Acquittal - a verdict of not guilty for an accused criminal defendant
ADA - Assistant District Attorney
Adjudication - the act of giving a judicial ruling
Adjudicatory Hearing - a juvenile court hearing equivalent to a non-jury trial in an adult court. The ADA, the defense attorney, victim and witnesses, and police officer participate. Testimony is taken so that the presiding judge can determine the proper disposition of the case.
Affidavit - a written document where the signer swears under oath that the contents of the document are true
Allegation - a statement of claimed fact
Allocution - a formal speech, usually used in reference to a statement by the defendant at a sentencing hearing, after he has been found guilty
Appeal - to ask a higher court to reverse the decision of a lower court after a final judgment has been made
Arraignment - the first hearing before a court where charges are formally brought against a defendant
Arrest - to take or hold a suspected criminal under legal authority
Assistant District Attorney - prosecuting attorney representing the Commonwealth
Bail - the money or bond used to release a charged criminal from jail and guarantee his/her appearance
Bailiff - a court official who maintains order in the courtroom
Bench Warrant - a warrant issued by a judge usually ordering an individual to be taken into custody if that defendant or witness did not appear in court when told to by subpoena
Bond - a monetary or other form of security given in exchange for release from jail or prison; meant to insure the appearance of the defendant at further proceedings.
Bring-down - an order to transport a prisoner from a prison to court
C.P. Number - if a case involving a felony is held for court at a preliminary hearing, a bill of information is issued and a Common Pleas Court number (C.P. number) is assigned to the case.
Call of the List - after court is called to order by the court Crier, the Crier will call the list. This means that they will call each case, usually by number, on the list to check status.
Certification Hearing - a hearing about whether to have a juvenile, age 14 and older, tried as an adult rather than in the juvenile court system
Certiorari - an order from a higher court to a lower court to make all documents from a case available for review to the higher court
Chambers - the private office of a judge
Commitment - the order to confine a person to custody
Competent to Stand Trial - sufficiently mentally able to be tried before a criminal court
Complainant - person against whom a crime was alleged to have been committed
Complaint - the first document filed with a court charging the defendant with a crime
Concurrent Sentences - when sentences for multiple crimes are served simultaneously
Consecutive Sentences - when sentences for multiple crimes are served one after another
Consent decree - a written agreement made by juveniles in juvenile cases promising to meet conditions set by the court during a certain time period. If the juvenile upholds the agreement, the case may be dropped. If not, the consent decree may be extended, or the court may issue a different order.
Continuance - a postponement in date of a court appearance or trial
Conviction - when a criminal defendant is found guilty as the verdict of a trial
Court Clerk - an employee or official who handles the business of the courtroom
Court Intake - the initial hearing after a juvenile arrest to determine if the juvenile should be held for prosecution or released
Court Reporter - a stenographer who witnesses and writes down what is said in the courtroom
Cross-Examination - when an attorney questions a witness who testified for the opposing side
Defendant - the party charged with a crime in a criminal prosecution
Defense Lawyer - the attorney representing the defendant in a criminal prosecution
Deferred Adjudication - the postponement of a judicial decision as to whether or not a juvenile will be found delinquent
Deferred Prosecution Agreement - an agreement to suspend prosecution for a specific period of time if the defendant complies with certain conditions. Prosecution may resume if the defendant fails to comply with the conditions. Upon successful completion of the agreement the court will drop the charges.
Deferred Sentence - a delay between the time a defendant is found guilty by judge or jury and the time when sentence will be imposed
Delinquency - in juvenile cases, this is the equivalent of being convicted of a crime in adult court. Among other sanctions, a delinquent child may be ordered into treatment, counseling or out-of-home placement in a juvenile detention facility
Detention - holding a person in custody
Discharged - the dismissal of charges or release of a defendant from custody
Discovery - a formal legal procedure enabling one party to obtain information about the case from the other party
Dismissal - terminating a criminal charge
Disposition - a court's final determination on a criminal charge
Docket Number - the number that the court clerk designates a case in the court's docket. Depending on the case, this may be a C.P. or an M.C. number.
Due Process - the protection of private rights, such as the right to a fair trial, during a legal proceeding in accordance with stated rules and principles
Evidence - proof legally presented at the trial
Foreperson - the leader of a jury
Grand Jury - a body of 23 jurors who listen to evidence presented by the District Attorney in order to determine whether an individual or entity should be indicted with a criminal charge
Guardian Ad Litem - an individual appointed by the court to take legal action on behalf of a minor or an incapable adult
Hearsay - evidence presented by a witness as second-hand, that is, what the witness was told by another person
Held for Court - the decision made at the preliminary hearing, in cases involving a felony charge, where the judge has determined that there is enough evidence to hold the defendant for trial in Common Pleas Court.
Held Under Advisement - after hearing evidence or argument in a case, the judge needs more time to render a decision
Hold Order - instructions notifying prison officials that charges against a prisoner are pending from another jurisdiction and to inform the authorities of that jurisdiction instead of releasing the prisoner
Hung Jury - a deadlocked jury that can decide neither to convict nor acquit. When that occurs, the judge must declare the case a mistrial
Incarceration - the period of confinement the defendant may be sentenced to serve by the court following a finding of guilt as to the commission of a crime
Indictment - a charge of a felony levied by an investigating grand jury after hearing evidence presented by the District Attorney
Informal Adjustment - a Youth Study Center intake interview to determine if a juvenile should be considered for programs other than being prosecuted for a crime.
Initial Appearance - a defendant's first appearance in court. A judge reads the charges, sets bail and appoints an attorney, if one is needed. In felony cases, a date is often set for arraignment or preliminary hearing. In misdemeanors, the initial appearance is also the arraignment and the defendant enters a plea.
