General Law

Accessory:  someone who aids another person commit, plan or attempt, to evade consequences resulting from a crime.

Acquittal:  finding of the Court that a person is not guilty of the crime he or she has been charged with.

Actus Reus:  similar to mens rea; meaning an act that is wrong, regardless of intention.

Adjudication: related word: judgment - meaning the final ruling or judgment in a legal proceeding.

Accessory: someone who aids another person commit, plan or attempt, to evade consequences resulting from a crime.

Acquittal: finding of the Court that a person is not guilty of the crime he or she has been charged with.

Actus Reus: similar to mens rea; meaning an act that is wrong, regardless of intention.

Adjudication: related word: judgment - meaning the final ruling or judgment in a legal proceeding.

Affidavit: a written statement of facts confirmed by swearing or by affirming which is used as evidence in Court.

Amicus Curiae: a party who voluntarily joins a proceeding (case) to present an argument and/or evidence to the Court.  Latin for “friend of the Court”.

Appeal: process of applying to a Court of higher authority for a decision by a lower Court to be reversed, or for a new trial to be held.

Arbitration: settlement dispute process whereby an independent, unbiased person is used to try to resolve a case instead of proceeding through the Court process.  Parties may use a private arbitrator, or an arbitrator specifically appointed by an official body.

Arraignment: proceeding before the Court to have someone charged with a crime to answer for their charges.

Arrest: a legal authority to take a person into custody; to seize them.

Assault: either an actual attack or an attempted attack on someone that may result in palpable harm.

Attachment: a writ authorizing a seizure of income and/or property that will be sold and used to pay for damages resulting from a judgment of the Court arising from a legal proceeding.

Attorney-client privilege: Court Rule that permits any communication between a client and his/her attorney strictly confidential and prevents the use of such communication in trial as evidence, or from being read or used by the opposing counsel or parties during the process of discovery.

Bail: monies held by the Court, in trust, from a defendant to ensure that the defendant who is free waiting for trial will not flee prior to the commencement of said trial.

Bar: all attorneys, collectively.  As a symbol in the Courtroom, an actual partition is used to separate the attorneys before the Court from any spectators.

Bench: seat of the Judge or Magistrate.

Breaking and entering: commonly known as a “B & E” - entering a building with intent (criminal).  No damage to the building is needed to lay a charge of breaking and entering.

Brief: arguments set out in formal written form presented to the Court, along with caselaw, in a Court proceeding.

Burden of Proof: the state (criminal cases) or the plaintiff (civil cases) are obliged to prove their case.  The defendant in a case is not obligated to prove his/her innocence, rather it is the Plaintiff or State which must prove the defendant’s guilt.

Burglary: also known as theft, it is unlawfully being present in a building with the intention of committing a crime.

Case law: also known as common law, it is law resulting from the outcome of previous Court cases.

Certiorari: an order or writ of a high Court which consents to the review of a decision made by a lower Court.

Circumstantial evidence: evidence that does not conclusively prove a person’s guilt, but rather indirectly leads one to believe of their guilt.

Civil law: law, originating from Rome, that deals with the rights of private citizens, and community members.  

Class-action lawsuit: a suit commenced by a small or large group of people, or by an individual representing a group.  Any judgment or award by the Court will be shared by all members of the group.

Commerce clause: broad powers respecting commerce given to the government.  

Common law: law resulting from long-standing precedents and customs, unlike statute law.

Compensatory damages: monies awarded in a tort claim in an attempt to compensate a plaintiff for any loss or injuries arising from the actions of a defendant.

Complaint: in criminal law this is the initial accusation brought forth.  In civil law, it is the initial statement of alleged facts.

Consent: to agree, allow or refrain from performing an action.  Informed consent is when a person is aware of and understands any consequences that may result from their consent to perform an action.

Consent decree: an Order of the Court that confirms the agreement between parties (two or more) to settle a case.

Conspiracy: an agreement or plot by two or more people to commit an illegal act.

Constitutional law: section of law dedicated to whether regulations, rulings and statutes conform to the federal Constitution and/or constitutions of a state.

Contract:  an agreement between two or more people which is legally binding and that is enforceable by law.

