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Glossary Of Criminal Law Terms [2023]

CRIMINAL LAW GLOSSARY

The complete list of terms and definitions.

Criminal law deals with the legal system surrounding criminal conduct. This includes laws that define crimes, the defense of crimes, and how law enforcement, the courts, and attorneys conduct themselves in the steps of criminal case. A crime is an act or omission that is forbidden by statute. Criminal law can involve the prosecution of a crime or can involve the defense or someone who has committed a crime. Common criminal law defenses stem from violations of procedure or defined rights of a defendant. What follows is a list of commonly-used legal terms in criminal law and their dictionary definitions.

Abuse

The intentional or reckless causing of physical, emotional, or sexual harm to another person, or the failure to fulfill a caretaking responsibility, resulting in harm or risk of harm to another person.


Accessory

A person who, with knowledge of a criminal act, assists or encourages the commission of the crime, but does not participate in the actual commission of the crime.


Accusation

An assertion or claim that someone has committed a crime.


Accomplice

A person who actively participates in the commission of a crime, either as a principal or as an accessory.


Accused

A person who has been formally charged with a criminal offense


Acquittal

A legal decision in a criminal case that the defendant is not guilty of the crime charged


Actus Reus

A Latin term meaning “guilty act,” referring to the physical actions that make up the crime. It is one of the two elements of a criminal offense, the other being mens rea (guilty mind). Actus reus refers to the external elements of a crime, such as the actions or omissions that constitute the criminal act.


Admissible Evidence

Evidence that is allowed to be presented in court because it is relevant, reliable, and not in violation of any laws or rules of evidence.


Affirmative Defense

A defense in which the accused admits to committing the act in question, but argues that the act was legal or excused under certain circumstances.


Aid and Abet

To assist, facilitate, promote, encourage, or instigate the commission of a crime. A person who aids and abets a crime is considered to be an accomplice to the crime.


Alibi

A defense in which the accused claims to have been in a different location at the time the crime was committed, and therefore could not have committed the crime.


Aggravated Assault

An assault that causes serious bodily harm or uses a deadly weapon. It is considered a more severe crime than simple assault.


Assault and Battery

An intentional and unlawful use of force against another person, typically involving both an attempted or actual physical strike (assault) and the actual physical impact (battery).


Assault with a Deadly Weapon

An assault committed with the use of a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife, which increases the severity of the crime.


Assault with Intent

An assault committed with the intent to commit a separate crime, such as robbery or murder.


Attempted Assault

An attempted but uncompleted act of assault, where the perpetrator intended to commit an assault but was unsuccessful in carrying out the act.


Aggravated Battery

A type of battery that causes serious bodily harm or uses a deadly weapon. It is considered a more severe crime than simple battery.


Allegation

An assertion or claim, especially one made without proof, that someone has committed a crime or has done something wrong.


Appeal

A request made to a higher court to review and overturn the decision of a lower court.


Armed Robbery

A robbery committed with the use of a deadly weapon, such as a gun or knife.


Arrest Warrant

A legal order issued by a judge or other authorized official, directing law enforcement to arrest and bring a specific person to court.


Arson

The intentional or reckless burning of a building, vehicle, or other property.


Arraignment

A formal reading of the charges against a defendant in a criminal case, and a hearing at which the defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.


Assault

An intentional and unlawful use of force against another person, typically involving an attempted or actual physical strike.


Auto Theft

The theft of a vehicle, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles.


Bail

Money or property pledged to a court as a guarantee that a defendant will return for their court appearance. The purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court while also protecting the public from potential harm.


Bail Exoneration

The release of a defendant from the obligation to pay bail or return the bail money, typically because the defendant has fulfilled the conditions of the bail or the case has been resolved.


Bail Forfeiture

The failure of a defendant to fulfill the conditions of bail or appear in court, resulting in the loss of the bail money or property.


Bail Notice

A notice given to a defendant or their representative, outlining the conditions of bail and the consequences of failing to meet those conditions.


Bail Receipt

A document that serves as evidence of the payment of bail and the release of a defendant from custody.


