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Glossary

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ACCESSORY
A person who knowingly and intentionally contributes to or aids in committing a crime (before or after, but not necessarily during, the commission of the crime). If the crime was a felony, the person could be charged with being an "accessory-after-the-fact".

ACCOMPLICE
A person who participates in the commission of a crime, other than the person actually doing the principal criminal act. This person may be charged with actual crime committed under a complicitor theory (gave aid or abetted or advised or encouragement to the principal defendant(s)).

ACQUITTAL
Criminal defendant being found "not guilty" of the crime. An acquittal is not a declaration of the accused's "innocence"; it is a verdict that a Prosecutor failed to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

ADJOURNMENT
Postponing or rescheduling a case or court session until another date or time.

ADJUDICATION
Generally, a final judicial determination of a case. In juvenile delinquency cases, it is the equivalent of a 'conviction' in adult criminal cases, when the court formally takes jurisdiction of the minor due to a plea or a trial verdict.

AFFIDAVIT
Written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a notary public or officer having authority to administer oaths. (Affidavits are not admissible in criminal trials or hearings in lieu of testimony because the opposing party has no opportunity to cross-examine the affiant.)

AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE
Without denying the charge, the defendant raises extenuating or mitigating circumstances such as insanity, self-defense, or entrapment to avoid civil or criminal responsibility. The defendant must present credible evidence of any affirmative defense he/she raises. Court rules require a defendant to notify the opponent before the trial that an affirmative defense will be raised. If an affirmative defense is raised the prosecution must disprove such defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

AGENT
Someone authorized to act for another person (known as the "principal"). Violation of a principal-agent relationship is the core of an embezzlement.

APPEARANCE (entry of)
A document filed with the court, and provided to other parties, by an attorney advising that the attorney is representing a specific individual.

ARRAIGNMENT
Criminal defendant's appearance before a judge where a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered. Witnesses do not testify at this hearing.

ARREST
To take into custody by legal authority.

ARREST WARRANT
An order issued by a judge or magistrate to a peace officer requiring the arrest of a named person.

BAIL
Bond money paid to a court by or on behalf of a criminal defendant as security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at all future hearings. The court can also set conditions of release (i.e., no contact with the victim, no alcohol consumption, etc.) If another person posts the bail money, then that third party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates. Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear.

BAILIFF
A court employee who assists the judge in maintaining order in the courthouse, and who is responsible for the custody of a jury.

BENCH TRIAL
Trial held before a judge and without a jury. The judge determines the facts and decides the case.

BENCH WARRANT
A court order commanding the defendant's (or a missing witness') arrest and appearance in court after failing to appear for a hearing. A bench warrant could also be issued against a defendant for violating a court order, such as conditions of release or probation.

BIND-OVER
Finding at a felony preliminary hearing that probable cause exists to require a trial at the District Court level on the charges made against the defendant.

BOND / BAIL BOND
In criminal cases, 'bond' means the same thing as ‘bail’': a financial obligation signed by the accused or a surety intended to guarantee the defendant's future appearances in court. The amount of the bond is set by a judge or magistrate. The bond can include conditions of release (i.e., no contact with the victim, no alcohol consumption, etc.) Factors influencing the amount of bond set include the seriousness of the charge, the defendant's criminal history, and the defendant's ties to the community.

There are four types of bonds:

  • Personal recognizance bonds (A.k.a. "PR” bonds or "signature bonds” do not require the defendant or a third party to pay money to the court, unless the defendant later fails to appear.)
  • Cash bonds require the full amount of the bond to be paid in cash before the defendant can be released. If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most of the monies are returned to the person posting the bond.
  • Property bonds area a pledge of real property to secure a release.
  • Surety bonds are posted by a professional bondsman after being paid a non-refundable percentage of the full amount by the defendant. Cash bonds require the full amount of the bond to be paid in cash before the defendant can be released. If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most of the monies are returned to the person posting the bond.

BRIEF
Written arguments submitted by the lawyers for each side in a case explaining facts and/or law supporting their respective positions (why the court should decide the case or a particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer's client).

BURDEN OF PROOF
Duty to establish through evidence a requisite degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of a trier of fact. The duty to establish facts in an adversary proceeding.

Different burdens of proof exist in the law:

  • Prima facie - evidence which is good and sufficient "on its face" to establish a given fact when not rebutted or contradicted.
  • Probable cause - A reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime. Level of information needed for arrest is whether facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe a suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
  • Preponderance of the evidence - the burden of proof in civil cases and in some motions hearings in criminal cases. Evidence which, as a whole, shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. Evidence, which is more credible and convincing to the mind. It is generally visualized as that side of the dispute toward which the scales tip when the credible evidence is weighed by the trier of fact. Something more than 50% of the credible evidence.
  • Clear and convincing - the burden of proof in selected proceedings, such as termination of parental rights. A measure of proof, which produces a firm belief or a high probability as to the allegations. It is difficult to quantify, but is more than a "preponderance" and less than "beyond a reasonable doubt".
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt - the burden of proof in criminal cases. The degree of belief a criminal juror (or the judge in a bench trial) must have regarding all factual elements of a charged crime.

CIVIL CASE
An action that is brought to enforce, redress, or protect an individual’s or entity’s private rights. The outcome is generally an amount of money awarded to the prevailing party.

COMPLAINT
Document in which crimes are charged in District Court, as well as the initial charging document for felonies. Also, referred to as the "information”.

