Court Vocabulary

  1. Arraignment
    A formal reading of a criminal complaint in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. In response to arraignment, the accused is expected to enter a plea.
  2. Bail
    Some form of property deposited or pledged to a court to persuade it to release a suspect from jail, on the understanding that the suspect will return for trial or forfeit the bail (and possibly be brought up on charges of the crime of failure to appear.
  3. Bail bonds
    A person or corporation that will pledge money or property as bail for the appearance of persons accused in court. Bail bond agents are usually in the business to cater to criminal defendants, often securing their customers' release in just a few hours.
  4. Bailiff
    Colloquially, peace officer providing court security. More often, these court officers are sheriff's deputies, marshals, corrections officers or constables.
  5. Bench Trial
    A trial held before a judge sitting without a jury.
  6. Bill of Attainder
    An act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them without benefit of a judicial trial. (Also known as an act of attainder or writ of attainder)
  7. Capital Punishment
    The death penalty. In the US, applies only for aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder.
  8. Change of Venue
    Moving a trial to a new location. In high-profile matters, a change of venue may occur to move a jury trial away from a location where a fair and impartial jury may not be possible due to widespread publicity about a crime and/or its defendant(s).
  9. Court Reporter
    Transcribes spoken or recorded speech into written form, using machine shorthand or voice writing equipment to produce official transcripts of court hearings, depositions and other official proceedings. (Also known as court stenographer, stenotype operator, shorthand reporter or law reporter)
  10. Cross Examination
    The interrogation of a witness called by one's opponent.
  11. Direct Examination
    The questioning of a witness by the party who called him or her. (Also known as Examination-in-Chief)
  12. District Attorney
    An elected or appointed government official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses.
  13. Double Jeopardy
    Forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction.
  14. Eminent Domain
    An action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent.
  15. Ex Post Facto Law
    A law that retroactively changes the legal consequences (or status) of actions committed or relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law. Expressly forbidden by the US Constitution
  16. Exclusionary Rule
    Holds that evidence collected or analyzed in violation of the defendant's constitutional rights is sometimes inadmissible for a criminal prosecution in a court of law.
  17. Extradition
    The official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state.
  18. Felony
    A crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year.
  19. Fourth Waiver
    A parole condition agreeing to waive the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
  20. Grand Jury
    A type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will be issued.
  21. Habeas Corpus
    A summons with the force of a court order that demands a prisoner be taken before the court, and that the custodian present proof of authority, allowing the court to determine whether the custodian has lawful authority to detain the person. If the custodian does not have authority to detain the prisoner, then they must be released from custody.
  22. Hung Jury
    A jury that cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberation and is unable to change its votes due to severe differences of opinion.
  23. Indictment
    A formal accusation that a person has committed a crime.
  24. Miranda Rule
    A warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to protect the suspect's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
  25. Misdemeanor
    Any "lesser" criminal act: generally punished much less severely than felonies. Often punished with monetary fines.
  26. Plaintiff
    The party who initiates a lawsuit
  27. Power of Subpoena
    A writ by a government agency, most often a court, that has authority to compel testimony by a witness or production of evidence under a penalty for failure.
  28. Pro Bono
    Professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service. (Lawyers)
  29. Public Defender
    A lawyer appointed to represent people who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
  30. Recidivism
    Former prisoners being rearrested.
  31. Regulatory Taking
    A situation in which a government regulates a property to such a degree that the regulation effectively amounts to an exercise of the government's eminent domain power without actually divesting the property's owner of title to the property.
  32. Sequestering a Jury
    The isolation of a jury to avoid accidental or deliberate tainting.
  33. Tort Law
    Not necessarily an illegal act but causes harm and therefore the law allows anyone who is harmed to recover their loss.
  34. Voir Dire
    An oath to tell the truth.
  35. Warrant
    A writ issued by a competent officer, usually a judge or magistrate, which permits an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is performed.
  36. Wiretap
    The monitoring of telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often by covert means.
Card Set
Court Vocabulary
Vocabulary of the courts and the law