Bail Schedule

A list of bail amounts for different types of crimes, used as a guideline for setting bail in a given jurisdiction.


Bail Bond

A written agreement in which a person (the surety) guarantees to pay the court a sum of money if the defendant fails to appear in court as required.


Bank Fraud

A type of fraud that involves stealing money or assets from a bank or financial institution.


Bankruptcy Fraud

The concealment of assets, the making of false statements, or other fraud in connection with a bankruptcy case.


Battery

A type of criminal offense that involves intentionally or recklessly causing physical harm to another person. It is considered a more severe crime than assault.


Battered Woman Syndrome defense

Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) defense is a legal defense used by women who have been charged with a crime, such as murder or assault, and who claim to have acted in self-defense as a result of being a victim of domestic violence. It is based on the theory that prolonged and severe domestic violence may lead to a psychological condition known as Battered Woman Syndrome.


Bench Trial

A trial without a jury, in which the judge alone decides the facts of the case and the guilt or innocence of the defendant.


Bench Warrant

A warrant issued by a judge for the arrest of a person who failed to appear in court as required.


Best Evidence Rule

A rule of evidence that requires the original document or object to be presented in court as evidence, rather than a copy or secondary evidence, if the original is available.


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The standard of proof required for a criminal conviction, meaning that the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt to a level of certainty that leaves no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.


Bias Crime

A criminal offense motivated by bias or prejudice against a person’s race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristic.


Bill of Particulars

A document that provides more specific information about the charges against a defendant, such as the time, place, and manner in which the crime was committed.


Bind Ove

A process by which a defendant is ordered to stand trial in a higher court, typically after a preliminary hearing in a lower court.


Blackmail

The crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing or damaging information about a person unless that person agrees to do something, such as pay money or perform some other action.


Book (Booking)

The process of recording personal information and charges against a person who has been arrested and taken into custody.


Breath Test

A test that measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath, used to determine if a person is driving under the influence of alcohol.


Break and Enter

A crime that involves illegally entering a building or other property with the intent to commit a crime.


Brief

A written document that presents legal arguments and authorities in support of a party’s position in a case.


Bribery

The crime of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value with the intent to influence the actions of a public official or to gain an unlawful advantage.


Burglary

The crime of breaking into a building or other structure with the intent to commit a crime, typically theft.


Capital Case

A criminal case in which the prosecution is seeking the death penalty as a punishment.


Capital Offense

An offense that is punishable by death under the laws of a jurisdiction.


Capital Punishment

The legal process of putting a person to death as a punishment for a crime.


Carnal Knowledge

A legal term referring to sexual intercourse, typically used in the context of statutory rape laws.


Child Molestation

A criminal offense that involves the sexual abuse of a child, including acts such as fondling, rape, or sexual exploitation.


Cause of Action

A legal claim or reason for a lawsuit, based on a specific set of facts and legal theories.


Child Abuse

Any physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted upon a child by a parent, caregiver, or other person.


Child Enticement

The crime of attempting to lure or persuade a child to engage in illegal or inappropriate behavior.


Child Exploitation

The crime of using a child for commercial, sexual, or other exploitative purposes.


Child Pornography

Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor.


Child Procurement

The crime of facilitating or arranging for the sexual exploitation of a child.


Commitment Order

An order from a court committing a person to a mental health facility or other institution.


Commutation

The act of reducing a sentence, typically from a death sentence to a lesser sentence such as life in prison.


Competence Order

An order from a court determining that a person is capable of understanding the proceedings and assisting in their own defense.


Concurrent Sentence

A sentence that is served at the same time as another sentence, rather than consecutively.


Constructive Possession

Possession of an object or controlled substance that is not on one’s person, but is under one’s control or influence.


Constructive Fraud

Fraud that occurs when a person does not make an outright false statement but instead uses a deception or omission to mislead another person.


Conviction

A formal judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant, reached either by a plea of guilty or by a finding of guilt by a judge or jury.


