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Self-Help Glossary

B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W

A

Accessory: A person that helps someone else commit a crime, either before by encouraging the crime or after by concealing the crime.

Accomplice: A person that helps someone else commit a crime. Can be on purpose or not.

Accused: The person that is charged with a crime and has to go to court.

Acknowledgment: Saying, testifying, or assuring that something is true. You can say this out loud or write it down.

Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment: A court form that the judgment creditor must fill out, sign, and file with the court when the judgment is fully paid.

Acquittal: When a Judge or jury finds that the person on trial is not guilty.

Adjournment: To suspend proceedings to another time or place.

Adjudication: The Judge’s decision in a case or action.

Admissible evidence: Evidence that can legally and properly be used in court.

Admonish: To warn, advise, or scold.

Admonition to jury: What the Judge says to the jury about:

1) What they must do and how they must behave;

2) What evidence they can use to make their decision, and

3) How they can use the evidence to make a decision.

Adversary system: The system of trial practice in the United States and some other countries in which each of the opposing parties has the opportunity to present and establish opposing positions before the Court.

Adverse witness: A person called to testify for the other side.

Affidavit: A written statement that someone swears to under oath in front of someone that is legally authorized, like a Judge or notary public.

Affirm: To make a solemn (serious) statement.

Affirmed: When an appellate court says that the lower court’s decision was right.

Affirmative defense: When a defendant or person responding to a civil case has a reason that would make him or her “not guilty” or not at fault and gives the court new evidence to prove that. The defense has to prove what it says (called “burden of proof.”)

Agent: Someone that has authority to act for another.

Alias: A Summons issued in a civil case when the original is defective in form or manner of service.

Alibi: A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

Allegation: A statement or claim that is made and hasn’t been proved to be true or false.

Allege: To say, declare, or charge that something is true even though it isn’t proven yet.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Methods of resolving disputes without official court proceedings. These methods include mediation or arbitration.

Amend: To add to or change a claim that has been filed in court.

Answer: A statement that a defendant writes to respond to a civil complaint and say what defense they will use.

Appeal: When someone that loses at least part of a case asks a higher court (called an “appellate court”) to review the decision and say if it was right. This is called “to appeal” or “to take an appeal.” The person that appeals is called the “appellant.” The other person is called the “appellee”.

Appeal Bond: Posted money to cover the amount of fines and costs in a criminal, petty offense or traffic case while an appeal is pending or posted money to cover the amount of judgment while an appeal is pending in a civil case.

Appearance: Going to court. Or a legal paper that says you will participate in the court process.

Appellant: Someone that appeals a court’s decision.

Appellate: Having to do with appeals. An appellate court can review a lower court’s decision. For example, Denver District Court reviews the decisions of Denver County Court.

Appellate court: A court that can review how the law was used to decide a case in a lower court.

Appellee: A person that answers an appeal in higher court.

Arbitration: When a person that isn’t involved in the case looks at the evidence, hears arguments, and makes a decision.

Arraignment: When a person that is accused of committing a crime is taken to court, told about the charges, and asked to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.”

Attachment: (1) Document attached to court papers to give more information; (2) A way to collect a judgment by getting a court order that says you can take a piece of property.

Attorney: Someone that is qualified and licensed to represent clients in court and to give them legal advice.

Attorney of record: The lawyer whose name is listed in a case record as representing someone in the case.

B

Bail: A security deposit (usually money) given to release a defendant or witness from custody and to make sure that they go to court when they’re supposed to.

Bail bond: A legal paper that you buy from a bondsman and give to the court instead of bail. The defendant signs it and is let go. But if they don’t come to court when they’re suppose to, they must pay the amount of money on the bail bond.

Bail forfeiture: A court order to let the court keep the bail deposit because the defendant didn’t go to court when they were supposed to. (See bond forfeiture)

Bankruptcy: In a civil case, it puts a hold on all proceedings and does not allow a party to take any action without an Order from the Court.

Bankruptcy discharged: The creditor is barred from collecting a judgment in a civil case.

Bankruptcy dismissed: The creditor may proceed in collecting of a judgment in a civil case.

Bond forfeiture: A Court Order to let the court keep the bond posted because the defendant didn’t go to court when they were supposed to. (See bail forfeiture)

Bench warrant: An order given by the Judge (or “bench”) to arrest a person.

Bind over: A Judge’s decision before a trial that says there is enough evidence for a trial.

