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Legal Terms Glossary

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Accused - A person who has been arrested for committing a criminal offense and who is held for an initial appearance or other proceeding before trial.

Allegation - An assertion, declaration, or statement made in a pleading by one of the parties to the action, detailing the matters which the parties intends to prove.

Arraignment - Criminal proceeding in which the defendant, in open court, must answer criminal charges by entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. Defendant either must be represented by a lawyer or waive his/her right to legal counsel.

Arrest - The actual custodial restraint of a person or the person's submission to custody.

Attorney of Record - Attorney whose name appears on the permanent records and files of a particular case. Initially, the attorney must file a Notice of Appearance with the Court.

Bail - Monetary sum assessed by a judge to ensure that a criminal defendant, who is being released prior to trial, will appear in court on the trial date. Securities posted are returned when court appearances are satisfied.

Bench Conference - A conference between a judge and attorney regarding a courtroom proceeding, which is not necessarily part of the written court record.

Conviction - Finding by a judge or jury that a person charged with a criminal offense is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing the crime charged.

Court - All state, county and municipal courts in this state.

Court Clerk - A member of a judge's staff in charge of keeping the court records and exhibits.

Crime Victim Advocate - A person who is employed or authorized by a public entity or a private entity that receives public funding primarily to provide counseling, emotional support, resource referral, and judicial system knowledge to crime victims.

Criminal Complaint - A written criminal charge, usually filed before a magistrate, that the defendant has committed a specified criminal offense.

Criminal Offense - Conduct that gives a police officer or prosecutor probable cause to believe that a felony or a misdemeanor involving physical injury, threat of physical injury or a sexual offense has occurred.

Defendant - A person or entity that is formally charged by complaint, indictment or information of committing a criminal offense.

Discovery - The pre-trial process by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon at trial by the opposing party.

Due Process - The regular course of administration through the courts of justice, under the protection of the law and the U.S. Constitution, enabling every person to have a fair and impartial trial or hearing.

Evidence - Proof presented in court through the testimony of a witness, exhibits, records, objects or written documents to persuade the judge or jury as to an alleged fact or position.

Final disposition - The ultimate termination of the criminal prosecution of a defendant by a trial court, including dismissal, acquittal or imposition of a sentence.

For Cause - Based upon some good reason.

Immediate family - A victim's spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or lawful guardian.

In Camera - A Latin term meaning "in chambers". Traditionally, the term meant a proceeding closed to the public.

Initial Appearance (IA) - First appearance in court by the defendant in a criminal case. Under federal case law, an arrested person must appear before a judicial officer to be advised of charges and rights, including the right to have an attorney. At this time, a public defender would be appointed if the defendant cannot afford to hire counsel. Bond may be set.

Judge pro tem - Arizona is one of the few states that allows an attorney to be appointed a judge with full powers for the length of a case or series of proceedings. In Maricopa County, pro tem judges are employed to keep backlogs down and cover for vacation schedules.

Jurisdiction - The legal authority of the court to hear and decide cases; the exercise of judicial power within certain geographic boundaries.

Lawful representative - A person who is designated by the victim or appointed by the court and who will act in the best interest of the victim.

Magistrate - Often used to refer to a Municipal Court judge, but A.R.S. § 1 - 215 provides a broad definition which includes all those judicial officers having power to issue a warrant for arrest.

Misdemeanor - A classification for offenses which are less serious than felonies; a misdemeanor is punishable by a sentence other than being placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Negligence - Failure to exercise that degree of care which a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

Plaintiff - In a civil action, the party who files the lawsuit. In a criminal case, the State is the plaintiff.

Plea - Response of a defendant to criminal charges.

Post-arrest release - The discharge of the accused from confinement on their own recognizance, to a third party or on bond.

Post-conviction relief proceeding - A contested argument or evidentiary hearing that is held in open court and that involves a request for relief from a conviction or sentence.

Probation - A conditional suspension of imposition of the court's sentence. If terms of probation are completed successfully, sentence is not imposed. If terms of probation are violated, probation may be revoked and the sentence imposed.

Pro se (pro per) - A person who is not represented by an attorney.

Quash - To vacate an order of the Court, for example, to cancel an arrest warrant.

Rights - Any right granted to the victim by the laws of the state.

Subpoena - Legal document issued by the courts to order a person appear as specified and give testimony and/or bring evidence.

Summons - Legal document issued by the court to notify defendant that a complaint has been filed and that he/she is required to appear and answer the complaint on or before the time and date specified. A summons is a notice to appear for a defendant who does not need to be arrested.

Victim - A person against whom the criminal offense has been committed, or if the person is killed or incapacitated, the person's spouse, parent, child, or lawful representative, except if the person is in custody for an offense or is the accused.

Warrant - A warrant notifies law enforcement that a defendant should be arrested when found.

With Prejudice - Most often means a case cannot be reopened or refiled.

Without Prejudice - Most often means a case can be reopened or refiled.