Court-appointed Attorney

An attorney appointed by the court to represent a defendant who cannot afford to hire an attorney.


Courtesy Notice

A notice given to a party or attorney as a courtesy, but not required by law.


Credit Card Fraud

The unauthorized use of a credit card or similar financial instrument to obtain goods or services, or to obtain cash. It may also include the theft of credit card numbers, the creation of counterfeit credit cards, and the use of stolen credit card numbers.


Crime

An act or omission that is prohibited by law and punishable by the state.


Crimes Against Property

Criminal offenses that involve the unauthorized taking or damage of property, such as theft, burglary, and vandalism.


Crimes Against the Person

Criminal offenses that involve harm or the threat of harm to another person, such as assault, battery, and homicide.


Crimes Against Children

Criminal offenses that involve harm or the threat of harm to children, such as child abuse, child molestation, and child pornography.


Criminal Case

A legal proceeding in which the state charges a person with a criminal offense.


Criminal Homicide

The killing of one person by another, which is considered a criminal offense under most laws.


Cumulative Sentences

A sentence in which multiple terms of imprisonment are served one after the other.


Counterfeiting

The crime of making, possessing, or using false or counterfeit money, documents, or other items.


Custody

The legal status of a person who is being held by a law enforcement agency or other government entity.


Custody List

A list of persons in custody at a particular facility or agency


Circumstantial Evidence

Evidence that implies a fact, rather than directly proving it.


Citation

A document that orders a person to appear in court or pay a fine for a minor violation of a law.


Cited

To be given a citation by an authority or agency.


Citing Authority or Agency

The organization or individual that issues a citation.


Civil Process

The legal process used to enforce a civil judgment or order, such as by seizing property or garnishing wages.


Clemency or Executive Clemency

The act of reducing a sentence, pardoning a convicted person, or commuting a death sentence to life in prison.


Coercion

The use of force or threats to compel a person to do something against their will.


Collusion

Secret cooperation for an illegal or fraudulent purpose.


Complicity

Involvement in a crime as an accomplice or accessory.


Citation

A document that orders a person to appear in court or pay a fine for a minor violation of a law.


Conspiracy

A criminal offense in which two or more people agree to commit a crime, or plan to commit a crime, and take some action towards carrying out that agreement.


Contraband

Illegal or prohibited goods, such as drugs, weapons, or stolen property, that are confiscated by law enforcement.


Corruption

The abuse of power or position for personal gain, or the use of public resources for private gain.


Criminal Attempt

An effort or action taken to commit a crime, even if the crime is not completed.


Criminal Code

A set of laws that define and prohibit criminal offenses, and prescribe punishments for those offenses.


Criminal Contempt

A criminal offense that involves disobeying a court order or disrupting court proceedings.


Criminal Fraud

A criminal offense that involves deception or misrepresentation for personal gain.


Criminal Harassment

A criminal offense that involves repeatedly communicating with or following a person in a manner that causes fear or alarm.


Criminal Law

The branch of law that deals with criminal offenses and the punishment of those who commit them.


Criminal Negligence

A type of criminal offense that involves a failure to take reasonable care, resulting in harm or risk of harm to another person.


Criminal Organization

A group of individuals who participate in a pattern of criminal activity.


Criminal Procedure

The branch of law that deals with the process of investigating, charging, and trying criminal offenses.


Criminal Trespass

A criminal offense that involves entering or remaining on someone else’s property without permission.


Criminal Summons

A document that orders a person to appear in court to answer a criminal charge.


Cruelty

The act of causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal or person.


Cybercrime

Criminal activity that involves the use of computer networks and technology, such as hacking, identity theft, and online fraud.


Cybersquatting

The act of registering or using a domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of another’s trademark.


Cyberstalking

The use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization.


Cybertheft

The unauthorized use of another person’s information or identity to commit fraud or other crimes.


Danger to Society

An evaluation of the potential risk that a person charged with a crime poses to the community if released or not punished severely.


Date Rape

A form of sexual assault in which the attacker is someone the victim knows, such as a date, friend, or acquaintance.