Book (booking): What the police do when they arrest someone. Includes taking fingerprints, photographs, and writing down personal information about the person.

Breath test: Testing someone’s breath to see how much alcohol is in their blood.

Brief: A written statement that each side gives the court to say why the Court should decide they are right.

Burden of proof: When one person in the case has the responsibility to give more evidence than the other side to convince a judge or jury of the truth of their contention.

C

Caption: The top portion of court forms that contains basic information such as the court’s address, plaintiff or defendant names, and case number.

Case: A lawsuit or a complaint filed in criminal, traffic, or civil court.

Caseflow management: How a case is managed from the first paper to the final decision.

Caseload: The number of cases a judge has at a specific time.

Case number: Identification number that the court clerk’s office gives a case.

Certified copy: An official copy of a paper from a case file that is marked as being true, complete, and a real copy of the original document.

Challenge: Someone’s right to object to or fight something in a legal case.

Challenge for cause: Reasons that a lawyer gives for removing a juror from a case.

Chambers: A Judge’s office.

Change of venue: When a civil or criminal case is moved from one court jurisdiction to another.

Charge: In criminal law, each thing the defendant is accused of.

Circumstantial evidence: All evidence that is indirect. Testimony not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in dispute.

Citation: In a criminal case, a summons that tells the defendant what the charges are and when and where to go to court. In a civil case, a summons is an order to appear and do something demanded or show cause for not doing so.

Civil case: A lawsuit to get property back, to force someone to complete a contract, or to protect someone’s civil rights.

Civil jurisdiction: A court’s right or power to hear noncriminal (civil) cases. County Court jurisdiction is money cases up to $15,000.

Class Code: Designates the seriousness of the charge(s) filed against a person; whether the charge(s) is criminal/non-criminal, possible penalty points for driving privileges (if any), maximum fine amounts and minimum/maximum jail time that may be imposed (if any).  Infractions of any type are the least serious violations; they are non-criminal and only a fine can be imposed.  Felony violations are the most serious violations; they have the highest fine amounts and largest jail time amounts that can be imposed.  You can view a list of class codes by clicking here.

Closing statement: The concluding statement of each side at trial or final hearing that is a summation of evidence presented.

Complainant: Person that wants to start a court case against another person. In a civil case, the complainant is the plaintiff. In a criminal case, the complainant is the City and County of Denver or the State of Colorado.

Complaint: In civil cases, a written statement filed by the plaintiff that starts a case. Says what the plaintiff thinks the defendant did and asks the court for help. Also called the “initial pleading” or “petition.” A complaint is also used to start a criminal case.

Concurrent sentences: Sentences you can serve at the same time. For example, if you have concurrent sentences of 10 years and 5 years, you must serve a total of 10 years. (Compare with consecutive sentences.)

Confession: When someone admits, out loud or in writing, that they committed a certain crime.

Confidential record: Information in a court case that is not available to the public.

Consecutive sentences: Sentences that you serve one after the other. For example, if you have consecutive sentences of 10 years and 5 years, you must serve a total of 15 years. (Compare with concurrent sentences.)

Contempt: When doing something or not doing (or saying) something prevents justice from being had or hurts the honor, respect, or authority of the court. This includes ignoring or disobeying a court order on purpose. Punishment can be a fine or jail.

Continuance: Putting off a court case to a later date.

Contract: 1) An agreement between 2 or more people to do or not to do a particular thing enforceable by law; 2) An agreement between 2 or more people that create, changes, or ends a legal relationship.

Conviction: When a Judge or jury finds a criminal defendant guilty.

Counterclaim: A complaint filed by the defendant against a plaintiff in a civil case.

Court Administrator: A person chosen by the Judges to help manage cases, keep court records, deal with financial matters, and give other administrative support.

Court order: A legal decision made by a court that commands or directs that something be done or not done. A Court Order can be made by a Judge or Magistrate.

Court trial: A trial without a jury. A Judge or Magistrate decides the case.

Creditor: A person or business that is owed a debt (usually money). (See judgment creditor.)

Criminal case: A court case that starts because of a crime.

Cross-examination: The testimony a witness gives when the other side’s lawyer is asking the questions at a trial, hearing, or deposition.

D

Damages: Money that the losing side must pay to the winning side to make up for losses or injuries. There are 2 kinds of damages: (1) “compensatory” meaning money to pay for the actual cost of an injury or loss; and (2) “punitive” or “exemplary,” meaning an amount of money that’s more than the actual damages. This is a punishment for willful or malicious acts.

