Legal Terms

a verdict in a criminal trial in which the defendant is found not guilty of the charge.
a Domestic Violence Advocate provides information and support to victims of domestic violence. Advocates may work in specialized offices or in community agencies.
an answer is a pleading filed with the court and served upon the opposing party that responds to the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s complaint. An answer may admit certain facts, or deny certain allegations.
a legal action in which a litigant asks a higher court to review and reverse a lower court’s decision.
the litigant who brings the appeal.
the first appearance before the Court in which the defendant is advised of the charges, possible penalties if found guilty, his/her rights in court, bond if any, the right to court appointed counsel.
Attorney of Record
the attorney named in the permanent record of file of a case who bears the ultimate responsibility for the handling of the case on behalf of the party he or she represents.
a thing of value – for example, money, or a surety bond for money, or the deed to a house – given to the court to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court. If the defendant appears at all court proceedings as required, the bail is returned at the end of the case, subject to all outstanding costs being paid, as well as any bond fees that may apply. If the defendant fails to appear as required, the bail may be kept by the court.
a court attendant who keeps order during proceedings in the court room and is responsible for the custody of the jury.
Bench Trial
trial to a judge or magistrate, without a jury. The judge or magistrate is the trier of fact and issues the verdict of either guilty or not guilty, as well as any applicable sentence in a criminal case, or the prevailing party in a civil case.
Bench Warrant
an order issued by the court (‘from the bench’) for the attachment or arrest of a person.
Bond — Cash
the defendant must place the full amount of the bond with the court. Assuming the defendant makes all scheduled court appearances, the bond will be returned at the conclusion of the case, less applicable bond costs.
Bond — 10%/Surety
the defendant has the choice of depositing a percentage of the amount of the bond with the court, or utilizing the services of a bail bondsman who deposits the full bond with the court for a non-refundable fee.
Bond — Personal
sometimes called ‘personal recognizance’, when given a personal bond the defendant is not required to put up any money, the defendant’s signature is his/her promise to appear at future hearings.
Bond — Unsecured
On an unsecured bond, the defendant may promise a sum of money, but no monetary deposit is required.
Burden of Proof
the duty of a litigant to prove or disprove an allegation in court.
Civil Court
handles all cases between individuals or organizations.
Civil Judgment
the finding by a judge, magistrate or jury in a civil case deciding who the prevailing party is. Can also be determined by the verdict of a jury.
In a criminal or traffic case, the written document which charges a violation of a criminal or traffic law. The filing of a criminal or traffic complaint is not proof of a crime, and is not considered for any purpose other than that it was filed. In a civil case, the filing of a civil claim, seeking damages or other relief from the defendant or defendants.
Contempt of Court
An act which embarrasses, hinders, or obstructs a court in the administration of justice, or lessens its authority or dignity. Contempts are of two kinds: Direct contempts are committed in the view and presence of the court; indirect contempts are committed outside the presence of the court (usually a failure or refusal to obey a lawful court order.
a verdict in a criminal trial, or a finding after a plea to a criminal charge, in which the defendant is found guilty of the charge.
Criminal Court
handles cases involving crimes against the state, or when criminal laws are broken.
the monetary claims of the parties in a civil suit, typically the amount for which a party seeks a judgment.
a failure to do what ought to be done, i.e., when a defendant doesn’t plead within the time allowed or fails to appear for trial.
the defendant is the person being sued in a civil case, or the person who has been charged with a crime or driving offense in a criminal or traffic case.
Defense Attorney
The lawyer who represents the defendant in any legal proceeding.
an order or judgment finally deciding a civil case in favor of the defendant by sending it out of court without trial. Dismissal 'with prejudice' forever bars the right to bring a lawsuit on the same claim or cause; dismissal 'without prejudice' disposes of the particular lawsuit before the court but permits a new lawsuit to be brought based on the same claim or cause. In a criminal or traffic case, the termination of proceedings on a certain case or charge with no finding of guilty or not guilty.
a list of cases on a court's calendar, or schedule.
Double Jeopardy
being placed more than once in danger of being convicted and sentenced for the same offense.
the information used in court to prove or disapprove an allegation.
the carrying out of some act or course of conduct to its completion; i.e., execution of a civil judgment is the putting into effect of the final judgment of the court by obtaining possession of that which the judgment has awarded. There are several forms of execution, the most common being wage garnishment, bank attachment, and judgment debtor's examination. These execution methods require certain paperwork be filed with the Court, and accompanied by the current filing fee.
a serious crime, generally punishable by death or imprisonment in a state prison for more than a year or fines of $2500.00 or more.
the collection of all papers and other matters in a court case which have been filed with the Clerk of Courts. Files are generally available for public inspection at the court.
an official procedure to enter paperwork into the legal system to maintain court records. This is usually done at the court clerk's office.
a proceeding whereby a debtor's money or property held by a third party which could be an employer, financial institution, or other party are attached and applied to the payment of the debt.
a court proceeding in which evidence is presented to determine facts that are in dispute, or for procedural matters.
a formal written accusation issued by a grand jury charging someone with a crime. An indictment is not proof of a crime.
any legal harm, wrong or damage done to a person's body, property, rights or reputation, and that the law recognizes as deserving of redress.
a given number of persons selected according to the law to determine issues of fact on the basis of evidence submitted to them.
