a residential treatment facility. The youth receives services and has regular contacts with his/her corrections department agent.
Compounding Crime: The receipt by an individual of consideration in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute or inform on someone who they know has committed a crime.
Concurrent Sentences: Two or more terms of imprisonment served simultaneously.
Conditional Discharge: A conviction. Court issues the discharge from the jail and requires defendant to comply with some conditions. Regardless whether defendant complies with rules or not, he/she is still convicted (GUILTY) and case can never be expunged.
Conditional Release: The release from a correctional facility before full sentence has been served which is conditioned on specific behavior. If conditions are not met, the individual may be returned to the facility.
Consecutive Sentences: Multiple sentences, served one after the other.
Conspiracy: The coming together of two or more people for the purpose of committing an unlawful act or to commit a lawful act by unlawful means.
Contempt of Court: An act committed which serves to obstruct the court in its administration or authority.
Continuance: A delay or postponement of a court hearing
Controlled Substance: A drug whose availability is restricted by law.
Conversion: The unauthorized taking of another's property (theft).
Converted Case: The case file was transferred to a computerized format and the hard copy of the case file was destroyed. This usually means that no further information regarding the case or its disposition is available.
Conviction: Guilty verdict in a criminal trial.
County Criminal Record Search: This is a search conducted at the county court level. Misdemeanor and felony criminal records naturally reside at the county level. A county court record search preceded by social security number “trace” to determine which counties to search will achieve due diligence from a legal standpoint.
Count/Charge: An offense named in a cause of action. A cause of action may contain multiple counts or charges, each relating to the others but identifying a separate offense.
Court of Limited Jurisdiction: Court that has authority to adjudicate cases of a certain kind or up to a limited amount, usually lesser offenses. (Opposite of Court of General Jurisdiction)
Court of Record: The court where the permanent record of all proceedings is held.
Credit Card Abuse: Another term for credit card fraud
Credit Card Fraud: Use, or attempted use of a credit card to purchase goods or services with the intent to avoid payment of such.
Crime Against Nature: Deviate sexual intercourse.
Criminal Nonsupport: Failure to pay child support in violation of court order.
CS: Controlled Substance
CDS: Controlled dangerous substance
Culpability: Blame, or degree of responsibility for a crime. This may be in degrees of purposeful, knowingly, recklessly or by negligence.
Cumulative Sentence: A sentence that takes effect after a prior sentence is completed for crimes tried under the same cause of action.
Database (criminal record database): A periodic download of criminal history information on “consumers’ to a master file. Because of the sporadic timing of the download, criminal record databases are inherently inaccurate. Employers who use databases to screen their employees run the risk of missing records altogether or of getting false positives (cases that have been dismissed, expunged, or vacated). The use of databases alone for employment screening may violate federal law.
De Novo: Latin for "anew" or "afresh". Usually used as Trial De Novo. New trial or one that is held for a second time, as if there had been no previous trial or decision.
Dead Docket: The case never went to trial. The case can be reopened if new evidence is submitted.
Defendant: A person who has been formally charge with committing a specific crime.
Deferred Adjudication of Guilt: The final judgment is delayed for a period of time. Can be likened to probation before a final verdict. If "probation" is completed without incident, the charges are usually dropped and the case is dismissed. During the "probationary period" the disposition is not necessarily considered a conviction.
Deferred Discharge: Dismissed and considered a non-conviction.
Deferred Probation: The judge doesn't make a finding of guilt; he assigns probation. If probation is completed without incident, the charges are usually dropped. Synonymous with Deferred Adjudication.
Deferred Sentence: Postponement of the pronouncement of the sentence.
Directed Verdict: A determination by a jury, made at the direction of the judge. A directed verdict happens in cases where there has been a lack of evidence, an overwhelming amount of evidence, or where the law is in favor of one of the parties.
Dismissal: Finally disposing of the cause without further consideration and without a finding of guilt or innocence. May be voluntary or involuntary. When involuntary, there is usually lack of prosecution or failure to produce sufficient evidence.
Dismissal with Prejudice: The plaintiff or prosecutor cannot bring the case before the court again.
Dismissal Without Leave After Deferred: Prosecution Charges dismissed after specified time (90 days to 1 year) provided certain conditions have been met such as participating in specified program of anger control or drug counseling or providing community service, etc.
Disposed/Disposition: The final settlement in the matter. Examples of disposed cases are those with a finding of guilt (conviction), innocence, or acquittal.
District Court: Court having jurisdiction over a territorial district
Diversion Program: A diversion program is a program run by the district attorney’s office designed to enable first time offenders (usually minor offenses) to avoid criminal charges and to relieve an overburdened DA's office from its load of cases. Participation usually involves completing various requirements which may include restitution and a program fee.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Complete intoxication is not required. Individual state statutes specify the blood alcohol content at which a person is presumed to be under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI): See Driving while Intoxicated.
Due Diligence: A reasonable and expected measure of attention taken for a particular action. Not measurable by an absolute standard, but dependant on the situation.
Due Process of Law: Procedures followed by law enforcement and courts to insure the protection of an individual's rights as assigned by the Constitution.
Embezzlement: The taking of another's money or property by one entrusted with its possession, usually through employment.