Copyright: related to intellectual property - the legal right to the reproduction, publication and/or distribution of all visual, written or musical materials by its author for a set amount of time.

Court Order: order made by the Court directing you to either refrain from or to do something.

Covenant: Clause in a contract or agreement.

Criminal procedure: A case in Court of a criminal nature; the rules surrounding a criminal procedure.

Cross-examination: Questions put to a witness on stand designed to discredit testimony they gave as a witness, or to stir doubt about testimony given.

Damages: Monies claimed or awarded to compensate for an injury or loss.

Defamation: See also slander and libel. Damaging someone’s reputation through verbal or written means.

Defendant: In a civil or criminal case, the person whom the action is brought against in Court.

Degree: Level of severity of a crime in criminal law.

Deposition: Examination of a witness during the pretrial phase.

Discovery: Process during the pretrial phase where the attorneys for all parties gather all evidence they have to disclose to the other side(s).

Double jeopardy: Forbidden in the United States, it is a defence (procedural) which prohibits a Defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same offense or charges.

Due Diligence: The legal requirement of a person to take steps to satisfy the Courts.

Due process: Requirement that the state provide fair treatment and respect the legal rights of an individual.

Eminent domain: Act where the government (or its agent) compensates an owner, but seizes private property to use for the public.

Evidence: A broad term. Anything used to prove questions of fact during a trial. May consist of documentation, testimony and/or objects.

Exclusionary rule: Rule whereby the Courts in the United States must discard/ignore any evidence that has been gathered or obtained through any improper method (i.e. not in accordance with the Constitution).

Ex parte: A legal proceeding brought before the Court with no notice to any other party. It is a Latin term meaning “from a party”.

Ex rel (atione): Information gathered from another party which is brought before the Court, not firsthand.

Felony: All crimes of a serious nature i.e. murder, rape, assault whereby the punishment is usually imprisonment.

Fraud: Deliberate deception used to cheat someone. May be caused from withholding important information, or by spreading false information about a party.

Grand jury: A group of citizens chosen by the State, usually comprised of 23 people, to hear and to examine evidence to determine whether or not the government has enough evidence to proceed against the accused.

Habeas corpus: A document (writ) provided by the Court requesting a person in custody be brought in to Court or before a Judge.

Hearing: A legal proceeding whereby the parties listen to evidence or arguments of counsel related to a specific issue in a Court.

Hearsay: Typically not admissible evidence, hearsay is the testimony of a witness alleging statements made by another person, where said person is not present to be cross-examined.

Homicide: One human being killing another human being. Homicide is a broader term than murder.

Indictment: The act of formally charging someone with a crime before a grand jury, by prosecution.

Intellectual property: All work creations of one’s mind, including tangible inventions, where you can assert your right of ownership by getting a patent or a copyright.

Immunity: When a person is allowed exemption or absolution from being prosecuted for a crime thereby granting them protection from self-incrimination in order to compel them to testify against others involved in the crime.

Injunction: Order by the Court that requires a person to do something or to cease doing something i.e. cease and desist.

Intent: Having the intention or goal to perform an act prohibited by law that will cause harm.

Judgment: Final ruling by the Court in a case which is either based on the verdict of a jury, or the decision of a Judge.

Judicial review: Typically made by a higher status Court, it is the review of a legal decision, regulation or law.

Jurisdiction: Most often limited by physical locality, it is the right of a Court to hear, try and adjudicate a matter.

Jury: Group of citizens from the public selected to decide what issues are fact presented at trial.

Larceny: Related to theft, it is taking property or money by any unlawful means. 

Liability: The condition of a person who is legally responsible for any negligence or act causing any type or loss or damage to another party.

Libel: Related to slander and defamation – it is the act of making public a false statement that could be, or that is harmful and damaging to someone’s reputation.

Lien: Legal right to seize and/or keep someone else’s property until they pay off or settle a debt owed by them.

Litigation: Engaging in a legal proceeding through the Court system.

Malice Aforethought: The mental state of a person who willingly wants to be reckless in order to harm someone.

Malpractice: Usually referring to a medical doctor, public official or a lawyer, it is the breach of standard through negligent, improper and/or illegal treatment or practices.