Grand Jury — a jury of inquiry which receives complaints and accusations In criminal cases. It hears the prosecutor's evidence and issue indictments when satisfied that there is probably cause to believe that a crime was committed, that the accused committed the crime and that a trial should be held.
Petit Jury — the ordinary jury of 12 (or fewer) persons selectedto hear the trial of a civil or criminal case and to determine issues of fact so called to distinguish it from the grand jury. In Common Pleas Court, a trial has 12 jurors; a Municipal court has 8 jurors.
a civil action brought in court in which a plaintiff seeks a remedy provided by the law, such as damages from a defendant or defendants.
someone who is a party to litigation. The litigant can be the side bringing the lawsuit or the side being sued.
a legal dispute between parties argued in a court. Another word for lawsuit.
a magistrate is a licensed attorney appointed by the court to handle certain types of hearings such as small claims, evictions, post-judgment execution, traffic, civil and criminal cases.
offenses less serious than felonies, generally punishable by fines less than $1,000.00 or imprisonment of 6 months or less.
a request by a party in a court case asking the court to take some action. Although typically done in writing, it may also be made orally in open court in some circumstances.
No Bill
this phrase, endorsed by a grand jury on the written indictment submitted to it for its approval, means that the evidence was found insufficient to issue an indictment.
the written explanation of a court's decision in a matter.
the laws, including criminal and traffic laws, enacted by a local legislative authority, typically a City Council, which are applicable to a particular City or Village. Criminal and Traffic ordinances may or may not be the same as the comparable state statute.
the party who has initiated civil litigation.
Plaintiff Attorney
a lawyer who represents the plaintiff, or the filer of a civil suit.
Plea Bargain
an agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant admits having committed a crime. In return, the prosecutor typically agrees to dismiss some charges in exchange for a plea and conviction on other charges, and may ask the judge to impose a less severe sentence than had the defendant been convicted at trial. The judge is not bound the terms of a plea bargain. A plea bargain ensures that a guilty defendant is punished. A plea bargain frequently resolves cases without having to have a trial on all charges.
a pre-trial is a conference conducted by the Court to determine whether or not the matter can be resolved without the need for trial. A criminal pre-trial is held with the prosecutor, defense attorney and a court magistrate. This is an opportunity for the defense attorney to review evidence contained in the prosecution's file, including witness statements, photographs, etc. Typically, some type of plea-bargain is offered by the prosecutor and if accepted by the defendant, the case will not need to be scheduled for trial. A civil pre-trial is similarly an opportunity for the Plaintiff and Defendant to attempt to negotiate a settlement, discuss evidence and for the court to schedule the matter for trial in the event settlement is not possible.
in criminal law, to allow one convicted of a crime to go free while a portion of his or her prison sentence is suspended during good behavior, generally under the supervision of a probation officer.
Pro Se
a person who represents themselves without an attorney, whether in a civil, criminal or traffic case.
the lawyer who represents either the State or City in a traffic/criminal case.
Rules of Court
the Local Rules, issued by a local court, governing the operation of that particular court.
Rules of Evidence
rules promulgated by the Ohio Supreme Court governing the use and admissibility of evidence in all civil and criminal trials.
Rules of Procedure
Rules promulgated by the Ohio Supreme Court governing all process and procedure in all court cases. Rules of Civil Procedure govern civil proceedings and Rules of Criminal Procedure govern all criminal proceedings. Traffic Rules also govern proceedings in traffic cases.
Search Warrant
a written order from a judge or magistrate directing an officer to search a specific place for a specific object issued upon a showing of probable cause.
the punishment a judge/magistrate imposes on a person convicted of a crime.
an agreement between the plaintiff and defendant in a civil case to resolve the dispute without a trial.
Small Claims
The branch of the civil court which handles cases where the amount in dispute is $3,000 or less, and the cases are resolved in a less formal, and user-friendly setting.
laws enacted by the legislative branch of the State of Ohio.
Statutory Law
laws, or statutes, enacted by legislatures, such as the Ohio State Legislature or the United States Congress.
the temporary halting of a judicial proceeding by court order.
an official notice requiring someone's appearance in court or to bring certain documents to court.
Summary Judgment
a process by which a civil litigant ask for judgment in a summary fashion, without a trial. Also known as a Rule 56 motion, the party seeking summary judgment files a motion, including evidence, and the opposing party may respond if desired. The judge reviews the evidence most favorably to the party against whom the motion is sought, but if the judge still comes to the conclusion that the moving party would prevail at trial, then summary judgment would be granted.
a writ directing a sheriff or other officer to notify the person named in the summons that an action has been started against him or her in court and that he or she is required to appear on the day named to answer the complaint.
the act by which a witness offers testimony in court.
statements made by witnesses in court.
Time Waiver
in criminal cases, the defendant has the right to be brought to trial within a certain number of days, depending on the level of offense charged. In many cases, the defendant agrees to waive the right to be brought to trial within that time period to allow the case to be scheduled for a pre-trial conference.
True Bill
in criminal practice, the written endorsement made by a grand jury upon a proposed indictment when they find enough evidence to indict; a finding by a grand jury of the existence of sufficient evidence to warrant the issuance of an indictment.
the decision of the jury in a jury trial, or of the judge in a bench trial.
the county, city or other locality which has jurisdiction over a case.
Warrant of Arrest
an order issued by a magistrate, judge, or other authorized person to a peace officer requiring the arrest of the person named therein.
one who testifies to what he or she has seen, heard or otherwise observed.