Ex parte: When a legal proceeding or communication is ex parte, only one party involved in the case is involved or heard.
Expunge/Expunged: When a record of an offense is expunged it will not appear on a released criminal history. The record may be destroyed or sealed after a certain period of time. Records may be expunged in juvenile cases, or upon satisfactory completion of a court-ordered probation and/or class(s). Usually, a person must apply to have their record expunged and sometimes pay a fee.
Extortion: Obtaining another's property by actual or threatened force, fear or violence.
Extradition: The surrender of an individual accused or convicted of a crime by one state to another.
FCRA: Fair Credit Reporting Act. Requires that consumer reporting agencies adopt reasonable procedures for meeting the needs of commerce for consumer credit, personnel, insurance, and other information in a manner which is fair and equitable to the consumer, with regard to the confidentiality, accuracy, relevancy, and proper utilization of such information
Felonious: Describes an offense that is done with malicious, villainous criminal intent. IE. felonious assault.
Felony: A serious offense carrying a penalty of incarceration from one year to life in a state prison, to the death penalty.
Felony Conversion: (Fraudulent Conversion) Similar to embezzlement or theft. An example of felony conversion is if someone sold goods for a company, and kept the money instead of turning it in to the company. (North Carolina)
Forcible Entry: Entering or taking possession of property with force, threats or menacing conduct.
Fraud: A purposeful misrepresentation with the intent to deceive or deprive one of his/her property.
Grand Jury: A body of persons with the authority to investigate and accuse, but not to try cases. The grand jury will listen to and review evidence to see if it there is sufficient grounds to bring an individual to trial.
Grand Larceny: The theft of property over a specified value. Dollar amounts vary by state.
Gross: Flagrant, out of measure.
Gross Misdemeanor: Serious misdemeanor.
Guilt/Guilty: Final disposition. Having committed a crime.
Habeas Corpus: A proceeding where a prisoner challenged the lawfulness of his or her imprisonment; refers to the constitutionality of the imprisonment
Habitual Violator / Habitual Offender: To have committed the same offense three times. Often used in conjunction with traffic crimes.
Homicide: The killing of another human being. "Justifiable homicide" occurs in cases such as during the enforcement of law, and/or occurs without evil intent. "Excusable homicide" may occur by accident or in self-defense. "Felonious homicide" is the killing of another without justification. This type has two degrees – manslaughter and murder, depending on circumstances or intent. See Manslaughter; Murder.
Hung Jury: A hung jury is one in which all jurors cannot reach a consensus required for a verdict.
Illicit: Prohibited or unlawful.
Incendiary (noun): One who intentionally set fires. Arsonist.
Incorrigible: One who is incapable of reform.
Indictment: A formal, written accusation made by the grand jury.
Infraction: Violation of local ordinance or state statute usually resulting in a fine.
Involuntary Dismissal: Dismissed due to lack of prosecution or lack of evidence.
Judgment: The final decision of the court regarding a claim or case.
Kidnapping: Taking and carrying away a person by force, fraud, threats or intimidation. Unlawfully confining a person for a substantial period of time in an isolated place.
Larceny: The unlawful taking of another person's property. Larceny is commonly classified as "petty" or "grand" depending on the value of the property. Dollar values to establish classifications of "petty" and "grand" may vary from state to state.
Lewd and Lascivious: Obscene, indecent.
Libel: Publishing false and malicious written statements about another person.
Magistrate: Public officials, including judicial officers who have limited jurisdiction in criminal cases and civil causes.
Mail Fraud: The use of the mail system to commit a fraud.
Malice: An act, committed without just cause or excuse, intended to inflict harm or cause death.
Malice Aforethought: Planning to commit an unlawful act without just cause or excuse.
Manslaughter: The unpremeditated killing of a person. Can be voluntary or involuntary, determined by circumstances. The feature distinguishing involuntary manslaughter from voluntary is the absence of intent to cause death or commit an act that might be expected to produce death or harm. Voluntary manslaughter is homicide that is committed during an act in the heat of passion.
Mayhem: The intentional infliction of injury on another which causes amputation, disfigurement or impairs the function of any part of the body.
Merged: Judgment is merged into another related charge/judgment
Misdemeanor: A crime that is less serious than a felony for which the punishment is usually imprisonment for one year or less
Mistrial: A trial which is terminated or declared invalid. Reasons for mistrial include misconduct on the part of the jury, defense team or the court, or illness on the part of the judge, jury or defendant. May be followed by a retrial on the same charges.
Murder: Unlawful killing with malice aforethought. Murder is willful, deliberate and premeditated, or done during the commission of a crime. This classification of crime is generally divided by degrees, murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree, for the purpose of imposing penalties.
Negligent Hiring: Failure to uphold your legal duty to protect your employees, customers, visitors, and members of the general public from any injuries caused by an employee you know or should have known pose a risk of harming to others.
Negotiated Plea: See Plea Bargain.
No Bill or No True Bill: The decision by a grand jury that it will not bring indictment against the accused on the basis of the allegations and evidence presented by the prosecutor.
No Contest (Nolo Contendre): A plea in which the defendant does not contest the charge. This has the same effect as a guilty plea except the conviction cannot be used against the defendant in a civil suit.
No Papered: Charges were not pursued. (This is a legal term in Washington, D.C.)
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