Glossary Of Common Legal Terms

The criminal justice system is difficult to navigate through. Be sure to understand the even most basic terminology so you know what you are up against. Never be afraid to ask questions if you find yourself charged with a crime, attorneys are here to fight for you and to make sure you understand each part of the process. 

Important and Common Terminology

Acquittal is when a jury verdict finds that a criminal defendant is not guilty. It can also be the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction. Go here to learn more about an acquittal's part in the criminal justice system.

Affidavit is a written or printed statement made under oath. These can be used in court proceedings to ensure that a statement made is the truth. Go here to learn more about what happens during a defendants trial. 

Appeal is a request made by a party after a trial in which that party has lost on one or more issues. It asks that a higher court review the decision to determine if it the original decision was correct. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who appeals is called the "appellant;" the other party is the "appellee". Go here to learn about when an appeal can be made. 

Bail is the release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime under specific conditions which are designed to assure that person appears in court when required. Bail also can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release. Check out here to learn more about when this takes place. 

Bench Trial is a trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder. Check out here to learn when this can take place. 

Blood Alcohol Testing (BAC) Is a system that tests the percentage of alcohol in a person's blood stream. This is a very prominent player during a DUI case, learn more about this process here.

Burden of Proof is the duty to prove disputed facts. In a civil case, a plaintiff generally has the burden of proving his or her case. In criminal cases, the government has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt. Check out here to see when this becomes necessary in the criminal justice system process.

Burglary Is the crime of entering any property (home, store, etc.) with the intent to commit a theft or any felony therein (Idaho Code §18-1401). Burglary carries severe punishments, visit here to learn more about what you would be up against.  

Case law is law as established in previous court decisions. Also, a synonym for legal precedent and akin to common law, which springs from tradition and judicial decisions.

Caseload is the number of cases handled by a judge or a court. This number can range. 

Cause of Action is a legal claim or in other words facts that can bring legal action against another person(s).

Clerk of Court is the court officer who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow of cases through the court. The clerk's office is often called a court's central nervous system. It is crucial for the court to function efficiently. 

Common Law, which is the legal system that originated in England and is now used in the United States, relies on the articulation of legal principles in a historical succession of judicial decisions. Common law principles can be changed by legislation.

Community Service is a special condition the court imposes which requires an individual to work – without pay – for a civic or nonprofit organization. Visit here to see when this can be imposed. 

Complaint, in a criminal case, is a written statement that begins a criminal case. This is where the state details the claim(s) of criminal conduct allegedly committed by the defendant. Visit here to see what happens next after there is a complaint. 

Concurrent Sentence are prison terms for two or more offenses to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other. For instance, two five-year sentences and one three-year sentence, if served concurrently, result in a maximum of five years behind bars. Visit here to learn more about sentencing. 

Consecutive Sentence are prison terms for two or more offenses to be served one after the other. For example, two five-year sentences and one three-year sentence, if served consecutively, result in a maximum of 13 years behind bars. Visit here to learn more about sentencing. 

Contraband is any good and/or substance that is unlawful and/or prohibited to trade, use or sell. 

Controlled Substance is an illegal drug that is destructive to a person' health. Federal and state governments have created Drug Schedules, or in other words large lists, which dictate what drugs are considered controlled substances. This is a very extensive list, here I have listed out a few drugs from the Idaho Drug Schedules, visit here to learn more about these classifications.

Conviction is a judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant. Visit here to learn more about convictions and the implications they can have. 

Counsel is a term used to refer to the lawyers in a case.

Count is an allegation in a complaint, indictment, or information, charging a defendant with a crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count, for instance, "Count 1" and/or "Count 2".

Court is a Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges and attorneys sometimes use "court" to refer to the judge, as in "the court has read the briefs".

Defendant is the title for an individual sued, accused or charged by another in a criminal case or in a civil lawsuit. 

Delinquent is a juvenile who has been convicted in juvenile court for committing an illegal action. Visit here to learn more about juvenile offenses. 

Delivery Of A Controlled Substance Where Children Are Present is a crime where an individual manufactures, delivers, possesses with the intent to manufacture or deliver, a controlled substance as defined in Schedules I, II, III and IV, upon the same premises where a child under the age of eighteen (18) years is present. To learn more about what is incorporated in this crime visit here.