Debtor: A person or business that owes a debt (usually money). (See judgment debtor.)

Decision: A court’s judgment or decree that settles a dispute.

Default: When a defendant in a traffic infraction case does not go to court when they are supposed to after being properly notified, or in a civil case the defendant does not file an answer or other response with the court. This is called being “in default” for failure to perform.

Default judgment: A court decision that the defendant is responsible for a traffic infraction ticket if they fail to go to court when they are suppose to, or a court decision in favor of the plaintiff in a civil case when the defendant does not answer or go to court when they are suppose to.

Defendant: In a civil case, the person or organization sued by the plaintiff. In a criminal case, the person accused of a crime.

Defense: In a civil case, the facts or arguments presented by the defendant to show why the plaintiff doesn’t have a right to the relief asked for. In a criminal case, the reasons why a defendant should not be convicted of the charge(s).

Defense attorney: In a criminal case, the lawyer that represents the accursed person (called the defendant).

Delay reduction: Court management of cases to reduce long periods of time in which nothing happens in a case.

Delete: To omit, leave out, or remove.

Deliberate: To consider all the evidence and arguments related to a case that was presented in court.

Deliberations: When a jury, for either a civil or criminal case, goes into the jury room to discuss the evidence and testimony and reach a verdict.

De Novo: Starting a case all over again as if it had not been heard before. In Latin, novo means “new”.

Deposition: Written or oral testimony given under oath in front of an authorized third person. Depositions take place outside of the court. They allow the parties to get a record of a person’s testimony, or to get testimony from a witness that lives far away. They can help the lawyers prepare their court papers called “pleadings.”

Detention: When a person is temporarily locked up until the court makes a final decision.

Direct examination: When a witness testifies and answers questions posed by the party that asked them to testify.

Discovery: The gathering of information (facts, documents, or testimony) before a case goes to trial. Discovery is done in many ways, such as through depositions or interrogatories. It can also be done through independent investigation or by talking with the other side’s lawyer.

Dismiss with prejudice: When a court dismisses a case and will not allow any other suits to be filed on the same claim in the future.

Dismiss without prejudice: When a court dismisses a case but will allow other suits to be filed on the same claim.

Disposable income: What’s left of an employee’s income after making legally required deductions, like taxes. Disposable income is used to decide how much of the employee’s pay will be taken for a garnishment or attachment.

Disposition: The final decision by the court in a dispute.

Disqualification: When a judge decides (usually voluntarily) not to hear a case. In most cases, this decision has to do with an outside interest of the judge’s that may influence his or her ability to decide the case in a fair and impartial way.

Diversion: Instead of pleading guilty or going to jail, a defendant goes to a rehabilitation program and is supervised by a probation officer. When the defendant finishes the program, the charges are dismissed and the defendant is not sentenced.

Docket: A list of cases scheduled for a specific date and time.

Due process: The regular way that the law is administered through the courts. The U.S. Constitution says that everyone has to have a day in court, has the right to be represented by a lawyer, and the right to benefit from court procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.

E

Electronic surveillance: Use of an electronic device to keep an eye on where a sentenced person is in the community and to restrict his or her activities, instead of putting the person in jail.

Enforce: To take legal steps to make sure someone complies with a judgment.

Et Seq.: An abbreviation for the Latin et sequentes or et sequentia, meaning “and the following.” The phrase et seq. is used in references made to particular pages or sections of cases, articles, regulations, or statutes to indicate that the desired information is continued on the pages or in the sections following a designated page or section, as “p. 238 et seq.” or “section 43 et seq.” The abbreviation et seq. is sometimes used to denote a reference to more than one following page or section.

Eviction: A court-administered proceeding for removing a tenant from a rental unit because the tenant has violated the rental agreement or did not comply with a notice ending tenancy.

Eviction notice: A notice that the landlord serves on the tenant asking the tenant to move out and explaining why. Some notices give the tenant the chance to fix the problem, like pay back rent or stop doing something prohibited in the lease. There are many types of notices.

Evidence: Any proof legally presented at trial through witnesses, records and/or exhibits.

Exempt assets: Property of a judgment debtor that is legally protected from being taken to pay the judgment.

