Here are some terms to help you understand your situation.

A | C| B | C | D | E | F | H | I | J | L | M | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

AReturn to Top ^

Adversarial System: Basic U.S. trial system in which each of the opposing parties has an opportunity to state his or

her viewpoint before the court. Plaintiff argues for defendant's guilt (criminal) or liability (civil). Defense argues for

defendant's innocence (criminal) or against liability (civil).

Affidavit: A written or printed declaration or statement made under oath.

Affidavit of Prejudice: A written motion by a party to a judge, requesting that the judge not hear the case.

Alcohol/Drug Evaluation and Follow-up Treatment: Alcohol and drug treatment can be an excellent thing for those

that need it. But, need it or not, the minimum consequence is the evaluation, plus an 8-hour alcohol drug information


Alcohol Drug Information School: An 8-hour class that provides basic information about the effects and abuse of

alcohol and drugs. Minimum follow-up treatment required by the Court and the Washington State Department of


Allegation: An assertion, declaration or statement of a party to an action made in a pleading, stating what the party

expects to prove.

Arraignment: In criminal cases, a court hearing where a defendant is advised of the charges and asked to plead

guilty or not guilty and conditions of release are established.

Attorney of Record: An attorney, named in the records of a case, who is responsible for handling the case on behalf

of the party he or she represents.

BReturn to Top ^

Bail: An amount of money determined by the judge and posted with the court clerk as security. The court may

require the bond to be posted in cash or by bond.

Bail Bond: An agreement by a third party to pay a certain sum of money if the defendant fails to appear in court.

Bench Warrant: Usually issued as a result of the defendant’s failure to appear to mandatory hearing, it is process issued by the court itself or "from the bench" for the attachment or arrest of a person.

Brief: A legal document, prepared by an attorney, which presents the law and facts supporting his or her client’s case.

Burden of Proof:  Measure of proof required to prove a fact. Obligation of a party to prove facts at issue in the trial of a case. In a criminal trial, the plaintiff has the burden to proof its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

CReturn to Top ^

Charge: Formal accusation of having committed a criminal offense.

Circumstantial Evidence: All evidence of indirect nature; the process of decision by which judge or jury may reason from circumstances known or proved to establish by inference the principal fact.

Clerk of Court: An officer of a court whose principal duty is to maintain court records and preserve evidence presented during a trial.

Closing Argument:  The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts (judge or jury, depending on the type of hearing) after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence.

Code: A collection, compendium or revision of laws systematically arranged into chapters, table of contents and index and promulgated by legislative authority.

Community service: A sentencing alternative usually used in lieu of a monetary penalty or fine.

Competency:  In the law of evidence, the presence of those characteristics which render a witness legally fit and qualified to give testimony.. 

Complaint: In a criminal case, formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense. Also called an “information”.

.Contested Hearing: A hearing held in courts of limited jurisdiction for the purpose of allowing a person to dispute the determination that an infraction has been committed. The person may subpoena and examine witnesses and present evidence. Such hearings are held without a jury.

Continuance: Adjournment of the proceedings in a case from one day to another.

Convict: 1.To find a person guilty of a charge (verb). 2. One who has been found guilty of a crime or misdemeanor; usually refers to convicted felons or prisoners in penitentiaries (noun).

Corpus Delicti: The body or material substance upon which crime has been committed; e.g., the corpse of a murdered person, the charred remains of a burned house.

Corroborating Evidence:  Evidence supplementary to that already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it.

County Clerk: Elected official who is clerk of the superior court. See clerk of court.

Court, District:  Court of limited jurisdiction where civil cases up to $50,000 and small claims cases up to $2,500 can be heard. Criminal and gross misdemeanors and traffic citations are also heard in district court.

Court, Juvenile:  Division of superior court that deals with the conduct and circumstances of children under the age of 18.

Court, Municipal: Court whose jurisdiction is confined to a city or local community. In Washington, jurisdiction is generally limited to criminal and traffic offenses arising from violation of local ordinances.

Court, Superior: State trial court of general jurisdiction. See general jurisdiction.

Courts of Limited Jurisdiction: Includes district and municipal courts.

Crime:  Conduct declared unlawful by a legislative body and for which there is a punishment of a jail or prison term, a fine, or both.

Criminal Law: Body of law pertaining to crimes against the state or conduct detrimental to society as a whole. Violation of criminal statutes are punishable by law.

Cross-examination:  The questioning of a witness by the party opposed to the one who produced the witness.

Custody: Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure that individual's appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.

DReturn to Top ^

Defendant:  1. (criminal) Person charged with a crime; 2. (civil) Person against whom a civil action is brought.

