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Legal Terminology

  • Acquittal: A verdict in a criminal trial where the defendant is found not guilty, indicating that the prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Arraignment: A court proceeding where the defendant is formally informed of the charges against them, asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest), and may have bail determined. It is one of the initial stages in a criminal trial.

  • Bail: A sum of money or a bond paid to secure the temporary release of an accused person from custody while awaiting trial.

  • Bail Bonds: Used when a defendant cannot afford to pay the full bail amount. The defendant or their representative pays a percentage of the total bail amount (typically 10% to 15% of the bail) as a non-refundable fee to the bondsman. The bondsman then posts the full bail amount with the court as a guarantee that the defendant will appear in court. 

  • Burden of Proof: The responsibility of the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal trial.

  • Conviction: A formal declaration of guilt by a court following a criminal trial or plea agreement.

  • Defendant: The person accused of committing a crime and facing criminal charges in court.

  • Discovery: The process through which the prosecution and defense exchange evidence, including witness statements, documents, and other information relevant to the case.

  • Due Process: The principle that individuals are entitled to fair and lawful treatment under the law, including the right to a fair trial.

  • Expungement: A legal process that involves erasing or destroying a person's criminal record, making it as though the arrest or conviction never occurred.

  • Felony: A serious criminal offense typically punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.

  • Habeas Corpus: A legal action that allows individuals in custody to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

  • Indictment: A formal written accusation issued by a grand jury, charging a person with a crime and initiating a criminal prosecution.

  • Jury: A group of citizens selected to hear evidence in a trial and render a verdict based on the facts presented.

  • Miranda Rights: A warning given to suspects in custody, informing them of their rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

  • Misdemeanor: A lesser criminal offense, typically punishable by fines, probation, community service, or a jail sentence of less than one year.

  • Plea Bargain: An agreement between the prosecution and the defendant in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge or receives a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperation or a guilty plea.

  • Reasonable Doubt: The level of uncertainty or doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate before convicting a defendant; a standard the prosecution must meet in a criminal trial.

  • Seal: The process of restricting public access to an individual's criminal record, making it unavailable to the general public but still accessible to law enforcement and certain government agencies.

  • Subpoena: A legal order requiring an individual to appear in court as a witness or to produce documents or evidence.

  • Testimony: Statements or evidence provided by witnesses under oath during a trial.

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: The violation of a person's Fourth Amendment rights when law enforcement conducts a search or seizes property without a warrant or without meeting legal exceptions.

  • Witness: A person who observes or has knowledge of events related to a criminal case and is called to testify in court.

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