Exhibit: A document or an object shown and identified in court as evidence in a case. Normally, the court assigns an identifying letter or number in alphabetical or numerical order before exhibits are offered as evidence.

Exonerate: To clear of blame or to relieve from responsibility.

Expunge: To strike out or erase.

Extradition: Bringing a person that is in custody in 1 state to the authorities of another state where that person has been accused or convicted of a crime.

F

F.E.D.: Forcible Entry and Detainer (eviction).

Fee: A specific amount of money that’s paid in exchange for a service, such as filing a court paper.

Fee waiver: Permission not to pay the court’s filing fees. People with very low income can ask the court to waive a fee.

File: When a person officially gives a paper to a court clerk and that paper becomes part of the record of a case.

Fine: The money a person must pay as punishment for doing something illegal or for not doing something they were supposed to do.

Forfeiture: When a person must give up money or property because they didn’t meet a legal obligation.

Foreign judgment: A judgment in a civil case that started outside of the State of Colorado.

Fugitive: A person suspected of doing something wrong that runs away or tries to escape the law.

G

Garnishment: A legal process that allows part of a person’s wages and/or assets to be withheld for payment of a debt. Wage or income garnishment is usually involuntary.

Guardian ad litem: A court-appointed adult (usually a lawyer) that represents a minor child or legally incompetent person.

Guilty: A court decision that a defendant committed a crime. Or when a defendant admits he or she committed a crime.

Guilty plea: When a person admits in court that he or she is guilty of the crime charged in a criminal complaint, information or indictment.

H

Hearing: A formal court proceeding with the Judge and opposing sides present, but no jury.

Hearsay: Statements by a witness that did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay usually can’t be used as evidence in court.

Home detention: When an electronic device is put on a prisoner’s body to keep track of where the prisoner goes in the community and what the prisoner does. Used instead of a jail sentence.

I

Illegal parking: Violation of any state or city parking regulation.

Impound: To seize and hold in the custody of the law; generally used to refer to vehicles or animals, not people.

Incarcerate: To put in jail.

Indemnity: An obligation to provide compensation (usually money) for a loss, injury, or damage.

Indigent: This term usually refers to a person that has very limited income.

In forma pauperis: This is a Latin phrase meaning permission given by a court to a person to file a case without paying the required court fees because the person can’t afford to pay them.

Infraction: A minor violation of a law, contract, or right that is not a misdemeanor or a felony and can’t be punished by time in jail.

Injunction: A court order that says a defendant can’t perform, or must perform, a specific act.

In limine: Latin for “at the beginning” or “at the threshold,” such as a motion in limine at the beginning of trial to ask that certain evidence be excluded.

Innocent: Found by a court to be not guilty of criminal charges; acquitted.

Installment payments: Weekly, monthly, or other periodic payments on a debt.

Instructions to jury: Instructions given by a Judge to a jury immediately before they decide a case, telling the jury what laws apply to that case.

Interpreter: A person that is certified as being able to translate, orally or in writing, spoken or sign language into the common language of the court.

Interrogatories: Written questions about assets or income sent by one side in a lawsuit to an opposing side as part of pretrial discovery in civil cases. The side that receives the interrogatories must answer them in writing under oath. Answers can be used to obtain a writ of garnishment or execution against wages or property.

J

Judgment: 1) The official decision of a court that resolves the dispute between the parties to a lawsuit; 2) the official decision or finding of a judge about the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also know as a “decree” or “order,” and may include “findings of fact and conclusion of law”; 3) the final decision of the judge stating which party has won the case and the terms of the decision.

Judgment creditor: The party (either plaintiff or defendant) who should receive money as ordered by the Court in a civil case.

Judge debtor: The party who owes money as ordered by the Court in a civil case.

Judicial district: The state is divided into judicial districts that define the geographical area of each courts authority.

Judicial officer: Judges or Magistrates that make court decisions.

Jurisdiction: 1) The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; 2) the geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases, 3) the territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.

Juror: A person selected to be on a jury.

Jury: A group of citizens picked according to law and authorized to decide a case.

Jury commissioner: The local official responsible for giving the court lists of qualified potential jurors.

Jury instructions: The guidelines given by the judge at the beginning and end of a trial that explain what the law in the case is and how the jurors should evaluate the evidence.

Juvenile: A person younger than the legal age of adulthood, which is usually 18 years but in some cases 21 years.

L

Landlord: An owner, also called “lessor,” that rents out real property to a tenant, also called “lessee.”

