Whether it’s from watching a legal drama on television, being involved in ii lawsuit or receiving an inheritance through a family member’s will, many people come in contact with legal terms in their everyday lives.
People often don’t know the meanings of certain words used by lawyers and others in the legal profession. Here are a few of the more frequently used legal terms:
Acquittal: A defendant in a criminal trial has not been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a judge or a jury of the crime for which he or she is accused.
Affidavit: A written statement of facts taken under oath before a notary or other person who has authority to administer oaths.
Bail: Money or other property given in exchange for the release of a defendant or witness from jail or other legal custody to ensure that he or she will appear in court on a specific day and time.
Bankruptcy: The laws and court proceedings involving people or businesses that cannot pay their debts and need the court’s help to start over. Parts of each debt may be paid to clear it from their records.
Bench trial: A trial in which a judge decides the facts without a jury being present.
Defendant: In a civil suit, a defendant is the person being sued. In a criminal case, it is the person accused of the crime.
Deposition: An oral statement given under oath before someone legally authorized to administer oaths. Depositions are taken to decide whether someone is a good witness, to gather information to be used later at a trial.
Discovery: Facts and documents gathered from the other side in a lawsuit in preparation for trial.
Settlement: Resolving a lawsuit without a trial. Often, settlements involve payment by one party to another to satisfy the other party’s claims.
Subpoena: A legal order to a witness for that witness to appear and give testimony.
Tort: A civil wrong or breach of a duty to another, as outlined by law. An ex- ample of tort is negligent operation of a motor vehicle that results in a wreck with injuries to someone other than the driver and/or property damages.
Verdict: Decision at the conclusion of a case presented by a trial jury or judge.
Warrant: A written order directing the arrest of a person or the seizure of property. A search warrant orders that a specific location be searched for items that can be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding.
Witness: Someone called to give testimony in a lawsuit, or a criminal proceeding.
Writ: A formal, written command issued by the court requiring a specific act to be performed.