Judge - an elected official who hears and decides legal matters in a courtroom
Jurisdiction - a particular geographic area where a court has the legal authority to hear cases and make legal decisions
Jury - a group of 12 persons who hear the evidence, come to a decision concerning the facts and the law and present a verdict as to the guilt or non-guilt of the accused.
Juvenile - an individual who has not reached the legal age to be tried in criminal court as an adult (currently the age of majority is 18 years of age)
M.C. Number - at the preliminary hearing each case is assigned a Municipal Court (M.C.) term number.
Mediation - a dispute resolution method that involves a neutral third party to resolve a Private Criminal Complaint by agreement
Miranda - a famous court case requiring law enforcement officers to inform those arrested of their rights
Mistrial - a trial that is ended prematurely, without a verdict, due to a hung jury or some legal error that cannot be fixed otherwise
Motion - a request that a judge receives to make an order or judgment
Must Be Tried (MBT) - an order by the judge that the case must be tried at the next listing. The MBT order may be placed on the Commonwealth or on the defense.
Negotiated Plea - discussion or agreement between defense and prosecution about a possible confession of guilt by a defendant for certain considerations
Nole Contendere - a plea entered by the defendant which means he/she has no defense to the charges against him/her, but is not specifically pleading guilty
Nolle Prosequi / Nolle Prose - decision by the prosecution to withdraw criminal charges
Objection - a challenge by a lawyer to the propriety of a question or a statement by the opposing lawyer or a witness, on the ground, for example, that it is hearsay, immaterial, leading, or lacking foundation. An objection can either be sustained or overruled.
Overruled - the decision by a judge to reject an objection made by an attorney
Parole - the release of a convicted criminal from prison before the end of his or her maximum sentence. However, those on parole must maintain good behavior and report to a parole officer
Perjury - deliberate lying under oath
Petition Number - the tracking device given to a formal document listing the charges against a juvenile defendant. Example:00835-0310 (00835=incident number, 03=year-2003, 10=month-October)
Plea - a criminal defendant's response, either guilty or not guilty, to a charge brought against him or her
Preemptory Challenge - an attorney's rejection of a potential juror. Both the Commonwealth and the defense are given a limited number of preemptory challenges to use during jury selection
Pre-sentence Investigation - a court-ordered report investigated by a probation officer into a convicted defendant's personal background to be used by the court at sentencing
Preliminary Arraignment - initial court proceeding after arrest where charges are read to the defendant and bail is set
Pretrial Conference - a meeting between attorneys and the judge before a trial begins to determine the legal or evidentiary issues of the case
Private Criminal Complaint - misdemeanor charges filed directly by a citizen, without a police arrest in the District Attorney's Office on the 6th floor, 34 South 11th Street
Private Written Allegation - a private criminal complaint against a juvenile, handled by the Probation Department, 1801 Vine Street, Room 233, (215) 686-8370
Probable Cause - the basis on which a police officer may arrest an individual. There must be sufficient reason based on known facts and evidence to make the arrest.
Probation - a sentence given to convicted criminals where they remain out of prison as long as they observe certain court ordered conditions. A violation of probation can result in jail time.
Public Defender - an attorney appointed for the defendant by the court. This usually occurs when defendants cannot afford to hire their own attorney. An example would be the Defender's Association of Philadelphia.
Ready In The Room (RIR) - when the court officers call the list at the beginning of a court session, they will determine whether the attorneys and necessary witnesses are present and ready to proceed. If so, the case will be marked ready in room (RIR).
Ready On Call - most of the witnesses are in the room, but some - usually police officers busy performing other duties - may be "on call" and ready to appear after phone notice.
Recidivist - a person convicted of committing a crime after having been previously convicted of another criminal act
Release on own Recognizance (ROR) - a judge's decision to allow a person charged with a crime to be free while awaiting trial without posting bail
Remand - after the preliminary hearing, the judge may decide that the evidence does not constitute a felony crime. The judge will then dismiss the felony charges and remand the case to the Municipal Court for trial on the misdemeanor charges.
Restitution - returning property or the value of lost property to the proper owner or the victim of a crime
Search Warrant - an order by a judge allowing law enforcement officers to search a particular place
Sentencing - the punishment determined for a person convicted of a crime
Sequester - to keep separate. Witnesses are generally required to leave the courtroom while other witnesses give testimony. In rare instances, juries may be sequestered, which means they will be required to stay in a hotel during the length of the trial, or during their deliberations, in order to avoid publicity or other undue influence concerning the case.
Show Cause Order - an order telling a party to come to court in order to explain some action or lack thereof
Subpoena - an order of the court for a witness to appear to present evidence
Subpoena Duces Tecum - an order to appear and bring records or documents
Summary Offense - a minor violation of criminal law which may be disposed of by fine or up to 90 days imprisonment or both
Sustained - a judge's determination that an attorney's objection is valid
Trial - the examination of evidence and law as heard before a judge with authority to preside over the matter
Verdict - the decision of a trial judge or jury concerning the matter submitted in a trial
Victim Impact Statement - a statement read into the record during sentencing to inform the judge and jury of the relevance of the crime to the victim
Voir Dire - the questioning of potential jurors in court by the judge and attorneys. The process is used to determine if any potential jurors may have a bias toward either side
Warrant - authority for a person's arrest on specific charges
Witness - person who gives evidence and testimony as to the facts regarding any legal proceeding
Writ of Habeas Corpus - an order to get a person out of jail
Youth Aid Panel - a program for first-time juvenile offenders who admit their guilt. A panel of local volunteers creates a contract into which the juvenile enters, providing an alternative to jail or other traditional criminal punishments