Arraignment - A court appearance at which the defendant is formally charged and is asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.  In felony cases, an arraignment follows a preliminary hearing.


Bound Over - At the completion of the preliminary hearing, if the judge finds that it is reasonable to believe that the defendant committed a felony, the defendant is sent to the Court to stand trial.


Complaint - A legal document prepared by the DA based on the police reports.  It lists the charges and some of the evidence against the defendant.  The complaint is filed in Court.


Defendant - The person accused of or charged with a criminal offense.  This is the person alleged to have committed a particular crime.


Decline - The office of the District Attorney decides not to issue any criminal charges.


Dismissal -  The charge or charges against the defendant are dismissed.  No Conviction.


District Attorney -  Under state law, the prosecuting attorney who represents the state in each county.


Assistant District Attorney - An attorney who acts on the District Attorney's behalf.


Felony - A crime punishable by confinement in a state prison, for one year or more.


Pretrial Conference – A hearing before a case proceeds to jury trial.  The parties discuss a case and either settle it or ask that it be scheduled for trial.


Initial Appearance - A defendant's first appearance in court.  A judge may read the charges, set bail (either cash or personal recognizance and determines the conditions of release if any).  In felony cases, a date is set for a preliminary hearing.  In misdemeanors, the initial appearance is also the arraignment where the defendant enters an initial plea.


Misdemeanor - A crime punishable by confinement in a county jail, for one year or less.


Motions - Oral or written requests about legal questions made by the prosecutor or the defendant before, during or after a trial.  Motions ask the court to issue a ruling or order regarding the case.


Plea - A person accused admits or denies commission of a crime by pleading guilty  (no contest) or not guilty.  The accused can be convicted on his/her plea of guilty (no contest).


Preliminary Hearing - In felony cases, an evidentiary hearing at which the state must prove to the judge that there is enough evidence to believe the defendant committed a felony.


Status Hearing - A hearing in court to see if the case can be settled without going to trial.


Probable Cause - A judicial determination that there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial.


Restitution - An amount of money set by the court to be paid to the victim of a crime for property losses or injuries, physical or emotional, caused by the crime.


Sentencing - The hearing at which the court imposes sentence.  Sentencing follows a guilty plea or a finding of guilt by a jury or judge.


Subpoena - A written order requiring a person to appear in court to testify.  The subpoena states the date, time, place and proceeding at which the witness must appear.


Trial - A hearing for presenting physical and testimonial evidence to a judge or jury for a determination of whether an accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or not guilty of the crime(s) charged.  A defendant may be found guilty of all, some, or none of the charges.  If the defendant is found guilty, he/she can then be sentenced for that crime by the judge at that time or at a later hearing; if the defendant is found not guilty of a crime, the charge is dismissed.

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Last updated: 3/25/2013 4:05:01 PM