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Courtroom Legal Terms Study Guide

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Updated on Jul 15, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Courtroom Legal Terms Practice Exercises

Since it's almost impossible to turn on your television today without running into a Law and Order rerun or similar type of show, it's helpful to have an idea of what all of those legal terms being thrown around really mean. Who knows? It might even inspire you to pursue a career in criminal justice. Following are some of the most basic legal terms used in today's courtrooms.

DEFINITIONS

  • alimony   an allowance made by one spouse to the other for support during and/or after a legal separation or divorce
  • arraignment   the hearing in which a person charged with a crime goes before a judge to plead either guilty or innocent
  • bankruptcy   a federal system of statutes and courts that permits people and businesses that are in debt or face potential ruin, to place their financial affairs under the control of the bankruptcy court
  • continuance   the postponement of the court proceedings in a case to a future day
  • conviction   the result of a criminal trial in which the defendant has been found guilty of a crime
  • custody   holding property under one's control; law enforcement officials' act of holding an accused or convicted person, beginning with the arrest; also applies to a court's determination of which parent, relative, or other adult should have control of and responsibility for a minor child (under 18)
  • delinquent (juvenile)   a minor (usually under 18) who's found guilty of a crime and may not be sentenced as an adult
  • deposition   the taking and reading of testimony by a witness under oath before a court reporter in a place other than the courtroom before a trial
  • felony   a crime sufficiently serious to be punishable by a term in prison or death
  • garnishment   the process of petitioning for and getting a court order directing a person to hold funds owed to an individual who's allegedly in debt to someone else, often after a legal judgment has been rendered
  • jurisdiction   the authority given to a court to try cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area and/or over certain types of legal cases
  • mediation   the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party mediator who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result
  • misdemeanor   a lesser crime punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year
  • perjury   the crime of intentionally lying while duly sworn to tell the truth by a notary public, court clerk, or other official
  • probation   a chance to remain free instead of going to jail or prison, given to a person convicted of a crime provided the person can behave well
  • restitution   returning to the rightful owner property or money lost, sometimes made part of a judgment in negligence and/or contracts cases
  • subpoena   a court order for a witness to appear at a particular time and place to testify and/or produce documents in his or her control
  • testimony   oral evidence given under oath in answer to questions posed by attorneys at trial or at a deposition
  • unconstitutional   referring to a statute, governmental conduct, court decision, or private contract that violates one or more provisions of the U.S. Constitution
  • writ   a written order of a judge requiring specific action by the person to whom the writ is directed

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Courtroom Legal Terms Practice Exercises

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