Appeal: A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or $more issues that a higher court review the decision to determine if it was correct. The party appealing the court's decision is the "appellant,"and the party seeking to have the court's decision affirmed/upheld is the "appellee."

Arraignment: A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought intocourt, told of the charges against him or her, and asked to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If they enter a plea of guilty or no contest they will be sentenced at that time. If they plea not guilty the case will be set for a Pre-Trial Conference.

Bail: The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in court when required. Also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.

Bail bond: An obligation signed by the defendant, with sureties, to secure his/her presence in court.

Bench Trial: A trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder.

Brief: A written statement submitted in a trial or appellate proceeding that explains one side's legal and factual arguments.

Burden of Proof: The duty to prove disputed facts. The burden will depend on the type of case.

Capital offense: A crime punishable by death.

Case Law: The law as established in previous court decisions.

Community service: condition the court imposes that requires an individual to work without pay for a civic or nonprofit organization.

Concurrent sentence: Prison, jail, or probation terms for two or more offenses to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other.

Consecutive sentence: Prison, jail, or probation terms for two or more offenses to be served one after the other.

Conviction: A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Competency: A witness's ability to observe, recall and recount under oath what happened. Criminal defendants must also be competent to stand trial; they must understand the nature of the proceedings and have the ability to assist their lawyers.

Counsel:  Lawyers in a case.

Count: An allegation in an indictment or information, charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.

Defendant: In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the plaintiff brings suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.

Discovery: Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before trial.

Dismissal with Prejudice: Court action that prevents an identical lawsuit from being filed later.

Dismissal without Prejudice: Court action that allows the later filing.

Double jeopardy: Prohibition (5th Amendment) against prosecuting a person more than once for the same crime.

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.

Exclusionary Rule: Doctrine that says evidence obtained in violation of a criminal defendant's constitutional or statutory rights is not admissible at trial.

Exculpatory Evidence: Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the crime.

Failure to Appear: Any Defendant who fails to appear as required by the Court may have his or her bail revoked and a warrant (also called a "Capias") issued for his/her arrest. He or she can also be charged with a new, separate crime of failing to appear.

Felony: a crime punishable by imprisonment in a state penitentiary for more than one year or more than 1 year probation.

Fifth Amendment: The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person cannot be compelled to present self-incriminating testimony in a criminal proceeding. This includes a Defendant's absolute right to not testify at trial and not have the judge or prosecutor comment on his right to remain silent, and to have the jury not consider the Defendant's not testifying in making a decision.

First Appearance:  After a person is arrested, if they have not bonded out of jail within 24 hours, they  will appear before a judge for a first appearance. The judge will set a bond amount (or, in very serious cases, order that a person be held without bond) and determine if they qualify for representation by the Public Defender. The case will also be scheduled for an arraignment before a county judge on misdemeanor and criminal traffic cases or before a circuit judge for felony cases.Fourth Amendment - The U.S. Constitution's protection against unreasonable search and seizure by government officials.

Grand Jury: A body of 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: Latin, meaning "you have the body"; A writ of habeas corpus generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are holding, and to justify the prisoner's continued confinement. Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions violated federally protected rights in some way.

Hearsay: Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. With some exceptions, hearsay generally is not admissible as evidence at trial.

Home Confinement: A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to remain at home except for certain approved activities such as work and medical appointments. Home confinement may include the use of electronic monitoring equipment;a transmitter attached to the wrist or the ankle to help ensure that the person stays at home as required.

Impeachment: 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."

Inculpatory Evidence: Evidence indicating that a defendant did commit the crime.

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.

Information: A formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor. See also indictment.

Injunction: A court order preventing one or more named parties from taking some action.

Jurisdiction: The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a certain type of case. It also is used as a synonym for venue, meaning the geographic area over which the court has territorial jurisdiction to decide cases.

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.

Miranda Rights: The rule, established by the US Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, that confessions are inadmissible in a criminal prosecution if the police do not advise the suspect in custody of certain rights before questioning. The rights include: the right to remain silent and to refuse to answer any questions; the right to know that anything the suspect says can and will be used against the suspect in court; the right to consult with an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning; the right to have counsel appointed at public expense, prior to any questioning if the suspect cannot afford counsel.

