DEFINITIONS (LEGAL TERMS)


A


Arrest:
To deprive a person of his liberty by legal authority. Taking, under real or assumed authority, custody of another for the purpose of holding or detaining him to answer a criminal charge or civil demand.
Assault:
Any willful attempt or threat to inflict injury upon the person of another, when coupled with an apparent ability so to do, and any intentional display of force such as would give the victim reason to fear or expect immediate bodily harm, constitutes an assault.

B


Bail:
Monetary amount for or condition of pretrial release from custody, normally set by a judge at the initial appearance.
Bail Bond:
A three-party contract which involves state, accused and surety and under which surety guarantees state that accused will appear at subsequent proceedings.
Brady Material:
"Brady material" is exculpatory information, material to a defendant/s guilt or punishment, which government knew about but failed to disclose to defendant in time for trial. Defendant is denied due process if Government suppresses such material.

C


Coercion:
Compulsion; constraint; compelling by force, or arms, or threat. It may be actual, direct, or positive, as where physical force is used to compel act against one's will, or implied, legal or constructive as where one party is constrained by subjugation to other to do what his free will would refuse. As used in testamentary law, any pressure by which testator's action is restrained by his free will in the execution of his testament. "Coercion" that vitiates can be mental as well as physical, and question is whether accused was deprived of his free choice to admit, deny, or refuse to answer.
A person is Guilty of Coercion If:
with purpose to unlawfully restrict another's freedom of action to his detriment, he threatens to (a) commit any criminal offense, or (b) accuse anyone of a criminal offense, or (c) expose any secret tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute, or (d) take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action.
Concurrent Sentence:
When a criminal defendant is convicted of two or more crimes, a judge sentences him/her to a certain period of time for each crime. Then out of compassion, leniency, plea bargaining, or the fact that the several crimes are interrelated, the judge will rule that the sentences may all be served at the same time, with the longest period controlling.
Consecutive Sentence:
Criminal sentences that must be served one after the other rather than at the same time.

D


Defendant:
In criminal cases, the person accused of the crime.
Due Process Rights:
All rights which are of such fundamental importance as to require compliance with due process standards of fairness and justice. Procedural and substantive rights of citizens against government actions that threaten the denial of life, liberty, or property.

E


Exculpatory Statement or Evidence:
A statement or other evidence which tends to justify, excuse or clear the defendant from alleged fault or guilt. Evidence which extrinsically tends to establish defendant’s innocence of crimes charged as differentiated from that which although favorable, is merely collateral or impeaching. For purposes of rule constraining State from disposing of potentially exculpatory evidence, is evidence which clears or tends to clear accused person from alleged guilt.

F


G


H


I


J


K


L


M


Mandamus:
May be a command to do an administrative action or not to take a particular action, and it is supplemented by legal rights. In the American legal system it must be a judicially enforceable and legally protected right before one suffering a grievance can ask for a mandamus. A person can be said to be aggrieved only when he is denied a legal right by someone who has a legal duty to do something and abstains from doing it.
Miranda Warning:
The miranda warning (also referred to as Miranda rights) is a warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated to inform them about their constitutional rights. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States held that an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect will not constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was informed of the right to decline to make self-incriminatory statements and the right to legal counsel (hence the so-called "Miranda rights"), and makes a knowing, intelligent and voluntary waiver of those rights. The Miranda warning is not a condition of detention, but rather a safeguard against self-incrimination; as a result, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may still interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person's statements to incriminate him in a criminal trial.
As of a June 1, 2010, U.S. Supreme Court decision
(Berghuis v. Thompkins), suspects still have the 5th Amendment right to remain silent, and the 6th Amendment right to the assistance of counsel; however, if a suspect waives these rights and interrogation begins, the right to halt further questioning by the police must be exercised explicitly, by invoking the 5th and/or 6th Amendment rights.

N


Nolo Contendere, No-contest:
Latin phrase meaning "I will not contest it" a plea in a criminal case which has a similar legal effect as pleading guilty.

O


P


Plea Bargaining:
The process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval. It usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that possible for the graver charge.
Prejudice:
A fore judgment; bias; partiality; preconceived opinion. A leaning towards one side of a cause for some reason other than a conviction of its justice.
Probation:
A sentence which may be imposed by a criminal court, in lieu of incarceration. A criminal who is "on probation" could be considered as convicted of a crime, but has served only part of the sentence in prison, or has not served time at all.

Q


R


Right to Remain Silent:
The right to remain silent is a legal right of any person. This right is recognized, explicitly or by convention, in many of the world's legal systems.

S


Split Sentence
A sentence of which part is served in prison and the other suspended and usually replaced by probation.

T


U


V


W


Waiver of Rights
The term is often used in the context of waiving one’s right counsel (for example, Miranda warning) or waiving certain steps in the criminal justice process. Essential to waiver is the voluntary consent of the individual.

X


Y


Z



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