Defeat in Detail:  Defeating a military force unit by unit.  This occurred when units were unable to support one another, often because of distance.

Defense Attorney: The attorney who represents the defendant.

Discovery:  – In criminal law, the body of information and documents making up the evidence the plaintiff intedns to offer at trial and which the plaintiff has a duty to disclose to the defendant.

Dismissal with Prejudice: A dismissal of a case by a judge which bars the the city or state from recharging the defendant with the same charges.

Dismissal without Prejudice:  The losing party is permitted to sue again with the same cause of action.

Docket: Record containing entries of all proceedings in a court.

Double Jeopardy: Prohibition against more than one prosecution for the same crime.

Due Process: Constitutional guarantee that an accused person receive a fair and impartial trial.

DUI: Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.

EReturn to Top ^

Entrapment: The act of officers or agents of a government in inducing a person tocommit a crime not contemplated by the person, for the purpose of instituting a criminal prosecution against him or her.

Evidence: Any form of proof legally presented at a trial through witnesses, records, documents, etc.

Exhibit: Paper, document or other object received by the court as evidence during a trial or hearing.

Expert Evidence: Testimony given by those qualified to speak with authority regarding scientific, technical or professional matters.

FReturn to Top ^

Felony:  A crime of graver nature than a gross misdemeanor.

Fine: A sum of money imposed upon a convicted person as punishment for acriminal offense or infraction.

Feint: (pronounced feynt) To pretend to attack in one direction while the real attack is directed somewhere else.

HReturn to Top ^

Habeas Corpus: "You have the body." A writ of habeas corpus requires a person be brought before a judge. It is usually used to direct an official to produce a prisoner so that the court may determine if such person has been denied his or her liberty without due process.

Hearing: An in-court proceeding before a judge, generally open to the public.

Hearsay:  Evidence based on what the witness has heard someone else say, rather than what the witness has personally experienced or observed.

Hung Jury:  A jury whose members cannot agree on a verdict.

IReturn to Top ^

Impeachment of a Witness: An attack on the credibility of a witness by the testimony of other witnesses.

Inadmissible: That which, under the established rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received.

Indigent: Needy; poor; impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his or her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense.

Information: An accusation of some criminal offense, in the nature of an indictment, but which is presented by a competent public officer.

Infraction:  An act which is prohibited by law but which is not legally defined as a crime. In Washington State, many traffic violations are classified as infractions.

Instruction:  Direction given by a judge to the jury regarding the applicable law in a given case.

JReturn to Top ^

Jail Alternatives: For misdemeanors, there are four main alternatives to jail time: community service, day reporting, work crew, and electronic home monitoring. Felony courts have much more varied alternatives to jail time including first-time offender waiver (“FTC”), alternatives to total confinement(“ATC”), drug offender sentencing alternatives (“DOSA”), etc.

Judge, Pro Tem: Temporary judge.

Judgment and Sentence: The entirety of the express consequences i.e., jail time, costs and fines, etc., for the conviction of a crime.

Jurisdiction: Authority of a court to exercise judicial power.

Jury: Specific number of people (usually 6 or 12), selected as prescribed by law to render a decision (verdict) in a trial. See trier of facts.

LReturn to Top ^

Law:  The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.

Leading question: One which suggests to a witness the answer desired. Generally prohibited on direct examination.

Limited Jurisdiction: Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. District, municipal and traffic violation bureaus are courts of limited jurisdiction.

MReturn to Top ^

Misdemeanor: Criminal offenses less than felonies; generally those punishable by fine or imprisonment of less than 90 days in a local facility. A gross misdemeanor is a criminal offense for which an adult could be sent to jail for up to one year, pay a fine up to $5,000 or both.

Mitigating Circumstances: Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.

Motion:  Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during or after a trial upon which a court issues a ruling or order.

OReturn to Top ^

Oath: Written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth.

Objection:  Statement by an attorney taking exception to testimony or the attempted admission of evidence and opposing its consideration as evidence.

Omnibus Hearing:  A pretrial hearing normally scheduled at the same time the trial date is established. Purpose of the hearing is to ensure each party receives (or "discovers") vital information concerning the case held by the other. In addition, the judge may rule on the scope of discovery or on the admissibility of challenged evidence.

Opening Statement:  The initial statement made by attorneys for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial.

PReturn to Top ^

Penalty Assessment: An assessment or fee added to a monetary penalty or fine. Such fees are earmarked for the support of specific state programs such as traffic safety, criminal justice training, etc.

Peremptory challenge:  Procedure which parties in an action may use to reject prospective jurors without giving a reason. Each side is allowed a limited number of such challenges.