Deadly Force

The use of force that is likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.


Deceit

The act of intentionally deceiving or misleading another person.


Defense of Property

The legal right to use reasonable force to protect one’s property from an illegal or harmful act.


Disorderly Conduct

A criminal offense that involves behavior that is likely to disturb the peace or cause annoyance to others, such as loud noise, public drunkenness, or fighting.


Declaration under Penalty of Perjury

A written statement that is signed and sworn to be true under penalty of perjury, which is a criminal offense.


Deferred Sentence

A sentence that is suspended on the condition that the defendant complies with certain conditions, such as completing probation or treatment.


Defendant

A person who is accused of committing a crime and is being tried in a criminal case.


Deliberate

Intentional and premeditated, as opposed to accidental or impulsive.


Deliberate Ignorance

A state of mind in which a person is aware of a high probability of the existence of a fact and consciously avoids confirming that fact.


Deliberate Indifference

A state of mind in which a person is aware of a serious risk of harm to another person, but fails to take action to prevent that harm.


Depraved Heart Murder

A type of murder where actions show a depraved indifference to human life.


Depravity of Mind

A state of mind characterized by extreme moral corruption or perversion.


Discovery

The process of obtaining evidence and information from the other side in a legal case.


Dismissal

Ending a legal case or charges, either by the court or the prosecutor.


Diversion

A legal process in which a defendant is offered an alternative to prosecution.


Double Jeopardy

Prohibition against being tried or punished twice for the same crime.


Due Process of Law

A principle ensuring fair legal proceedings and right to be heard.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

A criminal offense of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol/drugs.


Drug Abuse Violations

Offenses involving illegal drugs, such as possession, use, or sale.


Drunkenness

State of being under influence of alcohol causing impaired judgment and behavior.


Due Process of Law

Principle ensuring fair legal proceedings, from arrest to appeal, with rights to fair trial, legal representation, confronting witnesses, and impartial judge or jury.


Elements of a Crime

Specific facts or criteria proven to establish a crime committed.


Embezzlement

Taking property entrusted for personal gain.


Email Interception

Unauthorized access to electronic mail.


Entrapment

Inducing a person to commit a crime by a law enforcement officer.


Exclusionary Rule

Prohibits use of illegally obtained evidence in a trial.


Exculpatory Evidence

Evidence showing a person is not guilty of a crime.


Excusable Homicide

Killing legally justified or excused (e.g. self-defense).


Exhibit

Physical or document evidence presented in court.


Expungement

Sealing or destroying records of a criminal conviction or arrest.


Extradition

Returning a person to face criminal charges in another jurisdiction.


Extortion

Using threats or force to obtain something from another person.


Extrinsic Fraud

Fraud outside of trial (e.g. bribery, witness tampering).


Eye Witness

A person who has seen an event and testifies about it in court.


False Arrest

The illegal detention of a person by a law enforcement officer or other government agent, without probable cause or a valid arrest warrant.


False Imprisonment

The unlawful restraint or confinement of a person without their consent or legal authority.


Federal Public Defender Organization

An organization that provides legal representation to individuals who are charged with federal crimes and cannot afford an attorney.


First Appearance in jail

The initial court hearing that takes place after a person has been arrested and taken into custody.


Felony Crime

A serious criminal offense, usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death.


Felony Murder

A type of murder that occurs in the commission of a felony, regardless of intent to kill.


Felonious Homicide

The killing of one person by another, which is considered a criminal offense under most laws.


Fifth Amendment

A provision of the United States Constitution that protects individuals from self-incrimination, double jeopardy, and denial of due process of law.


First Amendment

A provision of the United States Constitution that guarantees the rights to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and press, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.


First Degree Murder

A type of murder that is premeditated and intentional, or that occurs during the commission of a serious crime, such as robbery or rape.


Forgery

The crime of creating, altering, or using a false document with the intent to deceive or defraud.


Forensic Studies

The use of scientific methods and techniques to investigate and solve crimes.


Forcible Rape

A form of sexual assault with physical force or threats.


