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Placer County, CA
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- A -


Adjudication - Hearing by a court of evidence, and determination of the issue involved.

Arraignment - The initial appearance by the defendant in court to hear the charges against him and to answer them.

- B -


Bench Warrant - An arrest warrant issued by a judge to secure the appearance of a person who did not appear as required.

Burden of Proof - the legal duty on one party or the other to prove a disputed fact, to a particular degree of certainty.

- C -


Circumstantial Evidence - Evidence which proves a fact indirectly, by logical inference, from two or more proved facts.

Citation - A written notice issued by an official (such as a traffic ticket), charging an offense, and requiring an appearance to answer.

Civil Compromise - Disposition of certain misdemeanor cases by civil satisfaction and payment of court costs.

Closing Argument - The prosecutor's final argument to the trier of fact, after the defense has argued its case.

Complaint - The formal charging document filed in justice or municipal court, either to accuse a defendant of a misdemeanor or to initiate felony preliminary hearing proceedings.

Concurrent Sentence - Two or more terms of confinement starting at the same time and being served simultaneously.

Cross Examination - Questioning of a witness by the party who did not call him.

- D -


Determinate Sentence - A specific term of confinement calculated at time of judgment.

Direct Evidence - Evidence that directly proves a fact, without requiring that any inferences be drawn or any other facts be proven.

Direct Examination - The first questioning of a witness by the party who called the witness.

Discovery - Obtaining access to evidence known to or held by the opposing party.

Disposition - The outcome of a case; its final settlement.

Diversion - Removal of a criminal case from the judicial system and referral for treatment by a social service agency.

- E -


Enhancement - An increase to a prison term based on proven allegations of special facts, such as prior record or use of weapons.

Exculpatory - Tending to clear from guilt.

Exhibit - An item of evidence illustrating or supplementing the testimony of witnesses.

Expert Witness - A person having specialized knowledge or skill that allows them to give an opinion in court on a set of facts to which their expertise relates.

Extradition - The surrender of an accused or convicted person from one state to another.

- G -


Grand Jury - A panel of nineteen citizens (twenty-three in Los Angeles County) convened for a one-year term to investigate county government and to charge suspected criminals by indictment.

- H -


Hearsay - Evidence of an out-of-court statement repeated in court to prove that what was stated is true.

Holding - The ruling contained in a judicial opinion upon which the result depends.

- I -


Immunity - Status of being exempt from prosecution, usually conferred by the prosecutor on a minor offender who becomes a witness against a major offender.

Indictment - The formal charge returned by an investigating grand jury against an accused person.

Informant - One who gives information to law enforcement about criminal activity or suspects.  May be a citizen, an anonymous caller, or a known, confidential informant ("CI") who is also involved in the activity or closely associated with the suspect.

Information - The formal charging document filed in superior court by the prosecuting attorney accusing a defendant of a felony following preliminary hearing.

- J -


Jeopardy - The danger of conviction and punishment facing a charged defendant.

Judicial Notice - Statutory device that allows a judge to accept as true, and direct the jury to do likewise, certain fundamental facts not subject to serious dispute, so that the parties need not offer proof of these facts.

Jurisdiction - The power of a court to render an enforceable judgment, derived from constitutional or statutory provisions creating such power as to particular subject matter, within particular limits as to place and time.

- L -


Lesser Included Offense - A less serious charge, the elements of which are necessarily included in a greater charge that has one or more additional elements.

- M -


Mistrial - An invalid or erroneous trial which cannot stand because of some miscarriage of justice.

- N -


Nolo Contendere - A plea of "no contest", allowing a conviction to be found without trial or admission of guilt.

- O -


Own Recognizance - A release pending further court proceedings without posting bail.  The defendant is on his honor to return to court as ordered.

- P -


Parole - Supervised, conditional release from prison after serving a portion of the sentence.

Peremptory Challenge - A challenge to a judge or juror for which no cause need be shown.

Physical Evidence - Tangible items that tend to prove same material fact.

Plea Bargain - An agreement by the prosecutor to recommend charge or sentence reduction to the judge in exchange for the defendant's agreement to plead guilty.

Pleadings - The formal written statements filed in court by the parties to institute or defend an action, or to frame issues for litigation and court decision.

Preliminary Hearing - A formal hearing before a magistrate in felony cases to ascertain that there is probably cause to believe that a crime occurred and that the accused committed it, so that trial would be proper.

Prima Facie - "On the face of it"; "At first sight"; A minimal level of proof, sometimes equated with a strong suspicion.

Probably Cause - A level of justification for arrest, search or holding a defendant to answer to felony charges after preliminary hearing, equated with a "fair probability" or a "strong suspicion".

Probation - Supervised, conditional release in lieu of imposing sentence.

- R -


Recusal - Disqualification and removal of the prosecutor due to an appearance of conflict of interest in a particular case.

Reprieve - Temporary postponement of execution of sentence.

- S -


Search - Governmental infringement of a legitimate expectation of privacy.

Seizure - Governmental interference with possessory interests in property; also, intentionally-applied governmental restrictions on an individual's liberty.

Slow Plea - The defendant's agreement to have the court determine his guilt on the basis of reports and records, without contested trial.

Social Contract - Theory of government under which society agrees to a particular balance of individual freedom and collective security.

Stare Decisis - "To abide by decided cases"; The doctrine compelling courts to honor the prior decision of courts on the same issue.

Subpena - Also spelled "subpoena". An order for a witness to appear in court, "under penalty" of punishment for contempt.

Subpena Duces Tecum - Order to appear in court, and to "bring with you" specified documents or items.

Summons - Written notice to a party to appear in court as specified to respond to a legal action.

Superior Court - The trial court of general jurisdiction.  It hears appeals, conducts felony trials, and sits as the juvenile court.

Suppress - Exclude from evidence.

Supremacy Clause - A provision in Article VI of the US Constitution which makes US Supreme Court decisions binding on state and federal courts as to interpretations of the Constitution.

- T -


Testimonial Evidence - Evidence provided by the oral statements and testimony of witnesses.

Trail - Follow behind other cases; remains pending.

- V -


Venue - The place where proceedings are held.

Verdict - Jury's decision on the matters submitted to it.

Voir Dire - The oral examination of prospective jurors in a case to determine qualifications and to assist in the exercise of challenges for cause.

- W -


Wobbler - An offense that may be charged or punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.

Writ - A written court order.