Lawsuit: 1) A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty, which caused harm to the plaintiff; 2) a legal dispute brought to a court for resolution.

Lawyer: A person licensed to practice law who represent clients in a court of law and advises them on legal matters.

Lease: An agreement for renting real property, including residential property, like a house or an apartment. A lease is usually in writing and it covers a specific amount of time, such as 1 year. A rental agreement for a place where you live can be a written agreement or a verbal agreement between a landlord and the tenant.

Legal aid organizations: Organizations that provide free legal advice, representation, and other legal services in noncriminal cases to low-income people.

Legal parent: A person who is recognized by the law as the parent of a child.

Levy: To obtain money by legal process through seizure and/or sale of property.

Levying officer: Sheriff or marshal that is given the power by writ of execution to levy on a judgment debtor’s property.

Liable: A person is found to be legally responsible for their actions or outstanding fines and costs.

License hold: The action taken to prevent someone from renewing their license until a legal matter is settled. Also known as outstanding judgment or warrant hold (OJW hold).

Litigants: The parties (sides) involved in a lawsuit.

Litigate: To conduct or engage in a lawsuit.

Litigation: A case, controversy, or lawsuit. The people involved in lawsuits (plaintiff and defendant) are called “litigants.”

M

Malfeasance: Performance of an act that should not have been done at all.

Mandatory: Required or ordered.

Marshal: A peace officer that has the power to arrest and serve legal papers.

Mediation: A process in which a neutral person helps people who have a dispute to communicate so they can reach an agreement.

Minor: A person under the age of 18 years.

Miranda warning: Refers to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that says when a person is arrested or questioned by police, he or she must first be told about certain rights against self-incrimination (saying something that makes it sound like you are guilty).

Misdemeanor: A crime that can be punished by up to 1 year in jail.

Mistrial: A trial that has been ended and declared void (of no legal effect) due to prejudicial error in the proceedings or other extraordinary circumstances.

Money judgment: A specific amount of money awarded by the court to a person as payment for damages (losses or injuries) suffered.

Moot: A point or question related to a legal case that usually has no practical importance or relevance to the case. A moot point is a point that can’t be resolved by the judge, is not disputed by either side, or is resolved out of court.

Motion: An oral or written request that a party makes to the court for a ruling or an order on a particular point. Example: A “motion to reduce bail” asks the court to lower the amount of bail needed to release the defendant from custody and guarantee that he or she will appear in court when required. A “motion to set” asks the Judge to set a date for a future trial.

Motion to quash: A request to the court to stop process or act by the other party. Example: A legal response that a tenant can file in an unlawful detainer lawsuit if the tenant believes that the landlord did not properly serve the summons and complaint.

N

Negligence: When someone fails to be as careful as the law requires to protect the rights and property of others.

Nolo contendere: No contest, from the Latin for “I do not wish to contend.” A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect on a criminal sentence as a plea of guilty, but may not be taken as an admission of guilt for any other purpose. For example, a person might plead nolo contendere and pay a fine or serve jail time as if guilty, but if he or she were sued in a civil case afterward, the other side would still have to prove that the person was guilty.

Non-liable: A person is not legally responsible for outstanding fines and costs or damages to property.

Non-service: When a summons, warrant, or other process is issued but not served (delivered).

Notary public: A person authorized under civil law to administer oaths, to attest (affirm) and certify that certain documents are authentic.

O

Objection: A formal protest made by a party over testimony or evidence that the other side tried to introduce.

Obligation: Law or duty that requires parties to follow their agreement. An obligation or debt may be created by a judgment or contract, like child support.

Offense: An act that violates (breaks) the law.

OJW: Stands for “Outstanding Judgment or Warrant.” A hold placed on a person’s driver’s license when they fail to appear for court or obey a court order on a traffic case. If unresolved, the person’s driving privileges will be cancelled.

Opening statement: An explanation by both parties at the beginning of a trial or final hearing as to what will be proven during the trial or final hearing.

Oral argument: The part of a trial when lawyers summarize their position in court and also answer the judge’s questions.

Order: A decision or directive of a judicial officer.

Ordinance: A regulation made by a local government (City and County of Denver) to enforce, control, or limit certain activities.

P

Parole: A conditional release from prison that allows the person being released to serve the rest of the sentence out of prison if all conditions of release are met.