Forgery and Counterfeiting

Creating, altering, or using false documents/currency with intent to deceive/defraud.


Fourteenth Amendment

US Const. amendment guaranteeing equal protection and due process for all.


Fourth Amendment

US Const. amendment protecting from unreasonable searches and seizures.


Fraud

A crime of deception/misrepresentation for personal gain.


Grand Jury

A group of citizens who are chosen to hear evidence and decide whether there is probable cause to believe that a person committed a crime and should be indicted or charged with the crime.
Source: California Courts.


Guilty Plea

A formal admission of guilt by a defendant in a criminal case.
Source: California Courts.


Habeas Corpus

A legal action to bring a person in custody before a court to ensure detention is lawful.


Habitual Offender

A person with multiple crime convictions considered a repeat offender.


Harassment

A crime of repeated actions or behavior causing fear, alarm, or distress to another person.


Hate Crime

A crime motivated by bias or prejudice based on race, religion, origin, orientation, gender, or disability.


Health Care Fraud

A crime of deception or false statements to obtain money or property from a health care program or insurer.


Home Confinement

Punishment or sentence of being confined to home and monitored.


Hearing

A legal proceeding where evidence and testimony are presented to determine facts of a case.


Homicide

The killing of one person by another considered a criminal offense.


House Arrest

Punishment or sentence of being confined to home and monitored.


Human Trafficking

A crime of recruiting, transporting, or harboring people for forced labor or sexual exploitation.


Hung Jury

A jury unable to reach a verdict in a trial resulting in mistrial.


Identity Theft

A crime that involves the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information to commit fraud or crimes.


Impeach

To question the credibility or reliability of evidence or a witness.


Inadmissible

Evidence or testimony that cannot be considered in a legal case.


Incarceration

Being placed in a prison or correctional facility as punishment for a crime.


Incriminate

To provide evidence that implicates or accuses someone of a crime.


Inchoate Offense

A crime in the early stages of being committed, such as attempted murder or conspiracy.


Incompetency

A legal determination of a person’s inability to understand a legal proceeding or assist in their defense due to mental or physical condition.


Inculpatory Evidence

Evidence that tends to show guilt of a crime.


Indictment

A formal accusation of a crime issued by a grand jury.


Indeterminate Sentence

A sentence with a range of possible lengths, not a fixed term.


Indigent

A person unable to afford legal expenses or representation.


Indecent Exposure

Exposing private parts in public or where it offends someone.


Infanticide

Killing of an infant or young child.


Infraction

A minor criminal offense, such as a traffic violation, punished by fines or penalties, not imprisonment.


Initial Appearance

The first court hearing that takes place after a person has been arrested and charged with a crime.


Innocent

Not guilty of a crime.


Insanity

A legal determination that a person is unable to understand the nature of their actions or appreciate the wrongfulness of their conduct due to a mental disorder.


Intoxication

The state of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Insurance Fraud

A crime that involves the use of deception or false statements to obtain money or property from an insurance company or policyholder.


Intrinsic Fraud

Fraud that is committed within the trial itself, such as perjured testimony or the use of fabricated evidence.


Interrogation

The process of questioning a person in order to obtain information or a confession, typically conducted by law enforcement officials or other government agents.


Internet Fraud

A criminal offense that involves the use of the internet to commit fraud or other crimes, such as identity theft, phishing, or online scams.


Investment Fraud

A crime that involves the use of deception or false statements to obtain money or property from investors or other individuals through investment schemes or securities fraud.


Involuntary Manslaughter

A crime that occurs when a person kills another person without intent to do so, but as a result of their reckless or negligent actions.


Jail

A facility used to hold individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a crime and are awaiting trial or serving a sentence.


Jeopardy

A legal term that refers to the risk or danger of being convicted of a crime and the imposition of a punishment.


Judgment/Sentence

The final decision and punishment imposed by a court or judge in a criminal case.


Jury Nullification

The process by which a jury acquits a defendant despite believing that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, based on the jury’s belief that the law is unjust or that the sentence would be unjust.


