Legal Terms

Legal Terms
Accusation –  the formal charges against a defendant, usually in misdemeanor cases.
Arraignment – the first court appearance where the defendant is notified of the formal charges, and is given an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Arrest Warrant – the document, signed by a judge, which allows a law enforcement officer to arrest a defendant.
Assistant District Attorney – a prosecutor who works for the District Attorney, an elected official.
Assistant Solicitor – a prosecutor in State Court, handling misdemeanors, who works for the Solicitor, an elected official.
Bench Warrant – the document signed by the judge if the defendant does not appear in court at the appointed time. The bench warrant will allow the sheriff’s department to arrest the individual and hold them without bail until and unless the judge orders them released.
Booking Number – the identification number assigned to someone held in jail.
Charge – the crimes a person is accused of.
Conviction – the criminal record of a plea of guilty or finding of guilty by a judge or jury.
Court Appointed Attorney – a defense attorney who is paid by the court to represent an indigent defendant charged with a crime.
Defendant – the person accused of a crime.
Department of Corrections – the state agency which manages the prison system
District Attorney –  the prosecutor in Superior Court, where felony cases are handled. In some countries the District Attorney’s office also handles misdemeanor cases. District Attorneys are elected.
Felony – crimes punishable by more than one year in prison.
Indictment – the formal charges against a defendant, usually in felony cases. Issued by the Grand Jury.
Indigent – poor; income must fall below federal poverty guidelines.
Inmate – someone in jail or prison.
Jail – detention in a county facility, usually before the criminal case is decided. Sometimes defendants whose cases are already decided will serve their sentence in the jail, or wait there until they are picked up by the Department of Corrections.
Misdemeanor – crimes punishable by 12 months or less in prison.
Plea Bargain – the agreement between the defense and the prosecution for the recommendation of a certain sentence following a plea of guilty.
Prison – detention in a state facility following a plea or finding a guilt in criminal case.
Probation – some form of supervision following a plea or finding of guilt. There are varying degrees of supervision depending on the charges, the defendant’s record and other factors. Mental health treatment may be a condition of probation.
Public Defender – an attorney who represents indigent clients accused of crimes.
Sentence – the judge’s determination of probation, prison, fines or other consequences following a plea or finding of guilt.
Solicitor – the prosecutor in State Court handling misdemeanor cases. Not every county has a Solicitor; where they exist, Solicitors are elected.