Party: One of the litigants in a court case. At the trial level, the parties are typically called the plaintiff and defendant. On appeal, parties are called the appellant and appellee.

Penalty: Punishment for breaking a law.

Peremptory challenge: A challenge to a potential juror in a case, by either the defense attorney or the prosecuting attorney that usually results in that person’s disqualification from service on the jury and does not require either attorney to say why the challenge is made. The law limits the number of peremptory challenges allowed.

Plaintiff: A person that brings an action; the party that complains or sues in a civil case.

Plea: In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges.

Plea bargain: Negotiation between the prosecuting attorney and the person accused of a crime or that person’s lawyer to exchange a guilty plea for conviction of a lesser charge, if the court approves.

Pleading: Written statement filed with the court that describes a party’s legal or factual claims about the case and what the party wants from the court.

Polling of jury: A practice in which jurors are asked individually whether they agree with the final verdict in the case they just decided.

Preliminary hearing: A hearing held when a defendant is charged with a felony. The prosecutor must present evidence to prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime. If the judge decides sufficient evidence exists the case will be bound over to Denver District Court.

Presentence report: A report prepared by the probation department for the judge when sentencing a defendant. It describes defendant’s background to include financial, job, and family status, community ties, criminal history, and facts about the current offense.

Pretrial services: Services provided by a local agency to investigate a criminal defendant’s background so a judge can decide whether or not to release the defendant from custody before trial.

Prima facie: Not requiring further support to establish existence, credibility, or validity; from the Latin for “from first view.” A prima facie case is sufficient on its face because it is supported by the necessary minimum evidence and free from obvious defects. Prima facie evidence is sufficient to support a certain conclusion unless contradictory evidence is presented.

Prior: A term generally used to refer to a previous conviction.

Privity:  A legally recognized relationship existing between two parties.  This can include, but is not limited to:  family, friends, partners, associates, accomplices, parties to a contract, etc.  May sometimes also refer to secret knowledge that is/has been shared.

Probable cause: A reasonable basis for assuming that a charge or fact is well founded.       

Probation: (1) a sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases a convicted defendant under supervision of a probation officer that makes certain that the defendant follows certain rules, for example, gets a job, and gets drug counseling. (2) A department of the court that prepares a presentence report.

Probation officer: Officers of the probation department of a court. A probation officer’s duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.

Pro bono: Legal work done for free; from the Latin meaning “for the good.”

Process server: A person that serves court papers on a party to a lawsuit.

Promissory note: A written document that says that a person promises to pay money to another.

Proof of service: The form filed with the court that proves that court papers were formally served on (delivered to) a party in a court action on a certain date.

Pro se: Refers to persons that present their own cases in court without lawyers, from the Latin for “on one’s own behalf.”

Prosecute: To charge someone with a crime and then try them for it in court. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Prosecuting attorney: A public officer that prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the city or state; sometimes referred to as “city attorney” or “district attorney.”

Public defender: A lawyer appointed by the court, usually to represent a defendant in a criminal case that can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

Public record: A court record available for inspection by the general public.

Purge: To remove inactive case records from court files.

Q

Quash: To make void, to vacate, to annul, and to set aside. For example, to quash a subpoena means that the court will not enforce the subpoena because it has been voided or set aside.

R

Rap sheet: A written summary of a person’s criminal history.

Reasonable doubt: The doubt that prevents one from firmly and confidently finding that a defendant is guilty.

Rebuttal: Evidence presented at trial by 1 party in order to overcome evidence introduced by another party.

Recess: A short break in a trial ordered by the Judge.

Recidivist: Habitual criminal, repeat offender.

Record: A written account of the proceedings in a case, included all pleadings, evidence, exhibits, and judgment submitted during the case.

Recuse: To excuse (oneself) or be excused from a criminal or civil proceeding because of conflict of interest. For example, a Judge may recuse himself from a case because of personal or professional involvement with 1 or more of the parties.

Remand: (1) When an appellate court sends a case to a lower court for further proceedings; (2) to return a prisoner to custody.

Remanding order: An order to the sheriff to hold a defendant in custody until his or her next court appearance, or until bail is posted.

Rental agreement: An oral or written agreement between a tenant moves in that sets the terms of the tenancy, like the amount of the rent and when it is due.

Rental unit: An apartment, house, duplex, condominium, or room that a landlord rents to a tenant to live in. When a tenant uses the rental unit to live in, it is called a “residential rental unit.”