Justifiable Homicide

A killing that is legally justified or excused, such as in self-defense or in the defense of others.


Juvenile

A person who is under the age of 18 and is not considered legally responsible for their actions in the same way as an adult.


Larceny

A crime of taking another person’s property without their consent with intent to permanently deprive the owner.


Larceny-Theft

A crime of taking another person’s property without their consent with intent to permanently deprive the owner.


Leniency

A lighter sentence than the maximum allowed by law.


Lewdness

Indecent sexual behavior in public or in front of others.


Liquor Laws

Laws regulating alcohol sale, possession, and consumption.


Maim

Intentional cause of permanent disfigurement or injury to another person’s body.


Mail Fraud

Criminal offense using US mail system to commit fraud or other crimes.


Malicious Prosecution

Legal claim of false and malicious accusation of a crime without probable cause and prosecution.


Manslaughter

Killing of another person without premeditation or intent due to criminal negligence or recklessness.


Manslaughter by Negligence

Crime resulting from killing another person due to negligent or reckless actions.


Marital Rape

Sexual assault of spouse.


Mayhem

Intentional maiming or disfigurement of another person.


Material Evidence

Evidence relevant and material to facts of a case.


Mass Murder

Killing multiple people in single event, often in public and with no cooling-off period.


Mens Rea

Mental element of a crime, or intent/knowledge of wrongdoing necessary for guilt of a crime.


Money Laundering

Process of disguising proceeds of illegal activity as legitimate funds.


Motion to Suppress

Legal motion by defense to exclude evidence obtained illegally or in violation of defendant’s rights.


Motive

Reason or incentive that prompts a person to commit a crime.


Miranda Warning/Rights

Warning by law enforcement to person in custody prior to interrogation, informing right to remain silent and right to an attorney.


Misdemeanor

Criminal offense with less severity than a felony, usually punished by fines, probation, or imprisonment for up to one year.


Mistrial

Trial terminated without verdict due to fundamental error or other reason that would make a verdict unfair or impossible.


Mitigating Circumstances

Factors that reduce the severity of a crime or punishment imposed.


Mitigation

Making something less severe or harmful.


Motion

Formal request to a court or judge for a ruling or action in a legal case.


Modification

Changing or altering a legal order or ruling.


Molestation

Criminal offense of sexual contact without consent or against will of a child or person.


Motor Vehicle Theft

Theft of a motor vehicle such as car, truck or motorcycle.


Murder

Unlawful killing of another person with malice or intent to kill.


Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter

Crime of killing another person, includes murder, manslaughter and negligent manslaughter.


No Bill

A decision by a grand jury not to issue an indictment, indicating insufficent evidence.


Nolo Contendere

A plea of “no contest” to a criminal charge, same as guilty but not an admission of guilt.


Nonservice

Failure to serve legal papers properly to a defendant in a criminal case.


Nolle Prosse/Nolle Prosequi

Discontinuation of a criminal case by a prosecutor or not proceeding with certain charges.


Notice of Appearance

Formal notification that an attorney or representative will appear on behalf of defendant.


No Probable Cause

Determination of insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal case or arrest and charge.


Objection

A statement made in a legal proceeding that challenges the admissibility or relevance of evidence or the legality of a question or action.


Obstruction of Justice

Interference with the administration of justice by unlawfully influencing, obstructing, or impeding official actions.


Obscenity

Material considered offensive or inappropriate due to sexual content or other morally offensive qualities.


Offense

A criminal act or violation of the law.


Offenses Against the Family and Children

Criminal acts committed against the family unit or children, such as child abuse and domestic violence.


Own Recognizance (OR) / Personal Recognizance

Release from custody on the promise to return for court appearances and not commit additional crimes, granted to defendants not considered a flight risk or danger to society.


Pardon

A formal, legal release from punishment for a crime, granted by the government.


Pandering

The act of procuring or recruiting someone to engage in prostitution.


Parole

The release of a prisoner from incarceration before their sentence is complete, under the condition that they will be supervised and must adhere to certain rules and regulations.


