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Criminal Terms

Updated: Sep 11

Acquittal

To find a defendant not guilty.


Bail

The money or bond put up to secure the release of a person who has been charged with a crime.


Bench Warrant

A warrant issued by a judge with a bail setting to encourage people to show up for court.


Bond

Written evidence provided by an insurance company with the terms of payment listed.


Community Confinement

A condition of probation or supervised release where a person convicted of a crime is required to live in a court specified residence (halfway house, restitution center etc) and participate in gainful employment (vocational training, treatment, community service etc) for up to six months.


Community Service

A form of sentencing where the person convicted of a crime must participate in unpaid work that benefits the community to make up for the harm they have done.


Conviction

The result of a criminal trial where the defendant is found guilty of a crime.


Defendant

The party who is being charged with a crime, or the party denying the claims of payment.


Double Jeopardy

When someone is put on trial a second time for an offense which he or she has already been acquitted.

This is specifically prohibited by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Felony

A crime serious enough to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison for more than one year.

A crime is considered a felony when the punishment is at least one year of jail time or a fine of $5000 or more.


Misdemeanor

A lessor crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year.


Standard Misdemeanor (misdemeanor)

A crime punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $1000.


Gross Misdemeanor

A crime punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a fine of $5000.


Parole

The period of time after a convicted party has been released after serving his or her sentence where he or she must prove that he or she is rehabilitated and can "make good" in society.


Plea

The defendant's response to the charges against him or her (guilty, not guilty, no contest).


Probation

The chance to remain free (or serve a short time in jail) given by a judge to a person convicted of a crime instead of being sent to jail or prison. Probation is awarded in select circumstances. If the terms of probation are violated, the person may be sent to jail or prison.

Probation often requires the person convicted of a crime to complete community service or pay a fine.


Prosecutor

The term for the attorney representing a government entity in a criminal case (State Attorneys, District Attorneys etc).


Public Defender

The attorney assigned or appointed by the court to defend people accused of crimes who cannot afford a private attorney.


Sentence

The punishment given to a person convicted of a crime.


Warrant

An order from the court to direct law enforcement to arrest and bring a person before a judge.

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