420: The term 420 originated at San Rafael High School, in 1971, among a group of about a dozen pot-smoking wiseacres who called themselves the Waldos, who are now pushing 50. The term was shorthand for the time of day the group would meet, at the campus statue of Louis Pasteur, to smoke pot. Intent on developing their own discreet language, they made 420 code for a time to get high, and its use spread among members of an entire culture. (There are many other disputed claims of the origin of 420).
Accomplice: 1. A partner in a crime.
2. A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates with another in a criminal activity.
Aiding and Abetting/Accessory: Anyone who helps in the commission of a crime, may be charged with aiding and abetting or accessory. Usually indicates that the person was not present when the crime itself was committed, but that he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may have assisted in its commission through advice, actions, or financial support.
Appeal: A proceeding in which a case is brought before a higher court for review of a lower court’s judgment for the purpose of convincing the higher court that the lower court’s judgment was incorrect
Arraignment: The hearing at which the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment. He may plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or where permitted “nolo contendere.” (See preliminary hearing.)
Arson: Arson is committed when a person intentionally burns almost any kind of structure or building
Assault/Battery: When one person attempts to or does physically strike another, and/or acts in a threatening manner to put another in fear of immediate harm. A more serious or “aggravated” assault/battery occurs when one attempts to or does cause severe injury to another, and/or causes injury through use of a deadly weapon.
Bail bond: An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as “bond.”
Bench warrant: An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.
Bribery: Bribery is the offer or acceptance of anything of value in exchange for influence on a government/public official or employee. Bribes can take the form of gifts or payments of money in exchange for favorable treatment, such as awards of government contracts. In most situations, both the person offering the bribe and the person accepting can be charged with bribery
Booking: The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.
Burglary: The act of illegal entry with the intent to steal.
Capital crime: A crime punishable by death.
Citation: The official paper that notifies you about maybe having done something against the law. You will be asked to sign this paper promising to appear.
Complaint Proceedings: Are changes brought by the DA or City Attorney as a felony. It includes a preliminary hearing if the case is not resolved. In Misdemeanor matters, complaint proceedings include trial if required.
Conspiracy: An agreement between two or more people to commit a crime. Conspiracy is a crime in its own right and you can be convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime even though the crime itself never actually took place.
De Minimis: literally- “the law is not concerned with trivial matters” an abbreviation of a longer Latin phrase “de minimis non curat lex” The phrase is generally used as a way of categorizing that which is not worth litigating over.
Discovery: The name given pretrial devices for obtaining facts and information about the case.
Entrapment: The act of inducing a person to commit a crime so that a criminal charge will be brought against him.
Equal Protection of the Law: The guarantee in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that all persons be treated equally by the law.
Ex parte: On behalf of only one party, without notice to any other party. For example, a request for a search warrant is an ex parte proceeding, since the person subject to the search is not notified of the proceeding and is not present at the hearing.
Expert Witness: An expert witness is a witness in a court case who is called because he has specific knowledge of a particular field rather than having knowledge of the facts surrounding the case in question.
Felony: A serious criminal offense. Under federal law any offense punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
Forfeiture: A cancellation. A legal action whereby a contract purchaser following default loses all his interest in the property.
Grand Jury: A jury of inquiry whose duty it is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal matters and if appropriate issue a formal indictment.
Habeas Corpus: literally- “you must have the body”. The right, supposedly enshrined in American law, which prevents a person from being wrongfully imprisoned, it encompasses the right that no one may be imprisoned or restrained without, within a reasonable period of time, being brought before a lawful court to answer the charge for which the detention occurred.
Hearsay: Hearsay is evidence where one person is recounting to the court what they heard another person, who may not be present in the court, say or what they were told (but did not see themselves) that another person had done. Usually, hearsay evidence is held either not to be admissible or that if admissible, less weight is attached to it than to other more direct evidence.
Indeterminate sentence: A sentence of imprisonment to a specified minimum and maximum period of time, specifically authorized by statute, subject to termination by a parole board or other authorized agency after the prisoner has served the minimum term.
Infraction: A violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Minor traffic offenses generally are considered infractions.
Insider Dealing: often in the news, insider dealing is where someone who has knowledge about a limited company’s financial and trading position that is not known to the rest of the public (for example because they are employed by the company) buy and sell that company’s securities and make a profit as a result.
Judgment: A court’s decision.
Jury: A certain number of men and women selected according to law and sworn to try a question of fact or indict a person for public offense.
Larceny: Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.
Litigation: A lawsuit; a legal action, including all proceedings therein.
Malfeasance: The commission of an unlawful act.
Malicious prosecution: An action instituted with intention of injuring the defendant and without probable cause, and which terminates in favor of the person prosecuted.
Miranda warning: Requirement that police tell a suspect in their custody of his or her constitutional rights before they question him or her. So named as a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the United States Supreme Court.
Misdemeanor: A criminal offense lesser than a felony and generally punishable by fine or by imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.
Misfeasance: Improper performance of an act which a person might lawfully do.
Mistrial: An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again from the selection of the jury.
Mitigating circumstances: Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame.
Mittimus: The name of an order in writing, issuing from a court and directing the sheriff or other officer to convey a person to a prison, asylum, or reformatory, and directing the jailer or other appropriate official to receive and safely keep the person until his or her fate shall be determined by due course of law.
Mitigation: A reduction, abatement, or diminution of a penalty or punishment imposed by law.
Moot: A moot case or a moot point is one not subject to a judicial determination because it involves an abstract question or a pretended controversy that has not yet actually arisen or has already passed.
Mootness usually refers to a court’s refusal to consider a case because the issue involved has been resolved prior to the court’s decision, leaving nothing that would be affected by the court’s decision.
Motion: An application made to a court or judge which requests a ruling or order in favor of the applicant.
Motion in Limine: A motion made by counsel requesting that information which might be prejudicial not be allowed to be heard in a case.
Nonfeasance: Nonperformance of an act which should be performed; omission to perform a required duty or total neglect of duty.
Nonjury trial: Trial before the court but without a jury.
Oral argument: Presentation of a case before a court by spoken argument; usually with respect to a presentation of a case to an appellate court where a time limit might be set for oral argument.
Order: A mandate, command, or direction authoritatively given. Direction of a court or judge made in writing.
Ordinance: A rule established by authority; may be a municipal statute of a city council, regulating such matters as zoning, building, safety, matters of municipality, etc.
Overrule: A judge’s decision not to allow an objection. Also, a decision by a higher court finding that a lower court decision was in error.
Parole: Supervised release of a prisoner from imprisonment on certain prescribed conditions which entitle him to termination of his sentence.
Perjury: The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.
Per se doctrine: Under this doctrine an activity such as price fixing can be declared as a violation of the antitrust laws without necessity of a court inquiring into the reasonableness of the activity.
Pre-Arraignment Council and Advice: This refers to Attorney representation of clients prior to Arraignment
Quasi-criminal action: A classification of actions such as violation of a city ordinance that is not also violation of a criminal statute, which are wrongs against the public punishable through fines but are not usually indictable offenses.
Reasonable doubt:A n accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, his or her guilt has not been proved beyond a “reasonable doubt;” that state of minds of jurors in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge.
Subpoena: a form issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and/or bring documents.
Temporary restraining order: An emergency remedy of brief duration issued by a court only in exceptional circumstances, usually when immediate or irreparable damages or loss might result before the opposition could take action.
Verdict: A conclusion, as to fact and law, that forms the basis for the court’s judgment.
Voir dire: Literally, to speak the truth. The preliminary examination made in court of a witness or juror to determine his competency or interest in a matter.