If you’re unfortunate enough to land yourself in legal trouble, you may find yourself confused by all the legal terminology related to your case. Legal issues are difficult and stressful, and no one wants to be scrambling to understand court documents and law-related conversations.
Although the internet can provide you with much of the information you may need, it can be extremely time consuming to try to uncover the information on your own.
Knowing legal terms will make you look smart and may even keep your costs limited when hiring a criminal defense attorney who may attempt to intellectually intimidate you.
Ultimately, your best source of information is your attorney. A good criminal justice lawyer will take the time to thoroughly explain everything surrounding your case, as well as tell you what to expect if you need to go to trial.
However, it never hurts to be proactive about making sure you’re somewhat knowledgeable and informed. Below is a list of very common terms you may hear in regards to legal issues. Although there are countless more, these are terms that everyone should be familiar with.
Even if you’re the most cautious, law-abiding citizen on earth, knowledge is power. If you’re ever having a discussion with your friends or family about court cases or law, they may find it impressive if you can throw out some legal terms. Intelligence is attractive!
ACQUIT – Finding the defendant not guilty of the crime for which they were tried.
ADJOURN – Temporarily delay the court proceedings.
ADJUDICATE – Pass down a judgment
AFFIDAVIT – A sworn written statement.
ALLEGATION – An accusation made by an opposing party in a legal suit.
APPEAL – Requesting a higher court to reexamine the ruling made by a lower court in the hopes of obtaining a different verdict.
ARRAIGNMENT – Formal appearance before a judge where the defendant is notified of the allegations against them.
ARREST WARRANT – An order issued by a judge directing law enforcement to take a person into custody.
BENCH WARRANT – A court order directing law enforcement to arrest a defendant for failing to appear in court.
CAUSE – An event or action that results in the basis for a lawsuit.
COMPLAINANT – The plaintiff (i.e., the person filing the complaint)
COMPLAINT – Document filed with the court outlining the basis for the lawsuit and the allegations against the person who is being charged.
CONVICTION – A guilty ruling by trial or plea against or by the defendant.
DEFENDANT – The person accused of committing a crime.
FELONY – A major crime that is punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.
FRAUD – An act or statement that is deliberately deceptive or misrepresentative.
HEARSAY – Testifying to something that was presumably witnessed by a person other than yourself. Hearsay is not admissible in court.
INTERROGATION – Questioning of suspects, witnesses, or parties in a court of law to determine the facts of a case.
JUDGMENT – The final decision by the a court
MISDEMEANOR – A crime which is less serious than a felony and is punishable by a year or less in prison.
MISTRIAL – A trial that has been determined to be invalid.
PLAINTIFF – The person who files the complaint in a civil suit.
PLEA – The formal response by a defendant stating admitting whether they are guilty of the charges brought against them or claiming they are not guilty.
SEARCH WARRANT – An order issued by a judge after being presented with probable cause. This order permits a search of a person’s home, business, or vehicle by law enforcement for a particular item or items.
SUBPOENA – A court order informing a witness that they must testify in court.
SUMMONS – A court order notifying a defendant that a complaint has been filed against them and that they must appear in court.
WITNESS – A person who testifies to things they have personally seen or heard.