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Understanding Court Terminology

By: Mark Diaz May 20, 2020 no comments

Understanding Court Terminology

Understanding court terminology can keep you from making serious mistakes. Unfortunately, in some cases, people run into issues because they do not understand the meaning or implications of certain court terminology as it relates to a criminal case. If you were arrested and charged with a crime, it is crucial you have the information you need to protect your rights. Here, our Galveston criminal defense lawyers define some of the key terms you may encounter with your or a loved one’s criminal case. If you have specific questions about the meaning of these terms, we strongly recommend you consult with an attorney.

Your Guide to Court Terminology: Fifteen Terms Defendants Should Know

As you navigate your way through the Texas criminal justice system, you will encounter several different terms and phrases you may not be familiar with or you may not fully understand. The law is technical. All legal terms have very specific meanings — and sometimes the meaning is not quite the same as common usage. Here are fifteen (15) important terms defendants should know:

  • Acquittal: The verdict by the judge or the jury finding the accused “not guilty” of the crime in which they’ve been accused.

  • Arraignment: An arraignment is a criminal proceeding in which the accused is informed of the charges and asked to enter an initial plea.

  • Bail/Bond: Money, property, or some other asset that is given to the court as a security to ensure the accused returns to court for all scheduled court appearances.

  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The burden of proof that the State of Texas must prove in any criminal case to secure a guilty verdict.

  • Charge: A charge is a formal allegation brought by the State of Texas against the accused whereby the State alleges the accused committed a specific crime.

  • Discovery: The means by which evidence is transmitted by the State to the Defense.

  • Dismissal: The removal, or dropping, of criminal charges against the accused.

  • Hearsay: This refers to the testimony from a witness who did not actually observe the crime in dispute, but instead heard about it from somebody else. Generally, hearsay is inadmissible in court. However, there are limited exceptions that allow certain hearsay testimony into evidence.

  • Indictment: A formal charge made by the Grand Jury. If the case is indicted, that means the Grand Jury found that there is sufficient evidence against the accused to proceed to trial.

  • Parole: The supervised release of an inmate from prison after they have served a portion of their sentence. Not to be confused with probation.

  • Probable Cause: A legal standard meaning there is enough evidence for an arrest.

  • Probation: Probation is an alternative to jail — a defendant is released under the supervision of the court. Often, probation carries conditions, such as paying fines or submitting to drug testing.

  • Pretrial Conference: A meeting between the Court, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney that takes place before trial where discussion take place regarding what evidence will be introduced at trial, what witnesses will be called, the date of the trial, etc.

  • Subpoena: A court-issued order that commands a witness to appear in court and testify.

  • Voir Dire: The process where a jury is selected by the Court and the lawyers.

The list is merely a sample of the legal terms you may find encounter. If you have any questions about the meaning or implications of any legal term, we can help. Our Galveston, TX defense attorney will make sure you understand your rights, your options and the situation you are facing.

Call Our Galveston, TX Criminal Defense Attorney Right Away

Mark A. Diaz is an aggressive, experienced criminal defense lawyer. We can help you understand how the criminal justice process operates. For a free, completely confidential case evaluation, please contact our law firm today. We serve communities throughout Southeast Texas, including in Galveston, Texas City, La Marque, League City, Dickinson, Hitchcock, Webster and Santa Fe.

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