Criminal Defense Terms You Need to Know

If you have been arrested in Florida, the more you understand, the better you’ll be able to contribute to your own defense. Understanding the terminology used by lawyers and judges allows you to exert greater control over your future and makes communication between you and your lawyer quicker and more efficient. 

Criminal offenses are those offenses that violate public law. Federal and state laws and courts classify criminal offenses into two categories depending on their severity: misdemeanors and felonies. Felonies are more serious crimes than misdemeanors and therefore have harsher penalties. Below you will find some basic definitions related to criminal law.  

This list is not intended to be exhaustive or to be legal advice. It is merely a tool for your convenience to assist with your research. For actual legal definitions, or if you have been accused of a crime in Florida, contact the Bradenton criminal defense attorneys at the Fowler Law Group for help.

Our Bradenton Criminal Defense Attorneys Share the Terms You Should Know

Accessory. An accessory is a person who intentionally helps another person commit a felony, such as providing information before the crime, helping to conceal evidence, or helping to hide the location of the defendant. An accessory is usually not present during the crime.

Accomplice. An accomplice is a person who helps another person commit a crime. Unlike an accessory, an accomplice is typically present when the crime is committed. An accomplice is generally guilty of the same offense and receives the same punishment as the principal.

Acquittal. An acquittal is a finding of not guilty by a judge or jury. According to “double jeopardy” laws, you cannot be tried again for the same crime.

Arraignment. An arraignment is the initial court appearance during which the court informs defendants of the pending charges, advises defendants of their rights, and asks defendants how they plead to the charges.

Arrest Warrant. An arrest warrant is issued if defendants fail to appear at a court date for a felony charge, leading to a search by the police to find the defendants and bring them in front of the judge.

Bail. Bail is a sum of money given or promised to the court to guarantee that the defendant will appear at future court dates.

Bench Warrant. A bench warrant is issued if defendants fail to appear at a court date for a misdemeanor charge, which can lead to the defendants’ arrest if a police officer stops them.

Continuance. A continuance is a postponement of a court hearing to a future date. A continuance may be granted to give parties additional time to prepare or if one of the parties cannot attend a hearing for good cause.

Conviction. A conviction is a judgment of a court based on either the verdict of the judge or jury.

Defendant. A defendant is a person who is required to answer to charges in a criminal case.

Deposition. A deposition is a witness’s appearance to answer questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter about their knowledge of a criminal offense.

Disposition. A disposition is a final decision or judgment that terminates a judicial proceeding.

Extradition – Extradition is the court-ordered return of a defendant from another state or county for prosecution.

Felony. A felony is a crime punishable by up to more than one year in prison.

Grand Jury. A grand jury is a panel of non-participants assembled by a court to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to indict a suspect and continue the criminal proceedings.

In Absentia. Latin for “in the absence,” it commonly refers to a trial where the defendant is not present. 

Judgment. A judgment is the court’s statement of the decision regarding the disposition of a criminal case.

Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to less than one year in prison.

Motion. A motion is a legal request filed with the court for an order or ruling in favor of the applicant.

No Contest (Nolo Contendere). A no-contest plea is a plea by which the defendant does not admit nor deny the charges but does accept a plea agreement to dispense with a criminal case.

Order. An order is a legal document signed by the judge making an award or ruling on a legal motion.

Plea. A plea is the defendant’s formal answer in court to criminal charges pending against them.

Probation. Probation is a suspension of a sentence that requires a defendant to be placed under the supervision of a probation officer.

Prosecutor. A prosecutor is a lawyer who represents the state in a criminal case, also known as a state attorney.

Public Defender. A public defender is a lawyer appointed by the court to represent indigent defendants in a case where the state is seeking jail.

Restitution. Restitution is an order by the court to pay the victim for damages caused by the defendant’s crime. 

Subpoena. A subpoena is a court order requiring testimony or production of evidence. 

Verdict. A verdict is a decision made by a judge or a jury regarding the outcome of a criminal trial.

Contact Our Bradenton Criminal Defense Attorneys for More Information

Criminal defense terminology, also commonly known as “legal jargon,” is not a “secret code” for lawyers. Instead, it is often relatively easy to understand if it’s explained to you. If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s beneficial to understand what the lawyers, judges, and other legal personnel are saying. This makes your communications with your lawyer much quicker and more efficient and also helps you understand when red flags are being raised.

Of course, the Bradenton criminal defense attorneys at The Fowler Law Group will always answer your questions and explain unknown legal terms to you, but the less time you have to spend understanding legal terms, the more time you’ll have to discuss the truly important issues, such as defending against your charges or possibly even getting your charges sealed or expunged. If you are facing criminal charges in Florida, contact us online for your free consultation.

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