Criminal Glossary

This “Glossary of Terms” is not intended to be a definitive legal definition of terms, but, is merely provided to assist the public with general understanding of court terminology.

If you have a need for definitive legal definitions of these or any other legal terms, you should seek the services of an attorney.

Administrative Order: An order by the chief judge governing a function of the Court.

Affiant: A person making an affidavit.

Affidavit: A written statement of facts either notarized by a Notary Public or witnessed by a clerk.

Affirmative Defenses: The offering of new evidence in an attempt to avoid or mitigate judgment.

A/K/A: Also known as.

Alias:When used in connection with a description of a person, it indicates that he/she has used or been known by another name.

Alias process: A second or further writ, summons, execution or subpoena, used when the first or earlier process has for any reason failed to accomplish its purpose.

Alias subpoena: One issued after the first has been returned without having accomplished its purpose.

Alias summons: A summons issued when original has not produced its effect because defective in form or manner of service, and when issued, supersedes the first writ.

Amend: To change a complaint, motion, order, etc., that has already been filed.

Appeal: When a party is dissatisfied with a decision of their judge appeals to a higher court to reverse a decision or ruling.

Appellant:The party filing the appeal.

Arraignment:Procedure whereby the accused is brought before the court to plead to the criminal charge in the indictment or information. After the charge is read to him, he is asked to plead “guilty”, “not guilty” or “nolo contendere” (no contest).

Attachment, Writ of: A writ instructing the sheriff to seize property and bring it into the custody of the court.

Bench Warrant: Process issued by the court itself, or “from the bench”, for the attachment or arrest of a person either in case of contempt; where an indictment has been found; for failure to appear for a court event; or to bring in a witness who does not obey a “subpoena”.

Body Attachment, Writ: A writ commanding the sheriff to bring before the court a person guilty of contempt of court.

Bond Estreature: An “Order” signed by a criminal judge directing the forfeiture of money or property posted as bail.

Cash Bond: Sum of money posted by a criminal defendant to insure his presence in court. Used in place of surety bond and real estate.

Caption: The title of a pleading.

Certified Copy: A copy of a document that has a certification stamp, signature of the Clerk of Court and Clerk’s Seal verifying that it is a true and correct copy.

Citation: An order, issued by law enforcement, to appear in court at a later date. Usually used for minor violations (e.g. traffic violations).

Consolidation: The joining of two or more cases that pertain to the same cause of action.

Defendant: The party against whom a charge or violation was filed.

Deposition: A recording of testimony of a witness or of a party to a legal action.

Docket: (1) To make a brief entry of any proceeding in a court of justice. (2) A formal record, entered in brief, of the proceedings in a court of justice. (3) A list of cases set to be heard at a court event at a specified date, time and place, prepared by the clerks for the use of the court, bar, and criminal justice agencies.

Extradition: A case filed, usually by the State Attorney’s Office, in which another state wants this state to surrender a criminal for prosecution in the other state.

Forfeiture: The loss of lands and goods to the State as the consequence of a crime.

Forthwith: Immediately.

Habeas Corpus: A procedure for obtaining a judicial determination of the legality of an individual’s custody.

Indigent: A party who is financially unable to pay for an attorney.

Information: An accusation exhibited against a person for some criminal offense, without an indictment. A written accusation made by the State Attorney without the intervention of a grand jury.

Judgment: The final court “Order” that proclaims issues of guilt or innocence in a case.

JA: Judicial assistant of a judge. Provides clerical services to a judge.

Jurisdiction: The authority of the court to administer justice in a particular case.

Mandate: A command, order or direction, written or oral, which the court is authorized to give and the person is bound to obey.

MCSO: Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Memorandum at Law: A written instrument concerning facts and the applicable law relating to those facts or arguments.

Microfilm: Rolls of film on which old court records are stored.

Order to Show Cause: An “Order” directing a party to appear and show why some action should not be taken against him.

Pleading: A document stating a defendants plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest), filed in a case and made part of the official court case file.

Pro Se: Representing oneself without legal counsel.

Recusal: When a judge disqualifies him or herself from the cause by reason of interest or prejudice.

Remanded: When an appellate judge reverses a decision of a lower court judge and sends it back to the lower court to be reheard by that same judge.