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Common Criminal Defense Legal Terms

If you are facing a legal case, it is important to know the terminology that you might encounter. A criminal defense attorney has put together a list of commonly used terms that you will come across when working with a lawyer:

1. Charge: A formal accusation or allegation of committing a crime, issued by law enforcement or a prosecuting authority.

2. Arrest: The act of taking a person into custody by law enforcement officers, usually based on probable cause that the person has committed a crime.

3. Miranda Rights: Constitutional rights guaranteed to individuals under the Fifth Amendment, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, which must be read to a suspect upon arrest or custodial interrogation.

4. Bail: The temporary release of a defendant from custody, usually requiring the payment of a set amount of money as security to ensure their appearance in court.

5. Plea Bargain: Negotiated agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge or reduced sentence in exchange for concessions such as dropped charges or a recommendation for leniency as our friends at The Lynch Law Group have shared with us.

6. Arraignment: Formal court proceeding where the defendant is informed of the charges against them, advised of their rights, and asked to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).

7. Discovery: Process through which both the prosecution and defense exchange information and evidence relevant to the case, including witness statements, police reports, and physical evidence.

8. Probation: Court-ordered supervision of a defendant instead of imprisonment, typically subject to certain conditions such as regular check-ins with a probation officer and compliance with specific requirements.

9. Pretrial Motion: Formal request made by either the prosecution or defense to the court seeking a ruling or decision on a particular legal issue or aspect of the case before trial.

10. Acquittal: Legal finding of not guilty by a judge or jury, resulting in the defendant being released from criminal liability for the charges against them.

11. Indictment: Formal written accusation issued by a grand jury charging a person with a serious crime, typically felony offenses.

12. Impeachment: Challenging the credibility or reliability of a witness’s testimony through evidence or cross-examination during trial.

13. Habeas Corpus: Legal principle requiring authorities to justify the detention of a person, typically through a court hearing, to determine if the person’s imprisonment is lawful.

14. Continuance: Postponement of a scheduled court proceeding, such as a trial or hearing, to a later date due to various reasons, such as the unavailability of key witnesses or the need for additional preparation time.

15. Expungement: Legal process of sealing or erasing criminal records, typically for first-time offenders or individuals whose charges were dismissed or resulted in acquittal, allowing them to legally deny or conceal past criminal activity in certain circumstances.

Understanding these criminal defense legal terms can help individuals better navigate the legal process and work effectively with their defense attorney to protect their rights and achieve the best possible outcome in their case. If you need help with a legal case, contact an attorney near you immediately.