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Cassia Home :: Judicial :: Prosecuting Attorney Legal Terms

Glossary of Terms Used in the Criminal Justice Process

 

Acquittal: The judgment of the court, based upon the verdict of the jury or judge, that a defendant is not guilty of the offense for which he or she has been tried.

Alleged: A term to describe the crime or defendant prior to conviction.

Appeal: To seek review of a court order or decision by a higher court. Criminal cases may be appealed to the court of appeals and to the supreme court.

Appellant: The person who disagrees with the initial court order or decision and seeks to have a higher court review the case.

Arraignment: A hearing before the court in which the identity of the defendant is established, the defendant is informed of the charges and his or her rights. The defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at the arraignment.

Bail: Security, usually in the form of money or property, given to a court in exchange for the release of a person in custody or to assure the defendant’s appearance in court at a later date. Bail is a right of all arrested persons prior to conviction except Class A felonies, felonious assault, sexual abuse in the second degree, kidnapping, robbery in the first degree, arson in the first degree or burglary in the first degree.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The burden of proof required for a criminal conviction. The evidence presented by the prosecutor must establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bind-Over: Once the judge has determined that probable cause exists that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime, the judge orders the defendant to district court to stand trial.

Case Law: The law as formed by past court decisions, opinions and interpretations.

City Prosecutor: An attorney appointed by a city who is authorized to handle only simple misdemeanor offenses occurring within city limits.

Common Law: The law as formed by court tradition and custom.

Compensation: Reimbursement of a victim’s out-of-pocket expenses that are incurred as the result of injury to the victim, including psychological injury.

Concurrent Sentences: Sentences for different offenses which are served at the same time. The court determines if an offender’s sentence will be concurrent or consecutive.

Consecutive Sentences: Sentences for different offenses that are served one after the other. A defendant would complete one sentence and then begin the next.

Continuance: The postponement of a legal proceeding to another date or time. A continuance is requested by an attorney in a case.

Conviction: The judgment of the court, based upon the verdict of the jury or judge, that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged.

Criminal Appeals Attorney: An attorney working in the attorney general’s office who prosecutes a case when it is appealed to the Idaho Court of Appeals, the Idaho Supreme Court, or the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Defendant: The person accused of committing the crime.

Deposition: The testimony of potential witnesses taken under oath outside the courtroom. The testimony is transcribed word-for-word and may later be used in the court proceeding.

District Court: The court that handles all felony cases after the preliminary hearing in associate district court.

Felony: A crime carrying a minimum penalty of more than one year in state prison.

Guilty Plea: A defendant’s admission of guilt to criminal charges. It can be used in a civil suit as an admission of liability.

Guilty Verdict: The decision of a jury or judge finding a defendant guilty of the crime for which he or she was tried.

Hung Jury: The inability of a jury to reach a verdict. This results in a mistrial and the defendant may be retried.

In Camera Hearing: A hearing that is held in judge’s chambers without public or jury attendance.

Information: A charge filed by the prosecutor in district court, after a preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment, stating the facts and conduct which form the alleged criminal offense.

Judgment: The order of the court stating that the defendant is acquitted or convicted of the offense for which he or she was tried. Not the same as verdict.

Jurisdiction: The type of crime or judicial district over which a court has authority (i.e., the magistrate court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor offenses, bond setting and preliminary hearings).

Magistrate: A person appointed by each county magistrate-appointing commission to fulfill judicial functions. Magistrates have jurisdiction over simple misdemeanors, including traffic and ordinance violations, preliminary hearings and small claims. Magistrates also have jurisdiction over emergency detention and hospitalization.

Magistrate Court: The court which handles misdemeanor offenses, bond setting and preliminary hearings.

Misdemeanor: A crime carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

Mistrial: A trial that is declared invalid because of an error in court procedure or other wrongdoing. Outbursts by persons not under oath and inadmissible statements by attorneys can result in a mistrial. If a judge declares a mistrial, the offender has not been found guilty, but may be ordered to stand trial again.

