Definitions

Accused - a person or entity accused of committing a crime.

Acquitted - the term used when a jury or Judge returns verdict of not guilty, which means that the jury or Judge didn't find that the State proved that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Appeal - the process by which a defendant requests that his/her conviction is reviewed by a higher court.

Arraignment - the first court appearance in Superior Court at which the defendant is brought before a Judge to be informed of the charges, enters a plea (guilty or not guilty) and further court dates are set.

Arrest - the process of taking a person accused of a crime into custody (jail) by a law enforcement officer.

Bond / Bail - the amount of money that a Judge determines is sufficient to release an accused and assure his/her attendance at later hearings. The accused must post a portion of the bond or is liable for losing the total amount if the accused fails to appear for court.

Charging - the initial legal process where the prosecutor files court paper (by Criminal Complaint or Indictment) accusing a person of committing specific crime(s).

Defendant - a person or entity charged with committing a crime.

Defense Attorney - an attorney employed by the defendant or the Public Defender's Office whose job is to represent the defendant's interest in criminal proceedings.

Deposition - an interview of a witness set by court order, taken under oath and recorded by a court reporter.

Deputy County Attorney (prosecutor) - an attorney employed by the County Attorney's Office whose job is to prosecute those accused of committing a felony and some misdemeanors.

Discovery - the process by which the prosecutor and defense attorney learn of the evidence that the other party will present at trial.

Disposition - the final result of a criminal case. This may be by a finding of guilty, not guilty, dismissal or a plea of no contest

Felony - a criminal charge which is punishable by imprisonment of more than one year in the State Department of Corrections.

Grand Jury - a group of 9 to 16 citizens of the county who hear evidence presented by the prosecutor and determine if probable cause exists.

Guilty - plea that a defendant enters in court admitting that he/she committed the crime; a verdict returned by a jury or Judge finding that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime(s).

Initial Appearance - a court hearing with 24 hours of a person's arrest at which time a Judge determines if the person may be released on personal recognizance or by bond and setting a time for a preliminary hearing in felony cases or arraignment in misdemeanor cases.

Investigation - the process of collecting evidence by law enforcement officers or the prosecutor to determine if a crime has been committed.

Judge - an attorney that is appointed by the Governor to preside over a Superior Court or an individual that is elected to preside over a Justice of the Peace Court.

Jury - a group of citizens sworn to hear testimony and evidence at a trial and decide if the defendant is guilty or not of committing the crime(s).

Justice of the Peace Court (Justice Court) - a court in a precinct in the county that hears misdemeanor cases occurring in the county and preliminary hearings for felony cases. This court also hears civil cases when the dollar amount is less than $10,000.  

Misdemeanor - a criminal charge which is punishable by a fine or incarceration in the county jail for a maximum of six months.

Mistrial - a trial ends when a rule of criminal procedure has been violated or if the jury cannot reach a unanimous decision.

Motions - a written or oral request by the prosecutor or defense attorney for the Judge to take a specific action.

No Contest Plea - a plea that a defendant enters in court in which he/she does not contest the facts presented by the State, but does not admit guilt. Except under extremely rare circumstance, the court will enter a finding of guilty.

Not Guilty Plea - a statement that a defendant enters at arraignment denying committing the crime(s).

Plea Agreement (plea bargain) - an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to avoid a trial.

Preliminary Hearing - a court hearing in a Justice Court or Preliminary Proceeding Court in which probable cause is determined.

Pre-Sentence Report - a report prepared for a Judge by a pre-sentence investigator of the County Adult Probation Department describing the crime, the past behavior of the defendant, the impact of the crime on the victim and recommendation for sentence.

Personal Recognizance - a Judge may allow a person accused of a crime with sufficient ties to the community to insure that he/she will return for future court dates to be released from custody without posting bond.

Pre Trial Conferences (Pre-trail Hearings) - court appearances in Superior Court before the trial at which motions are heard and the Judge monitors that status of the case.

Pre-Trial Interviews - informal interviews conducted by the prosecutor of defense attorney before the trial at which victims and witnesses are questioned about their knowledge of the crime(s). Victims have the right to refuse to submit to a pre-trial interview conducted by the defendant, the defendant's attorney, or an investigator for the defendant.

Probable Cause - the amount of proof needed to determine that a crime occurred and the defendant committed the crime in order to proceed with prosecution in felony offenses.

Restitution - the amount of money that the Judge orders the defendant to pay the victim as a condition of the defendant's sentence for the victim's out-of-pocket losses directly related to the crime.

Rule 11 Evaluation a psychiatric evaluation to determine if the defendant can assist in his/her defense and is competent to stand trial.

Sentence - the determination of the Judge of the punishment that the accused person is to receive.

Subpoena - a written order requiring a person to appear in court at a specific date to give testimony.

Summons - a legal order requiring a defendant to appear in court for an initial appearance or arraignment.

Superior Court - a trial court presided over by a Superior Court Judge in which all felony cases are held, all civil cases in which over $10,000 is in dispute, and in which appeals are heard from Municipal or Justice Court

Trial - a court proceeding where testimony is presented to a Judge or a jury to determine if the defendant is guilty of committing the crime(s).

Verdict - a person or entity against whom a crime is committed.

Victim Witness Advocate - assists the victim and the prosecutor by providing criminal justice information and victims' rights related services.

Warrant - a legal order to a law enforcement agency to arrest the person named in the order.

Witness - a person who has seen or knows something about the crime.

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