Manslaughter: To kill a human being with no prior intent. May refer to voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Mens rea: A necessary factor in determining whether or not a Defendant in an action can be tried for a crime depending on their mental state. The Latin translation is “state of mind”.

Miranda warning: Also commonly known as ‘miranda rights’ it is the act of the police reading a suspect in a crime their rights to inform them of same when taking them into custody. Reading the suspect their Miranda rights will enable any statement given/made by them admissible in a criminal proceeding.

Misdemeanor: A less severe crime, which may be punishable by community service, a fine or a short period of incarceration. 

Motion: Request by an attorney to a Judge to making a specific ruling on a matter.

Murder: With or without premeditation, the act of killing a human being with intent.

Negligence: Failure to exercise reasonable care which results in damages or injury.

Nolo contendere: Plea of a person who does not challenge the charges against him/her while at the same time not admitting liability or guilt.

Patent: Related to intellectual property, it is a grant by a government giving authority and right to a person, for a specified, limited time, to license, manufacture and/or to use or sell an invention.

Per curiam: An anonymously written decision or opinion of the Court, usually by multiple judges. Latin term meaning “by the Court”.

Perjury: Being under oath and knowingly providing false testimony. 

Plaintiff: In a civil case, this is the person who starts an action (law suit) against another person; that other person being the Defendant.

Plea: Formal answer or response by a person who has been criminally charged; i.e. guilty or not guilty.

Plea bargain: Deal struck between the accused and the prosecutor for the State where the accused pleads guilty to a lesser crime or to a lesser degree of the original crime, in order to avoid a trial and possible conviction of the more severe original charge. 

Power of Attorney: A legal document granting a person the right to act for another person in a legal capacity with respect to financial and legal matters.

Precedent: Related to case law: A rule or authority made resulting from a previous legal case heard by the Court.

Preponderance: Quality of being more/superior in power, weight, numbers. i.e. One must prove a case with a preponderance (a lot) of evidence.

Probable cause: A legal requirement for the police to have reasonable belief that a person has committed an illegal act (crime) prior to arrest.

Probate: Verifying a Last Will and Testament in an official manner.

Pro bono: Legal services provided free of charge. Latin term meaning “for the good of the public”. 

Prosecutor: A public official who is either appointed or elected to be responsible for proving criminal charges laid against a person.

Punitive damages: Damages awarded to a Plaintiff for the sole purpose of deterring a Defendant and/or punishing them for any wrongdoing.

Rape: The act of a sexual assault, usually forcing sexual intercourse with another person against their will, without consent.

Reasonable doubt: Given all available evidence, the existence of doubt in one’s mind as to the guilt of a Defendant.

Restraining order: A temporary Order for the purpose of protection issued by the Court which prevents a person from doing certain acts.

Robbery: Theft by means of violence.

Self-defence: The justified act of defending one’s self (in an aggressive manner) against another person during an unprovoked attack.

Self-incrimination: Leading to your own prosecution of a crime you committed by testifying and answering questions. 

Slander: Lying and making false statements against a person which may result in damaging their reputation: Related to libel and defamation.

Small Claims Court: Court which hears civil cases and has limited jurisdiction, only hearing cases for which low amounts of damages may be awarded.

Statute of limitations: Rule/statute which sets out a specific period of time within which to file (start) a legal proceeding.

Statutory law: Law that is written down and set by a legislature, as opposed to verbal statutes.

Subpoena: Legal documents (writ) which orders or summons a person to attend Court.

Summary Judgment: Ruling of the Court not to proceed with a case to trial based on the fact that the evidence has not material fact.

Testimony: Statements made by witnesses used as evidence and sworn to in a Court of law.

Tort: Civil law act where a person injures another person, or their property.

Verdict: Final findings by a judge or jury in a legal proceeding.

Voire dire: An initial, preliminary examination of a potential jury member, or a witness by a lawyer or a judge to determine what that person will say. A French term meaning “speak the truth”. 

Warrant: Order of the Court which directs the police, or another public official, to perform an act i.e. search a premises for evidence in a crime or to make an arrest.

Writ: Legal document made by the Court with a directive directing a person to either refrain from an act or to act in a certain way.

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