Renter’s insurance: Insurance that protects the tenant’s property against losses, including theft or fire. This insurance usually also protects the tenant against liability (legal responsibility) for claims or lawsuits filed by the landlord or by others who may claim that the tenant negligently injured another person or property.

Replevin: A civil court action where one person seeks to recover possession of personal property that was wrongfully taken by another person.

Request for admission: A method of discovery in which 1 party formally, and in writing, asks the opposing party to admit the truth of certain facts relevant to a case.

Reset: To put on the court calendar again.

Residency: The usual, official place of residence. The place where a person makes his or her home.

Restitution: The act of restoring or giving the equivalent value to compensate for an injury, damage, or loss.

Restraining order: A court order that tells a person to stop doing something for a certain amount of time.

Return date: The date and time a defendant must appear in court. In a civil case, it is the date the defendant must file an Answer by and/or appear in court, which is listed on the Summons.

Reverse: When an appellate court sets aside the decision of a trial court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.

Revocation: The act of voiding or canceling something, usually probation or a driver’s license.

S

Satisfaction: Payment of a judgment amount by the losing party.

Sealed record: A record closed by a court to further inspection by the public unless there is a court order to permit it.

Security deposit: A deposit or a fee that the landlord requires the tenant to pay at the beginning of the tenancy. The landlord can use the security deposit, for example, if the tenant moves out owing rent or leaves the unit damaged or less clean than when the tenant moved in.

Self-surrender: When a person turns him or herself in voluntarily to the jail, police, or the court.

Sentence: A judge’s formal pronouncement of the punishment to be given to a person convicted of a crime.

Service of process: (Return of Service; Affidavit of Service) The official way a defendant is notified that a lawsuit has been filed against him/her and provided with a copy of the Complaint and a description of the person’s rights and obligations as a party in a civil case.

Settlement: An agreement reached among the parties that resolves the case at any time before a judge’s decision in the case or a jury verdict.

Show cause: A court order telling a person to appear in court and present any evidence why the orders requested by the other side should not be granted or executed. A show cause order is usually based on a motion and affidavit asking the judge to make certain decisions.

Slander: Defamation of a person’s character or reputation through false or malicious oral statements.

Small claims case: A civil case for a monetary judgment of $7,500 or less.

Small claims court: The division of the court that handles the civil cases asking for $7,500 or less. The plaintiff can file either a small claims case or a regular civil case in county court. Small claims court is designed to be simple, quick, and less costly than a regular civil lawsuit, in small claims court there are no lawyers, no rules of evidence, and no juries.

Statute: A law passed by Congress or a state legislature.

Statute of limitations: A law that sets the deadline for parties to file suit to enforce their rights. For example, if a state has a 4-year statute of limitations for breach of a written contract and “Jim” breached a contract with “Ron” on January 1, 1999. Ron must file his lawsuit by January 1, 2003. If the deadline passes, the “statute of limitations has run” and Ron may not be allowed to sue. There are very few conditions that allow a statute to be extended.

Stay of Execution: An order stopping a judicial proceeding or execution of a judgment.

Stipulation: An agreement between involved parties in a civil case.

Strike: To delete or remove, as in to strike (a case) from the court’s calendar.

Subpoena: An official order to go to court at a stated time. Subpoenas are commonly used to tell witnesses to come to court to testify in a trial.

Subpoena to Produce (Subpoena Duces Tecum): An official court order to bring documents or records to a stated place at a stated time.

Summary judgment: A court decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the court record without a trial. It is used when no factual disputes exist in the case. Summary judgment is granted if, based on the undisputed facts in the record, a party is entitled to judgment in his or her favor as a matter of law.

Summons: (1) In a civil case, a notice to a defendant that an action against him or her was filed in the court issuing the summons and that a judgment will be taken against him or her if the defendant doesn’t answer the complaint or petition within a certain time. (2) In a criminal case, a notice to a defendant that charges have been filed against him or her and their appearance in court is required. Failure to appear could result in a warrant being issued for their arrest.

Suppress: To stop or put an end to someone’s activities. To suppress evidence is to withhold it from disclosure or publication.

Surety bond: An insurance policy taken out by a defendant with a national insurance company in which the insurer agrees to pay the court the amount of bail required for the defendant’s release if the defendant fails to come to court when he or she is supposed to.

Suspend: To postpone, stay, or withhold certain conditions of a judicial sentence for a temporary period of time.