Perjury: Making intentionally false statements under oath. Perjury is a criminal offense.

Personal Recognizance: In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon the defendant's promise to return to court.

Plaintiff: The party who begins an action; the party who complains and is named as such in the court's records. The city or the state in criminal actions.

Plea:  A criminal defendant's official statement of "guilty" or "not guilty" to the charge.

Plea Bargaining: In a criminal case, the process in which the accused and the prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case. Such bargains are not binding on the court.

"Polling the Jury: A practice whereby the jurors are asked individually whether they agreed, and still agree, with the verdict.

Precedent: Previously decided case which is recognized as an authority for determining future cases.

Presentence Report: A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision.

Probable Cause: A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.

Probation: Set of conditions and regulations under which a person found guilty of a criminal offense is allowed to remain in the community, usually under the supervision of a probation officer.

Prosecutor: The public officer in each county who is a lawyer and who represents the interests of the state in criminal trials and the county in all legal matters involving the county. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute. Also known as prosecuting attorney.

RReturn to Top ^

Reasonable Doubt:  If, in the minds of the jury, a doubt exists which may have arisen from the evidence, or lack of evidence, a doubt that would exist in the mind of a reasonable person after fully, fairly, and carefully considering all of the evidence, or lack of evidence.

Rebuttal: The introduction of contradicting or opposing evidence showing what a witness said is not true; the stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced.

Record: 1. To preserve in writing, print or by film, tape, etc; 2. History of a case; or 3. The word-for-word (verbatim) written or tape-recorded account of all.

Redirect Examination: Follows cross-examination and is carried out by the party who firstcexamined the witness.

SReturn to Top ^

Search and Seizure, Unreasonable:In general, an examination without authority of law, of one's premises or person for the purpose of discovering stolen or illegal property or some other evidence of guilt to be used in prosecuting a crime.

Search Warrant:  A written order, issued by a judge or magistrate in the name of the state, directing an officer to search a specified house or other place for stolen property, drugs, or contraband. Usually required as a condition for a legal search and seizure.

Sentance:  Judgment formally pronounced by a judge upon a defendant following conviction in a criminal prosecution.

Sentence, Concurrent: Two or more sentences which run at the same time.

Sentence, Consecutive: Two or more sentences which run one after another.

Sentence, Deferred: An alternative to a prison sentence consisting of probation, jail, or other appropriate condition.

Sentence, Determinate: A sentence that states exactly the number of actual years, months or days of total confinement, partial confinement or community supervision or the number of actual hours or days of community service work or dollars or terms of a fine or restitution. The fact an offender can, through "earned early release", reduce the actual period of confinement, does not affect the classification of the sentence as a determinate sentence.

Sentence, Suspended:  Execution of the sentence has been withheld by the court based oncertain terms and conditions.

Set Aside: Annul or void as in "setting aside" a judgment.

SR-22: Basically, SR-22 is proof the driver can pay additional funds if damages arise from an driving accident. Its required for three years after the driver is eligible to reinstate his or her license.

Statute of Limitations: Law which specifies the time within which parties must take judicial action to enforce their rights.

Stay: Halting of a judicial proceeding by order of the court.

Subpoena: Document issued by the authority of the court to compel a witness to appear and give testimony or produce documentary evidence in a proceeding. Failure to appear or produce is punishable by contempt of court.

Subpoena Duces Tecum: "Bring the document with you." A process by which the court commands a witness to produce specific documents or records in a trial.

Summons: Document or writ directing the sheriff or other officer to notify a person that an action has been commenced against him or her in court and that he or she is required to appear, on a certain day, and answer the complaint in such action.

TReturn to Top ^

Testimony: Any statement made by a witness under oath in a legal proceeding.

Trial: The presentation of evidence in court to a trier of fact who applies the applicable law to those facts and then decides the case.

Trier of Facts: The jury or, in a non-jury trial, the judge.

VReturn to Top ^

Verdict(or vidette):  - Formal decision made by a judge or jury (trier of facts).

Voir Dire: (pronounced "vwar-deer") - "To speak the truth." The process of preliminary examination of prospective jurors, by the court or attorneys, regarding their qualifications.

WReturn to Top ^

Washington State Bar Association: A state wide association of attorneys organized under rules of the Washington State Supreme Court to administer bar examinations, conduct a mandatory legal education program for attorneys and perform disciplinary functions in those cases where it appears an attorney may have violated rules of the Attorney's Code of Professional Conduct.

Witness: Person who testifies under oath before a court, regarding what he or she has seen, heard or otherwise observed.