Common Legal Language in the Courtroom 101
If you ever have to serve on a jury or are in the difficult position of sitting before a judge, it may help to know some of the language commonly used in the courtroom. You are probably familiar with courthouse lingo, but you may not know the exact meaning. Here is a quick glossary of common terms:
Acquittal – When a jury finds a criminal defendant not guilty or a judge decides the evidence is insufficient for a conviction.
Arraignment – The proceeding when a criminal defendant hears the charges and has the chance to plead not guilty or guilty.
Bail – Release from jail prior to trial, with conditions (often monetary) designed to assure that person returns for their court date.
Case law — Legal precedent, or law established through court decisions.
Count – A specific allegation against the criminal defendant contained in an indictment.
Defendant – The person accused of a crime or being sued.
Felony – A serious offense that usually result in a year or more in prison, if convicted.
Grand jury – A group of people selected to listen to evidence and decide if there is reason to believe a person should be charged with a crime.
Hearsay – When a witness gives evidence that they heard about from someone else, not something they saw or heard. Usually inadmissible evidence.Indictment—The statement of charges issued by a grand jury, if they find that sufficient evidence has been presented to justify a trial.
Misdemeanor—A less serious offense, usually resulting less than one year in prison, if convicted.
Pro se – Choosing to represent yourself in court, instead of hiring a lawyer.
Voir dire – The process of learning about potential jurors through questioning as part of the jury selection process.
At Schiavone Law, we think you have the right to know what is going on. If you do face a day in court as a defendant, we keep you informed about your case.