Lingua Incognita: Deciphering Common Legal Terms for Criminal Justice Cases
If you or a loved one is unlucky enough to be wrapped up in a criminal investigation, you may feel overwhelmed by the process, even more so if you’re constantly surrounded by lawyers and police officers who throw around confusing legal terms. Understanding and feeling comfortable with legalese can make the justice process feel more straightforward. Familiarize yourself with the definitions of these commonly used legal phrases to make the case a little less stressful.
Acquittal – An acquittal is a court decision that the defendant is not guilty of the crime for which they have been tried, therefore ending the case. Either a jury or judge can make this decision.
Alibi – When suspected of a crime, a person may be asked for their alibi. An alibi is a report detailing the suspect’s actions at the time of the crime that informs investigators the suspect could not have been the perpetrator. For example, if a robbery took place at 8:00 PM, but you were caught on camera at a grocery store across town at 8:05 PM, you could have a sound alibi that clears you of suspicion. Alibis must be supported with evidence and eyewitness reports if they are to be taken as factual.
Appeal – Once a trial is decided, the losing party may file for an appeal. In this case, a higher court will examine the trial proceedings and decisions and decide whether to uphold the lower court’s decision, reverse the decision so the loser is actually the winner or remand the decision so the lower court must carry out proper procedure before deciding the case.
Due Diligence – Due diligence is the process of examining all available resources and evidence. The officers and lawyers should have done their due diligence before bringing the case to trial.
Evidentiary – Describing an item as evidentiary means it can be used in a court of law to help determine guilt or innocence of a crime. Examples of evidentiary items include objects from the crime scene, fingerprints, blood tests, clothing or other articles that could be used to prove a suspect was guilty or innocent.
Miranda Rights – Miranda rights are a set of statements that the law requires must be read to a suspect or defendant to ensure they are aware of their rights while in police custody or while a criminal investigation is underway.
Plea Bargain – A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff or prosecution in which the defendant is asked to voluntarily plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a more lenient sentence or some other benefit.
Nolo Contendre – Otherwise known as “no contest,” this Latin phrase denotes a situation in which the defendant neither admits guilt nor denies the charges.
Actus Reus – Though not often used anymore, this phrase refers to the act of committing the crime. Whether the crime is a failure to act or a distinct illegal action, it is still known as actus reus.
Indictment – An indictment is a formal accusation presented to the court stating that a particular defendant is being charged with a specific crime.
Mistrial – When a court or trial does not follow standard procedure or commits a wrong during the process, the case is a mistrial.
Nolle Prosequi – Nolle prosequi is the act of dismissing records of a charge. In other words, the arrest of a suspect, their subsequent indictment and all other pertinent information regarding the crime is expunged from their record.
Voir Dire – Voir dire is the selection of a jury based on pointed questions about the case and the jurors’ knowledge of the subject matter.
Ad Hominem – This is a direct attack on the character of a person without evidence in an attempt to avoid engaging in the argument and is usually inadmissible in court.
Pro Per – An abbreviated version of the Latin phrase “propria persona,” this is the act of representing yourself without legal counsel from a lawyer.
Quid Pro Quo – Though this has leaked into everyday speech, this Latin term literally means “this for that” and denotes an equal exchange for services or goods.
Bail Bonds in Minnesota
If you or a loved one get into legal trouble, you may need to consider a bail bond to ensure the bills get paid and the family is cared for between arrest and trial. At Goldberg Bail Bonds, we specialize in offering competitively priced bail bonds coupled with fast, honest customer service. Our numerous locations throughout Minnesota make it easy to find a bondsman you trust to help you get back to your normal life. Contact us online or call (612) 333-8111 to speak with an agent today!