Glossary - Legal Definitions

Glossary-books612-122


The following information is to help you better understand court room language and the legal process.

Arraignment:

First court appearance after being arrested.  The defendant appears before a judge to hear the charges brought against him/her, set bail if necessary, and conditions of release.  The defendant enters a plea of not guilty or guilty.

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Arrest:

The defendant's physical actions are constrained by a law enforcement officer.

Bail:

Money or other security deposited with the court to insure that the defendant will appear at court.  Money may be returned before or after the end of the case.

Felony:

Class of crime where if convicted, prison sentence may be in excess of one year.

Gross Misdemeanor:

Class of crime where if convicted, sentence can be no more than one year and fine no more than $5000.

Misdemeanor:

Class of crime where if convicted, jail sentence may be up to 90 days and fine up to $1,000.

Motions Hearing:

A hearing before the trial where legal issues are disputed.

Plea Bargain/Agreement:

The defendant enters into an agreement that, by entering a plea to the charge or a lesser offense, the prosecutor will move for: dismissal of other charges or counts, recommend a particular sentence, agree to file a particular charge, agree not to file other charges or make other agreements with the defendant.

Pretrial Hearing:

A hearing after arraignment and before the trial. The attorneys tell the court what motions they will be bringing and often negotiate plea bargains at this time. The case is either set for trial or a plea is entered.  Often there is more than one pretrial hearing.

Readiness Hearing:

A hearing after the pretrial hearing and before the trial. Attorneys tell the court that they are ready for trial and set the trial date. Often, additional negotiations are done at the readiness hearing.

Trial:

Where the facts are presented to either a judge or jury and they determine whether the person is guilty or not guilty of the crime of which they are accused. It is a six person jury for misdemeanors and a 12 person jury for felonies. The order of the trial is as follows: First the jury is selected (this is called "voir dire"), then there are opening statements by the parties, testimony by witnesses, and finally closing arguments. Jury is given instructions and told to render a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

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