CONCURRENT SENTENCE
Upon conviction for multiple crimes, a criminal sentence served at the same time as another criminal sentence, rather than one after the other. The person is released at the expiration of the longest term specified.

CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE
Upon conviction for multiple crimes, criminal sentences that must be served one after the other, rather than at the same time.

CONTINUANCE
A delay of court proceedings that is granted by the court upon showing of good cause.

CONTRABAND
Goods barred by law (e.g., specific weapons, or drugs prohibited by law, etc.).

CONVICTION
The result when a judge or jury's decision (or verdict) is that the accused person is guilty of the crime and sentenced.

COURT
Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the briefs." Courts and judges are part of the Judicial Branch of government.

COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY
Legal counsel assigned by the court to represent an indigent criminal defendant. A court-appointed attorney is not necessarily a "free" attorney; the court can order that some or all of the attorney's bill be reimbursed. If jail time will not be imposed on a misdemeanor or petty offense, the judge need not appoint an attorney.

CRIMINAL CASE
a case brought by the government (municipal, county, state, or federal) against an individual or corporation accused of committing an act that is considered harmful to the general public and is forbidden by law.

CROSS EXAMINATION
Questioning of a witness by a party other than the one who called that witness to the witness stand.

DEFENDANT
Person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.

DELIBERATIONS
The time after the trial when the jury meets in private to decide the outcome of the case.

DELINQUENCY
Crime committed by a minor under the age of 18. Juvenile delinquency offenses are prosecuted in the District Court or in Juvenile Court in Denver.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY
A lawyer elected or appointed to a specified judicial district to serve as a prosecutor for the state in criminal cases.

DOCKET / CASE DOCKET
A written list of all cases to be tried by a court.

DOCKET NUMBER
Number assigned by the court's clerk to identify each case.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY
Being placed more than once in danger of being convicted and sentenced for the same offense. Being tried twice for the same offense. Jeopardy 'attaches' (begins) in a jury trial when the selected jury is sworn, and attaches in a bench trial when the first witness is sworn. If a judge declares a mistrial has occurred a criminal case may be re-tried without violating double jeopardy.

EXPERT WITNESS
A witness with special expertise in an area who is brought in by one side in a trial to explain something technical, such as medical treatment or ballistics.

FELONY
A crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in a state penal institution. Felonies trials are heard in District Court.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM
Person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of an infant or an incompetent adult, or a missing person who is involved in a court case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of juvenile abuse or neglect. The "GAL" may be an attorney.

JURISDICTION
Legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case before it, which depends on the type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county where the court is located.

  • The geographic area over which the authority to interpret and apply the law extends (e.g., the court's authority to decide cases, the prosecutor's authority to issue criminal charges, etc.)
  • In delinquency and abuse/neglect cases, the court's authority to enter orders affecting a youth and his/her parents or household.

JURY
Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.

JUVENILE
Youth under the age of 18.

MISDEMEANOR
A less serious criminal offense punishable by a sentence to the county jail.

OPENING STATEMENT
The presentation by each side at the beginning of the trial, when the attorneys explain what the issues are and what they intend to prove during the trial.

PECUNIARY LOSS
Refers to a loss measured directly in terms of money. Criminal restitution does not allow for pain and suffering as a payable loss.

PLEA NEGOTIATION/BARGAIN
A negotiated agreement between the prosecutor and the defense counsel for the defendant to plead guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions. The agreement could include the defendant pleading to all pending charges with a sentence agreement, or pleading to less than all of his pending charges, or pleading to a less serious charge, or pleading guilty to one or more pending charges in exchange for dismissal of other unrelated charges. All plea agreements must be approved by the judge. Plea agreements are a means of arriving at a reasonable disposition without the necessity of a trial.

PRELIMINARY HEARING
A hearing held in class felony cases to determine whether or not there is probable cause to proceed with the case. The prosecution must present testimonial evidence to show probable cause that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed it.

PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE
Meeting between the prosecutor, the defendant or his attorney and the court to resolve issues prior to trial so that the parties and the court will be better prepared for trial. The parties may discuss a possible resolution of a case without going to trial. (Plea Bargain)

PROSECUTOR
The District Attorney and deputy district attorney’s prosecute criminal cases for the People of the State of Colorado.

PUBLIC DEFENDER
A lawyer employed by the government to represent an accused person who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

REMAND
To send back to custody. To send an accused back into custody by court order (as pending trial). To turn a prisoner over for continued detention.
To send back a case to a lower court with instructions about further proceedings. Also, to return (a case or matter) from one court to another especially to a lower court or from a court to an administrative agency.

RESTITUTION
After conviction, a defendant can be ordered to pay the victim for financial losses.

SENTENCING
The judge’s decision after a ple or verdict of guilty as to what a defendant’s penalty will be, such as jail time, probation, or community service.

SUBPOENA
A written legal order directing a person to appear in court.

TESTIMONY
Evidence presented orally and under oath by witnesses during trials or other court proceedings.

TRIAL
The presentation of all the evidence against a defendant to a judge and/or jury in order to make a determination of guilty or not guilty. Evidence may also be presented by the defendant although not required.

VENUE
Geographic location (e.g., city or county) where the crime occurred.

VERDICT
The decision of the jury after a trial, such as whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty in a criminal case or whether there is liability and damages in a civil case.

VICTIM
Person or entity who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.

VOIR DIRE
The questioning of prospective jurors by the attorneys in a case. Attorneys can, within limits, use this questioning to accept or excuse individual jurors until the full jury panel is chosen.