Misdemeanor: a crime which is punishable by imprisonment of no more than a year. There are two degrees of misdemeanors:A First Degree Misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in the county jail or one year probation, plus a fine up to $1,000.A Second Degree Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail or 6 months probation, plus a fine up to $500.

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 in Limine: A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so highly prejudicial that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from being unduly influenced.

Nolle Prosequi: A formal entry upon the record by the plaintiff in a civil suit, or the prosecuting officer in a criminal case, declaring the case will not be prosecuted.

Nolo contendere or 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.Not guilty by reason of insanity - The jury or the judge must determine that the defendant, because of mental disease or defect, could not form the intent required to commit the offense.

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

Order to Show Cause: Court order requiring a party to appear and show cause why the court should not take a particular course of action. If the party fails to appear or to give sufficient reasons why the court should take no action, the court will take the action.

Plea: In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty," "not guilty" or "no contest" in answer to the charges.

Presentence report (PSI): 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. The case will usually be continued to another Pre-Trial Conference or scheduled for trial.

Probation: Considered an alternative to jail or prison, the court releases the person to the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision monitored by a probation officer and to abide by certain conditions. Violations of probation are reported to the court and can result in incarcerating the person for the maximum amount of time for the original charge.

Pro Se: Representing oneself. Serving as one's own lawyer.

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

Reasonable Doubt: A person accused of a crime is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury or judge, his or her guilt has not been proved beyond a "reasonable doubt"--the jurors are not entirely convinced of the person's guilt.

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

Restitution: Court-ordered payment to reimburse a victim of a crime by the offender. Many times restitution is "joint and several" if there are co-defendants; this means each co-defendant is responsible for the entire amount up until it is paid in full (not just a portion of the restitution).

Restraining Order: Similar to an injunction, commanding the party to leave the other party alone.

Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty of a crime, the judge will impose sentence. The sentence can include jail/prison time (up to the maximum for that charge), probation, fines, suspension of the defendant's driving privilege, classes (such as anger management), restitution (payment to the victim), community service, drug/alcohol treatment, no return to the crime scene, no contact with the victim, and other penalties allowed by law. The judge's sentence will depend on the severity of the charge, the defendant's criminal history, and the circumstance of the individual case.

Statute: A law passed by the state legislature.

Statute of Limitations:  A certain time allowed by statute in which litigation must be brought. In criminal cases, prosecution is barred if not brought within the statute of limitations.

Suppression Hearing: A hearing on a criminal defendant's motion to prohibit the prosecutor's use of evidence alleged to have been obtained in violation of the defendant's rights. This hearing is held outside of the presence of the jury, either prior to or at trial.

Temporary Restraining Order: Akin to a preliminary injunction, it is a judge's short-term order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be conducted. Often referred to as a TRO.

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.

Trial: if the Defendant does not enter a plea, then the case will be tried before a jury of 6 members of the community. The prosecution will present any witnesses and evidence it has, and the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses and challenge the evidence. The defense also can present any evidence and witnesses on the defendant's behalf. The defendant may choose to testify, but he does not have to testify, and neither the prosecution nor the judge can comment on the right to remain silent or hold it against the defendant if he does not testify; the jury will also be instructed not to consider the defendant's right to remain silent when it deliberates. All courtrooms are open to the public except for rare circumstances. Once all the evidence is concluded, the jury will decide whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty. The jury will be instructed on the law and what it may and may not consider in conducting its deliberations. If the defendant is found not guilty, the charges are dismissed, he is free to go, and the State can never again bring those charges or use the same evidence against him. If he is found guilty, the judge will sentence the defendant.

Venue: The geographic area in which a court has jurisdiction. A change of venue is a change or transfer of a case from one judicial district to another.

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: Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.Warrant - A written order issued and signed by a judge or magistrate which allows the police to search a place and seize specified items found there (search warrant), or to arrest or detain a specified person (arrest warrant).
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, it is 
important to speak with an attorney immediately. You 
need to make sure your rights are protected and 
important decisions regarding your case need to be 
made. It is best to have an attorney begin working on 
your case as soon as possible.

We offer free in-office consultations in criminal defense and 
traffic cases. We are available for after-hours 
consultations and in-jail visits.