District Court is the court that handles misdemeanors, juvenile cases, traffic offenses, felony preliminaries, civil cases that involve $4,000 or less, small claims, city and county ordinances, and domestic violence cases. 

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) A crime when your ability to drive is impaired by alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or any combination of these items. Check out more about DUI's and the possible consequences for receiving this charge here.

Driving Without Privileges Actual physical control of a vehicle with knowledge that their drivers license is suspended or revoked in Idaho or any other state.

Drug ParaphernaliaDrug Paraphernalia any item that can be used in connection with illegal drugs. It incorporates what is used to distribute drugs and what is used to ingest drugs. Possession of these items can have very serious consequences, make sure you understand what you are being charged with by visiting here to learn more. 

Eluding Or Evading A driver of a motor vehicle who willfully flees or attempts to elude a pursuing police vehicle when given a visual or audible signal to bring the vehicle to a stop. This crime can me charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor and the differences between the two charges are subtle.

Evidence legally presented material provided during a trial. This includes witnesses, records, documents, etc. Evidence can be different for different cases. 

Expungement is an option for Juveniles only. It allows for the record of a criminal conviction to be sealed or destroyed. Visit here to learn more about expungement. 

Extortion is the act of taking something from a person through unlawful means such as intimidation, force, etc. Visit here to learn more about these types of crimes and their punishments. 

Federal Case is a case heard by a court in the central government of the United States. 

Felony is a charge that can lead to heavy fines and imprisonment for a year or more. These are serious offenses, the determination of length of imprisonment, fines, etc. depends on the severity of the charges brought against you. They will differ, that is why it is important to talk to an attorney about what you are being charged with. 

Field Sobriety Tests (FST's) Process used by a law enforcement officials to obtain probable cause to conduct a breath and/or blood alcohol test. Visit here to understand more about the three tests associated with this process. 

Forgery is when makes or alters a document or attempts to pass of altered, forged, or counterfeited documents as genuine. These actions are a crime when a person knowingly, or with intent to defraud another, commits these acts. Visit here to learn about the punishment for this crime.

Fraud Is a deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right. There are many different types of fraud but in most cases the purpose of fraud is monetary gain or financial benefits. Check out more information here on this charge.

Frequenting is the unlawful act of any person being present at or on premises of any place where he or she knows illegal controlled substances are being manufactured or cultivated, or are being held for distribution, transportation, delivery, administration, use, or to be given away. This can be a confusing but very serious charge. Visit here to learn more about this crime and what you can do to fight it. 

Grand Theft Is the act of stealing property over $1000, a firearm, public record, checks, and much more (Idaho Code §18-2407). Visit here to learn more about what constitutes a Grand Theft charge and what the possible penalties are. 

Grand Jury is a group of people who listen to the evidence, presented by a prosecutor, of criminal allegations and determine if there is probable cause to believe the individual charged with the crime has committed the offense. 

Guilty Plea is when a defendant admits they have committed a certain crime. the ramifications of a guilty plea means different things for different charges. Consult with an attorney before committing to a guilty plea. Visit here to learn more about when this can take place.  

Inattentive Driving Pursuant to Idaho Code §49-1401, a person is guilty of inattentive driving by operating a motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manor.

Incarceration is the imprisonment of individual into jail or prison. Visit here to learn the difference between the two places. 

Inculpatory Evidence is the evidence which indicates the defendant charged with a crime did commit the crime(s). 

Indeterminate Sentence is the sentence of imprisonment that has a specified minimum and maximum amount of time, which can be terminated by a parole board or another authorized agency when the individual has served the minimum amount of time for the sentence. 

Infraction is a minor violation of a law that is not punishable by imprisonment. The most common type of infractions are minor traffic offenses. Visit here to learn more about Idaho's common driving infractions. 

Initial Appearance is when an individual, initially after an arrest, comes before a judge and they determine whether there is probable cause for the arrest. 

Invalid License Every Idaho driver must have a valid license while driving on an Idaho Highway or road.

Leaving The Scene Of An Accident is when a person is in an accident either on public or private property and does not immediately stay or near the scene of the accident, but instead leaves and provides no information to those involved with the accident. Check out  Idaho Code §18-8007- Leaving the Scene Of An Accident to learn more.

Misdemeanor is a charge that can have serious consequences but is not as serious as a felony charge. The punishment for a misdemeanor charge depends on the crime the charge was brought against. There can be heavy consequences with even a misdemeanor. Talk to an attorney so you can understand what you are up against. 