Motion: A request by the prosecutor or defense attorney to the judge about a procedure or information in a trial.

Motion to Suppress: A motion often filed by a defense attorney requesting that certain information or evidence not be used at a trial.

Not Guilty Plea: A defendant’s denial of guilt to criminal charges.

Not Guilty Verdict: An acquittal by a jury or judge finding the defendant not guilty of the crime for which the defendant was tried.

Offender: An adult who has been convicted of a crime.

Parole: The conditional release of an offender from prison by the commission of pardons and parole prior to serving the full sentence.

Parole Hearing: A hearing held by the commission of pardons and parole to determine if the offender should be released from prison prior to serving the full sentence.

Plea Bargain: An agreement between the prosecutor and defendant to reduce the charges against the defendant to a lesser crime or one that carries a lesser sentence.

Pre-Trial Release: The release of a defendant from custody prior to trial, on the defendant’s own recognizance or with the posting of bail.

Preliminary Hearing: A hearing before the court to determine if probable cause exists. The court must decide whether a crime has been committed; whether the crime occurred within the jurisdiction of the court; and whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant committed the crime.

Preponderance of Evidence: The burden of proof required in civil cases. A lesser burden than required in criminal cases.

Presentence Investigation: An investigation of a convicted offender prior to sentencing. The investigation includes information about the offender’s character and background, as well as any victim impact statements. The investigation report is meant to assist the judge in determining a fair sentence.

Probable Cause: The burden of proof necessary to make an arrest. A set of facts or circumstances which would cause a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that a crime had been committed and that a particular person committed the crime. Probable cause may also refer to the standard of proof required at a preliminary hearing to bind the defendant over to district court. For probable cause, the information must show that a crime was committed and that the defendant is the one who likely committed it.

Probation: The conditional release of an offender after conviction without requiring the offender to go to prison or jail. Probation is granted by the court.

Prosecuting Attorney: An attorney elected in a county or appointed by county commissioners who is authorized to prosecute all offenses occurring within that county.


Prosecutor: The county prosecutor, city prosecutor, or criminal appeals attorney in the attorney general’s office who represents the state in the prosecution of a crime.

Prosecutorial Discretion: The authority of the elected or appointed attorney to decide on which actions to file criminal charges.

Restitution: Part of an offender’s sentence by the court requiring the offender to make payment to the victim for property damage or injury caused by the crime.

Retained Jurisdiction: A period of 180 days following the sentencing of an offender to prison after which a judge may suspend, modify, or impose the sentence. Also referred to as a Rider.

Sentence: The ruling of a judge concerning the punishment the convicted offender receives for the crime. A sentence may include an order for jail or prison time, a fine or penalty, performance of community service, attendance at special training or counseling, restrictions on behavior or contact with certain persons, and restitution to victims of the crime.

Statutory Law: The law as passed by the legislature, signed by the governor, and contained in the Idaho Code.

Stipulation: An agreement between the prosecutor and defense attorney generally relating to evidence at trial.

Suspended Sentence: The suspension of a jail or prison sentence if the offender meets certain requirements. The conviction stays on the offender’s record.

Trial: A criminal proceeding held in a court to examine the facts and laws in a case for the purpose of reaching a judgment of conviction or acquittal of the defendant.

Verdict: The decision of the jury or judge that the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the offense for which the defendant was tried.

Victim Impact Statement: A written statement which is given to the prosecutor by a victim to be filed with the presentence investigation report or the judge prior to sentencing. The victim impact statement includes an account of the victim’s physical injury and economic loss, a report of the impact of the crime on the victim’s personal welfare and family relationships, and any request for psychological services for the victim or family affected.

Voir Dire: The process of questioning potential jurors.

Witness Bond: The amount of bond set by a judge when a witness in a criminal case refuses to appear after being issued a subpoena. The prosecutor may request an arrest warrant be issued to ensure the presence of a witness.

 
 
 
 

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