Party in Interest

A person or entity who has a legal stake or is directly affected by the outcome of a case.


Perjury

The act of intentionally providing false testimony under oath or affirmation.


Person in Need of Supervision (PINS)

A juvenile who is deemed to be in need of supervision, rehabilitation, or both, by a court.


Prescription Fraud

The illegal obtaining or providing of a prescription medication, or altering a prescription.


Petty Offense

A minor criminal offense, typically punishable by a fine or brief imprisonment.


Plea

A formal statement in court, by which a defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.


Plea Bargain/Negotiations

The process of negotiating a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense, in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.


Possession of drug

The act of having control or custody of a controlled substance, without a valid prescription.


Possession for Sale

Possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell it.


Pornography

The production, distribution, or possession of materials (such as books, videos, photographs) that depict sexual acts or nudity in an explicit manner.


Presentence report

A document detailing a defendant’s background for sentencing.


Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI)

Program to have charges dismissed by completing conditions.


Pretrial services

Programs and services provided before trial.


Probation

Court-ordered supervision with rules and conditions instead of imprisonment.


Probation officer

Employee responsible for supervising defendants on probation.


Prosecute

Bring legal action against someone for committing a crime.


Prosecuting Attorney

Government lawyer presenting the state’s case in criminal trial.


Prosecutor

Attorney representing the state in criminal cases.


Prostitution and Commercialized Vice

Sexual acts or business promoting prostitution for compensation.


Provocation

Action causing another to commit a criminal act.


Psychopath

Person with personality disorder and antisocial behavior.


Public Defender

Lawyer appointed by court to represent indigent defendants.


Public Offense

Crime punishable by law, regardless of location.


Pyramid Schemes

Illegal business promising payment for enrolling others without real investment or sale.


Racial Profiling

The practice of using race or ethnicity as a basis for suspecting criminal activity.


Racketeering

Illegal or unethical business practices for financial gain, often by organized crime groups.


Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Federal law with extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of a criminal organization.


Ransom

Payment or valuable consideration for release of a kidnapped person or return of property taken by force or threat.


Rap Sheet

Record of an individual’s criminal history, including arrests, convictions, and sentences.


Rape

Non-consensual sexual intercourse by force, threat, or deception.


Receiving Stolen Property

Acquiring or possessing stolen property with knowledge it was stolen.


Reasonable Doubt

Standard of proof in criminal cases, requiring the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Recidivist

Person who repeatedly commits crimes, often after release from punishment.


Reinstated Bail

Process of restoring bail after forfeiture, often by paying the full amount or convincing the court.


Remand

Returning a case to a lower court for further proceedings.


Remanding Order

Court order to return a case to a lower court.


Return

Bringing a defendant before a court for a hearing or trial.


Revocation

Canceling or annulling a legal document or authorization, such as a license, permit, or probation.


Riot

A disturbance of the peace by an assembly of three or more people, acting with a common purpose and in a violent or tumultuous manner.


Robbery

The taking of personal property from another person by force or threat of force.


Rules of Evidence

The rules and principles that govern the admissibility of evidence in a court of law, including the rules for authentication, hearsay, privilege, and relevance.


Search Warrant

Court order for a specific search of place/person for crime evidence.


Second Degree Murder

Murder committed with malice but without premeditation/deliberation.


Securities Fraud

Deceiving investors through false/misleading information in securities sale.


Self-Defense

Use of reasonable force to protect from imminent harm/danger.


Self-Surrender

Voluntary surrender to law enforcement with an arrest warrant.


Self-incrimination

Voluntarily giving information that could incriminate oneself.


Sentence

Punishment imposed by court on convicted criminal.


Sentencing Guidelines

Rules/principles to determine appropriate sentence for a crime.


Serial Killer

Person who kills 3+ people over a period > month with “cooling off” period.


Statutory Rape

Sexual intercourse with a person below age of consent as defined by law.


Severance of Actions

Separating multiple charges/defendants in a case into separate proceedings.


Sexual Abuse

Forcing/coercing someone to engage in sexual activity or taking advantage of inability to give consent.