Suspended sentence: In criminal law, this means the defendant doesn’t have to serve the sentence at the time the sentence was imposed.

T

Temporary restraining order: A court order, sometimes called a “TRO” that says a person must not do certain things that are likely to cause harm that can’t be fixed. It is intended to last only until a hearing can be held. TRO’s are often used in domestic violence cases to protect a person from violence or the threat of violence.

Tenant: A person who rents or leases a rental unit from a landlord. The tenant has the right to the exclusive use and possession of the rental unit during the lease or rental period.

Testify: To give evidence under oath as a witness in a court proceeding.

Testimony: Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials, before grand juries, or during administrative proceedings.

Third-party claim: An interest or share in property that has been taken by order of a court.

Ticket: A citation, usually for a traffic violation.

Title: The ownership or evidence of ownership of land or other property.

Traffic offense: A class of traffic violations that include careless driving, no proof of insurance, and six point speeding violations. Classification is determined by the state or city law.

Transcript: A written, word-for-word record of what was said at a trial or some other formal conversation like a hearing or arraignment.

Transcript of judgment: A certified one-page document that states the name of the person or entity ordered to pay a judgment and the name of the person or entity to whom the judgment should be paid, and the date and amount of the judgment.

Transfer: A Judge’s order to transfer a case from 1 court to another before a hearing or trial is held in the matter.

Trial: A court process in which the issues of fact and law are heard and decided according to legal procedures so a judicial officer or jury can make a decision in the case. Can be either (1) a court trial – a trial that is heard and decided by a Judge, or (2) a jury trial – a trial that is heard and decided by a jury.

U

Uninhabitable: A rental unit that has problems or defects so serious that they affect the tenant’s health or safety. A rental unit may be uninhabitable if it is not fit for people to live in, or it does not follow important building and safety code standards that affect the tenants’ health and safety.

Unlawful detainer: A lawsuit in which a landlord tries to evict a tenant because, according to the landlord, the tenant no longer has the right to live on the property. (Also called an eviction.)

Uphold: When an appellate court agrees with the lower court decision and allows it to stand.

Urine test: A medical test of a urine sample to see if it contains evidence of alcohol or some other drug.

V

Vacate a default judgment: Getting a default judgment removed or erased.

Venue: The particular court in which an action may be brought.

Verdict: The final decision about the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant made by a judge or jury. In a civil case, a verdict can be in favor of the plaintiff or in favor of the defendant.

Violation: A breach of a right, duty, or law.

Voir dire: The process by which judges and lawyers select members of the jury by questioning them to make sure they can fairly decide the case.

W

Wage assignment: A legal procedure that requires the employer to withhold a portion of a defendant’s wages to pay fines and costs owed to the court.

Wage garnishment: A legal procedure that requires the employer of a judgment debtor to withhold a portion of the judgment debtor’s wages to satisfy a judgment.

Waiver of rights form: A form signed by a defendant that outlines which legal rights, if any, are waived (or given up) by the defendant.

Warrant: A written order issued and signed by a judge or judicial officer directing a peace officer to take specific action. Can be (1) an arrest warrant – orders a peace officer to arrest and bring to the court the person accused of a crime to begin legal action; (2) a bench warrant – a judge’s order to arrest and bring a person to court because the person has failed to appear in court when they were supposed to; (3) a search warrant – an order based on a finding of probable cause directing law enforcement officers to conduct a search of a specific premises for specific persons or things and to bring them to the court.

Without prejudice: A term used when rights or privileges are not waived or lost. A dismissal of a lawsuit without prejudice means a new suit can be brought on the same cause of action if it is within the statute of limitations.

Witness: A person called by either side in a criminal case or civil lawsuit to give testimony before the judge or jury.

Writ: A written court order saying that certain action must be taken. Can be a writ of: (1) attachment – an order to attach specified property; (2) execution – an order to enforce a court judgment; (3) habeas corpus – an order to release someone that has been unlawfully imprisoned; and (4) restitution – process of enforcing a civil judgment in the eviction process.

Writ of Execution: An order issued by a court requiring the performance of a specified act, or giving authority to have it done. It is used to allow a levying officer the power to take the judgment debtor’s property.

Writ of Restitution: A legal Order signed by the Court authorizing the Sheriff to evict the defendant in a civil case. It is effective 48 hours after the judge grants a judgment of possession, unless other terms are ordered.

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