Motion is a request made by an individual involved in the lawsuit to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.

Parole is the release of a prison inmate into society and placed under the supervision of a probation officers. This is granted by the United States Parole Commission and is dependent on many different factors for a defendant. 

Petty Theft  Is the stealing of property valued under $1000 (Idaho Code §18-2407). This can have serious consequences learn more about this charge and what it could cost you here. 

Pleadings are written statements, which describe a party's legal or factual assertions about a case, that are filed with the court. 

Plea Bargain is the negotiation between a defendants counsel and the prosecuting attorney on the case to come to a deal for a guilty plea. This is where an individual can try to get a lesser charge if the court approves. 

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a crime of using, or to possess with intent to use; drug paraphernalia to plant; propagate; cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture; compound, convert, produce, process; prepare, test, analyze; pack, repack, store, contain, conceal; inject, ingest, inhale; or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance. Enough items in there? This is a very serious charge in Idaho and as you can see it incorporates many different things. Visit here to learn more about this charge and TALK TO AN ATTORNEY to be sure you understand everything. 

Possession with Intent to Distribute is when any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. The penalty for doing so is dictated by what schedule the drug is considered. Be sure you understand what each of that means. This is a serious crime in Idaho. Visit here to learn more. 

Preliminary Hearing, in a criminal case, is when the prosecuting attorney must show the evidence they have for why a defendant was charged with a crime. The must show adequate probable cause for the charges. Visit here to learn when this takes place and what is required of the prosecution. 

Pretrial Conference is a meeting between a judge and lawyers where in which they discuss a defendants trial, what will be presented in the trial and if there is a possibility of settlement for the case. Visit here to learn more about this meeting. 

Probation is a sentencing option where instead of an individual being sent to prison, they are instead released into the community and monitored by a United States probation officer. Visit here to learn about when this becomes an option for an individual.   

Prosecutor is an attorney who tries a criminal case on behalf of the government. 

Pro Se is when an individual serves as their own lawyer. 

Public Defender is a government lawyer who provides free legal counsel to an individual charged with a crime and cannot afford the fee of a private defense attorney. 

Public Intoxication Is when a pedestrian is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and presenting a hazard to themselves and the public. Visit here to learn more about this.  

Reckless Driving When a person operates a motor vehicle carelessly, heedlessly, without due caution, or at a speed, or in a manner, as to endanger the public or property(Idaho Code §49-1401). Visit here to learn more about what this crime entails. 

Receiving Stolen Property is to be in possession of property that you know to be stolen. This can be a very serious crime, check out Idaho Code §18-3127 to learn more. 

Reasonable Doubt is in regards to an individuals certain guilt of a committing a criminal crime. It is the job of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the crime. This can be a confusing concept but a crucial one during a defendants trial. Consult with an attorney to make sure you understand this concept. 

Robbery The crime of taking personal property of another, against their will, through the use or threat of physical force (Idaho Code §18-6501). Robbery carries severe punishments, visit here to learn more about what you would be up against. 

Shoplifting is a crime when one alters  or remove tags from merchandise at a store for the purpose of purchasing the property at a lower price or attempting to steal the property check out Idaho Code § 18-4624 to learn more about this crime. Shoplifting is very much like the crime Willful Concealment, which is when an individual conceal goods without the permission of the store or merchant. See Idaho Code §18-4626 to learn more. 

Trafficking is knowingly manufacturing, delivering, and/or bringing into the state a controlled substance. Furthermore, this charge is determined by the substance and the weight. This is a serious drug offense that carries mandatory minimum prison sentences. Visit here to learn more about the different charges that are associated with trafficking in regards to different substances. 

Traffic Infractions Common infractions in Idaho include: speeding, failure to yield, illegal lane change, and running a red light.

Vehicular Manslaughter Vehicular manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being in which the defendant's operation of a motor vehicle is a significant cause contributing to the victims death.

Warrant is a court order giving law enforcement the authority to arrest an individual or conduct a search of an individuals property or items. The warrant must include the probable cause for the warrant request. 

Writing Bad Checks is to write a check while knowing that the account attached to that check does not contain sufficient funds. Check out Idaho Code §18-3106 to learn more about this crime.  

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Every case is different, nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any specific case. Viewing the information contained on this site does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

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