Sexual Assault

Sexual contact/penetration without consent of another person.


Sexual Harassment

Unwanted/unwelcome sexual advances/conduct creating hostile/intimidating environment.


Simple Assault

Intentionally or recklessly causing harm or fear of harm.


Sixth Amendment

Right to fair trial, including public trial, knowledge of charges, confrontation of witnesses, assistance of counsel, and impartial jury.


Solicitation

Asking or encouraging someone to commit a crime.


Sodomy

Oral or anal sexual intercourse.


Status Offense

A crime only committed by a juvenile, e.g. truancy or curfew violation.


Stalking

Repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening to cause fear or distress.


Stolen Property: Buying, Receiving, Possessing

Acquiring or possessing stolen property with knowledge.


Substance Abuse Treatment

Addressing and overcoming drug or alcohol addiction through counseling, therapy, etc.


Substantive Criminal Law

Defines elements of a crime and punishments for committing it.


Summary Offense

Minor crime, typically punished with a fine or brief imprisonment.


Supervised Release

Period of supervision after imprisonment with rules and conditions.


Standard of Proof

Level of evidence required to establish guilt in a criminal trial.


Surety Bond

Bail bond posted by a bail bond agency, guaranteeing defendant’s appearance in court.


Surety Bond Register

Record of all surety bonds, including defendants and bail bond agencies.


Suspended Sentence

A sentence with a suspended prison term or fine, subject to conditions such as probation or community service.


Suspicion

Belief of involvement in criminal activity without sufficient evidence.


Subpoena

Court order to appear or produce evidence in a case.


Suppress

Preventing evidence from being used in trial, often due to illegal or rights violations.


Tax Evasion

The illegal non-payment or underpayment of taxes, typically by failing to report income or claiming false deductions.


Tax Fraud

The act of providing false or misleading information on a tax return, with the intent to evade taxes.


Terrorism

The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political or ideological goals.


Theft

The act of taking someone else’s property without their consent, with the intent to permanently deprive them of it.


Theft By Deception

The act of taking property by deceiving the owner, such as by making false representations or promises.


Theft By False Pretense

The act of obtaining property from another person by making false or fraudulent representations, with the intent to permanently deprive the other person of the property.


Theft Of Services

The act of obtaining services without paying for them, or by deception or fraud.


Third Degree Murder

A type of murder that is committed with malice, but without premeditation or deliberation.


Threat

A statement or action that causes fear or apprehension of harm or injury to oneself or another person.


Title 18 of the US Code

A federal law that defines and criminalizes various types of conduct and activities, including fraud, extortion, racketeering, and money laundering.


Trial

A legal proceeding in which a person is charged with a crime and a jury or judge determines their guilt or innocence.


Testimony

Evidence provided by a witness in a court of law, either in the form of oral statements or written documents.


Trafficking

The act of buying, selling, or transporting people or goods, typically for the purpose of exploitation or illegal activities.


Unlawful Assembly

The act of coming together with two or more people to commit a crime, or to do something that is illegal or against the peace.
Source: California Courts.


Vagrancy

Living without a fixed home or means of support, or wandering aimlessly without visible support.


Vandalism

Intentional damage or destruction of property belonging to another without permission.


Violation

Illegal act, less serious than a crime.


Voluntary Manslaughter

Killing another person in the heat of passion or under sudden provocation.


Voyeurism

Observing someone in a private or intimate situation for sexual pleasure or gratification, without their knowledge or consent.


Voir Dire

Questioning potential jurors in a trial to determine qualifications, biases, and impartiality.


Warrant

Court order for law enforcement to arrest or search for evidence of a crime.


Waiver of Rights Form

Document informing of rights, such as remaining silent, and waiving them by answering questions or providing information.


Weapons: Carrying, Possessing, etc

Illegally carrying, possessing, or using firearms, knives, or other dangerous instruments.


Witness

Person with knowledge or information about a crime or event, called upon to testify in court.


Writ

Formal court order directing a person or agency to perform a specific act or refrain from doing something.