Glossary of Court Terms

ADVISEMENT - First court appearance  where charges are read to the defendant in open court. Defendant is formally advised of his/her rights and asked, by the Judge, to enter a plea to the charge.

ARRAIGNMENT - Court proceeding when the criminal charges are read in open court to the defendant and a plea entered to the charges.

BAIL (BOND) - The release of arrested or imprisoned person when security, cash, or property is given or pledged to insure their appearance in court at a future date.

BENCH WARRANT - An order is issued by the court for a person's arrest.

BOND FORFEITURE - A court action taken against a defendant or surety for a defendant's failure to appear while on bond.

CHARGE - A charge is included in the summons and complaint and is an accusation of violation of the law.

CONVICTION - A conviction is the judgment by the court or jury, finding the defendant guilty of committing a criminal offense. In a criminal trial, when the judgment is that the defendant is guilty, a sentence is then imposed.

COUNSEL - A lawyer or group of lawyers representing a client.

DEFENDANT - A person accused.

DEFERRED SENTENCE - A plea agreement in which a defendant enters a plea of guilty. A probationary period is set by the court with specific terms and conditions that need to be met by the defendant. When the defendant has successfully completed these terms and conditions, the charge is dismissed.

DISMISSAL - The final order or judgement disposing of an action without a trial of the issues involved.

DISPOSITION - A disposition is the sentencing or other final settlement of a criminal case.

JURY - A group of people sworn to hear evidence, to inquire into the facts in a legal case, and to give a decision according to their findings.

ORDINANCE - An ordinance is a law passed by a city or town law-making body.

PLAINTIFF - A person who brings a case against another in a court of law.

PLEA - A plea is the delivery, in a formal manner, of the defendant's response to the plaintiff's declaration, complaint, or to the indictment.

PLEA BARGAIN - A compromise between the defendant and the prosecution where the defendant pleads guilty to an amended or a lesser charge.

PRE-TRIAL - A pre-trial is an informal conference between the defendant and the prosecution and the court to clarify and narrow the issues and to attempt to work out a settlement.

PROSECUTOR - The lawyer who represents the government in bringing legal proceedings against a defendant.

STAY OF EXECUTION - An individual (defendant) is sentenced by the Court and the Court grants additional time to complete the sentence.

SUMMONS - A document notifying a person that an action has commenced regarding a criminal charge and requiring the person to appear before the court.

TRIAL TO THE COURT (TRIAL TO THE BENCH) - A trial held before a judge sitting without a jury.

VERDICT - The formal decision, or finding, made by the jury upon the matters or questions submitted to them.