Glossary of Legal Terms
Acquittal – When a jury or court finds the defendant “not guilty,” the defendant is “acquitted.”
 
Advocate – Usually someone trained in sexual assault and legal issues who offers support and assistance to sexual assault survivors. An advocate may work for the prosecutor or at a community based agency.
 
Affidavit – A sworn statement of the facts as you know them to be.
 
Anonymous – Not named or identified.
 
Bailiff – A court employee who maintains order in the courtroom.
 
Bail -The property or money given in assurance that the defendant will appear in court.
 
Bond -The money paid to a bond company so that they will pay the bail for a person. The bond price is usually 10% of the bail amount.
 
Burden of Proof – The prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed all the essential elements of the crime to the juries or court’s satisfaction.
 
Charge/ Charged – When the prosecuting attorney formally accuses someone of having committed a criminal offense, that person is “charged” with a crime.
 
Clerk (of the Court) – A court official who handles clerical matters like keeping records, filing documents and providing certified copies.
 
Commissioner (of the Court) – A type of judge who makes decisions relating to a particular subject matter.
 
Confidential – Private or secret.
 
Consent – When you give permission or agree to something.
 
Conviction – To prove or find someone guilty of a crime.
 
Court – The official place and process for the administration of justice.
 
Defendant – The person against whom a charge or claim is brought in court.
 
Defense Attorney – The lawyer for the defendant.
 
Discovery – The process by which the attorneys in the case share relevant information.
 
Disclosed/disclosure – When information is released or shared, it is “disclosed.”
 
Dismissal – An order by the court that means the case is over.
 
Disposition – The result or final outcome of a case
 
Forensic Exam – A physical examination of the body that is designed to collect evidence to show that a crime was perpetrated upon that person.
 
Guilty - When the defendant is determined to have committed the crime; he or she is “guilty.”
 
Hearing – A court proceeding where a judge considers requests for either party in a case.
 
Judge – An elected or appointed public official with the authority to hear and decide cases in court.
 
Judgment – The decision of a judge.
 
Jury – Usually a group of 12 people from the community randomly selected to consider evidence and decide the outcome of a criminal case.
 
Minor – Generally someone under the age of 18.
 
Motion – A request made to the court asking the judge to do something. A motion is usually heard at a hearing.
 
Offender – A person who has committed a crime.
 
Oath – A pledge before testifying, every witness must take an oath that he or she will tell the truth.
 
Perpetrator – Also may be referred to as the offender, the defendant or the accused. It generally means the person who assaulted you.
 
Plaintiff/Petitioner – Usually used in a civil legal proceeding, referring to the person who brought the civil action.
 
Police Report – Report made by the police containing the initial statement made by the victim at the time she or he reported the crime.
 
Pre-sentence Report – A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making a sentencing decision.
 
Proceeding – The court processes in which a case moves through the legal system.
 
Prosecute/Prosecution – When the state brings charges against someone for committing a crime, that person is being “prosecuted.”
 
Prosecutor/Prosecuting Attorney – The lawyer for the state who is responsible for prosecuting people who commit crimes.
 
Protection Order – An order issued by a court commissioner or judge that specifically forbids the perpetrator from having contact with you.
 
Rape – When someone (it can be more than one person) forces you, and/or threatens you, and/or tricks you into having sexual intercourse that you do not want.
 
Sentencing/Sentencing Hearing – A hearing where the judge decides the punishment for a guilty offender.
 
Sexual Assault – When someone (it can be more than one person) forces you, and/or threatens you, and/or tricks you into having any kind of sexual contact that you do not want.
 
Statute of Limitations – The time limit assigned in which crimes must be charged, or lawsuits must be filed in order for them to be valid claims.

Subpoena – A piece of paper issued by a court that instructs you to do something specific, like appear in court, or provide certain documents to the other party in a legal proceeding
 
Testify – To make statements under oath.
 
Trial - The court proceeding in which the guilt or innocence of the accused person is decided by the judge or a jury.
 
Testimony – When you go to court and tell the judge and/or jury what happened to you, you are giving “testimony.”
 
Victim – When you have been hurt by someone, the court refers to you as a victim, meaning a victim of a crime.
 
Victim Impact Statement – A statement made to the court by the victim or a victim representative that tells the judge how the victims or victim’s family has been affected by the crime.
 
Victim/Witness – A term that refers to a person who is both a victim of a crime and also the witness to that same crime.
 
Voir Dire – The process in which jurors are questioned by attorneys for both sides and/or the trial judge about their background, life experiences, and opinions to determine whether they can weigh the evidence fairly and objectively. From the Anglo-French meaning “to tell the truth.”
 
Witness – One who sees an act performed. One who gives evidence in a case. You can be a victim and a witness to a crime.