Glossary of Terms in Criminal Cases
Arraignment: The proceeding in which an accused person is brought before a judge to hear the charges filed against him/her. The offender will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or ‘no contest’. Arraignment may be waived by the Defendant, which would automatically enter a “not guilty” plea.
Arrest Warrant: A document issued by a judicial officer, which directs a law enforcement officer to arrest a person who has been accused of an offense.
Bail: Money or property promised or given to the Court as security when a Defendant is released before or during his/her trial, with the agreement that the Defendant will return to Court when ordered to do so.
Bench Warrant: A Court Order, which directs that the Defendant who has been released before trial and fails to return when ordered to do so, be brought to Court to appear before the judge.
Continue: To reschedule a hearing on a criminal matter from a scheduled date to a future date for a valid reason.
Cross Examination: The questioning of a witness by the defense attorney.
Defendant: A person who has been formally charged with committing a crime and against whom a criminal proceeding is pending.
Direct Examination: The questioning of a witness by the District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney.
Prior Comment: A written or oral statement detailing the victim’s feelings concerning the crime. It is presented to a judicial authority before a change of plea or the dropping or reducing of an offender’s criminal charge(s) takes place.
Prosecutor: In criminal cases, the attorney for the county who represents the interests of the general public, also known as the District Attorney.
Restitution: A commitment on the part of the offender by way of a Court Order to compensate the victim for losses incurred due to the offender’s criminal activities.
Subpoena: An order issued under an authority of a court, commanding a person to appear in court on a particular date, usually to give testimony in a legal case
Summons: A written Order by a judicial officer requiring a person accused of a criminal offense to appear in a designated court at a specified time to answer to the charge(s).
Victim Impact Statement: Statement from a victim concerning the impact a crime has had on him or her and their life. The Judge takes this into consideration prior to sentencing.
Waive: To give up the right to a proceeding, for example, to waive a hearing.