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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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