Glossary of Criminal Law terms

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Affidavit – A written statement made under oath, typically used as evidence in court.

Alford plea – A plea in which the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to secure a conviction.

Alibi – An evidence-based defense in which the defendant claims they were elsewhere at the time the crime was committed.

Appellate court – A higher court that reviews the decisions of lower courts.

Arraignment – The initial court hearing in a criminal case where the defendant is informed of the charges against them and enters a plea.

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Bail – An amount of money paid to the court to secure the release of a defendant prior to trial.

Bench trial – A trial in which the judge, rather than a jury, determines the outcome.

Brady disclosure – The requirement that the prosecution disclose any exculpatory evidence, or evidence that could exonerate the defendant, to the defense.

Burden of proof – The obligation of a party in a legal case to provide sufficient evidence to support their claims.

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Confession – A statement made by a defendant admitting to the commission of a crime.

Cross-examination – The questioning of a witness by the opposing counsel in a trial to challenge their testimony.

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Deposition – A sworn testimony given by a witness outside of court, typically as part of the discovery process.

Defense counsel – A lawyer representing the defendant in a criminal case.

Direct examination – The questioning of a witness by the attorney who called them to testify in a trial.

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Evidence – Information presented in court to prove or disprove the allegations in a case.

Extradition – The legal process of transferring a suspect from one jurisdiction to another to face criminal charges.

Extraordinaria crimina – Latin term meaning “extraordinary crimes.” Refers to serious criminal offenses that are typically punishable by long prison sentences, such as murder, rape, or robbery.

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Forensic evidence – Scientific evidence, such as DNA or fingerprint analysis, used in criminal trials.

Forfeiture – The forfeiture of property, typically as a result of criminal activity or as part of a sentence.

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Grand jury – A group of citizens who hear evidence presented by the prosecution and decide whether to bring criminal charges against a suspect.

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Habeas corpus – A legal action that requires a person who is being detained to be brought before a court to determine the legality of their detention.

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Immunity – A legal protection granted to a witness in a criminal case that prevents them from being charged or prosecuted for their testimony.

Indictment – A formal charge brought against a defendant by a grand jury, indicating that there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Infractions – Minor offenses that are typically punishable by fines, but do not carry the risk of jail time. Examples include traffic violations, littering, and certain types of drug offenses.

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Jury selection – The process of choosing jurors for a trial, with the goal of selecting impartial and unbiased individuals.

Jury bias – A preconceived opinion or prejudice that affects the impartiality of a juror in a trial.

Jury trial – A trial where a panel of citizens determines guilt or innocence based on the evidence presented.

Jury nullification – The refusal of a jury to find a defendant guilty based on the law or evidence, despite their belief that the defendant committed the crime.

Juvenile delinquency – A term used to describe the behavior of minors who commit crimes or engage in other forms of misconduct that would be considered illegal if committed by an adult.

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Misdemeanor – A minor criminal offense, typically punishable by less than one year in jail.

Miranda rights – A warning given by police to criminal suspects in police custody, advising them of their right to remain silent and to an attorney.

29- Motion – A written request to a court for a ruling on a specific issue in a case.

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Not guilty plea – A plea entered by a defendant in a criminal trial to assert their innocence of the charges.

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Parole – The early release of a prisoner from prison, typically under supervision.

Petty Theft – A criminal offense that involves the unlawful taking of property or money that is valued at a relatively low amount, typically below a certain threshold set by law.

Plea bargain – An agreement between the prosecution and the defendant in a criminal case where the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

Plea bargaining – The negotiation between the prosecution and the defense over the plea and sentence in a criminal case.

Probable cause – The reasonable belief that a crime has been committed and that a specific individual is responsible, used to justify a warrant or arrest.

Prosecution – The legal representation of the government in a criminal case, responsible for proving the defendant’s guilt.

Probation – A sentence in which a defendant is released under supervision rather than serving time in jail or prison.

Pre-trial conference – A meeting between the judge, prosecution, and defense to discuss the case and any potential issues before the trial.

Publica judicia – Latin term meaning “public justice.” Refers to the principle that justice should be administered fairly and impartially, in the public interest, and in accordance with established legal procedures.

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Self-defense – A defense against criminal charges that the defendant acted in self-defense in response to a perceived threat.

Sentencing – The punishment imposed by a court after a defendant is found guilty in a criminal case.

Sentencing guidelines – The framework used by judges to determine the appropriate sentence in a criminal case, taking into account the nature of the crime and the defendant’s criminal history.

Search warrant – A legal document that allows law enforcement to search a specific location for evidence.

Subpoena – A legal order that requires a person to attend a court hearing or produce documents for use as evidence.

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Trial by jury – A legal process in which a group of impartial individuals, usually 12, listen to evidence presented by both the prosecution and defense and make a decision about the guilt or innocence of the defendant.


Victim assistance – A program or service that provides support and resources to individuals who have been victimized by crime, including emotional support, information about their rights, and assistance navigating the criminal justice system.

Voir dire – The process of questioning potential jurors to determine their impartiality and qualifications to serve on a jury.

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Warrant – A legal document issued by a judge that authorizes law enforcement to search or arrest someone.

Writ of habeas corpus – A legal order that requires a person who is being detained to be brought before a court to determine the legality of their detention.

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If you are facing criminal charges or the threat of legal action in any capacity, then you need to speak with the Law Offices of Mariya Melkonyan. Mariya Melkonyan has an impeccable felony jury trial record and 13 years of experience as a former Deputy District Attorney.

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