Glossary
  • 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 Court to stand trial.
  • Complaint - A legal document prepared by the DA based on 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.
  • Deferred Prosecution - See back panel.
  • 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.
  • Final Pretrial Conference - Final 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, sets 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.
  • Pretrial Conference - A conference between attorneys 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 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, s/he 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.