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Colorado Criminal Law: Glossary of Commonly Used Criminal Law and Procedural Terms

A

ABSTRACT OF CONVICTION
A form sent by courts to the Colorado Department of State reporting a person’s conviction or adjudication for a traffic violation, or other “reportable offense” (e.g., drug crimes).

ACCESSORY
A person who knowingly and intentionally contributes to or aids in committing a crime (before or after, but not necessarily during, the commission of the crime). If the crime was a felony, the person could be charged with being an “accessory-after-the-fact”. The facts could also support a charge of Conspiracy.

ACCOMPLICE
A person who participates in the commission of a crime, other than the person actually doing to principal criminal act. This person may be charged with actual crime committed under an “aider or abettor” theory (gave aid or encouragement to the principal defendant(s)).

ACQUITTAL
when a criminal defendant is found “not guilty” of the crime. An acquittal is not a declaration of the accused’s “innocence”; it is a verdict that a Prosecutor failed to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

ADJUDICATION
Generally, a final judicial determination of a case. In juvenile delinquency cases, it is the equivalent of a ‘conviction’ in adult criminal cases, when the court formally takes jurisdiction of the minor.

ADULT
A person who is no longer deemed to be a minor. In Colorado, a person becomes an adult for criminal cases when they turn 18.

ADVERSARY PROCEEDING
actions contested by opposing parties.

AFFIANT
A person who makes out an affidavit.

AFFIDAVIT
a written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a notary public.

AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE
Without denying the charge, the defendant raises extenuating or mitigating circumstances such as insanity, self-defense, or entrapment to avoid civil or criminal responsibility. The defendant usually must prove any affirmative defense he/she raises. Court rules may require a defendant to notify the opponent before the trial that an affirmative defense will be raised.

AGENT
Someone authorized to act for another person (known as the “principal”). Violation of a principal-agent relationship is the core of an embezzlement.

ALIBI
a “lack of presence” defense. Defendant need not prove that he was elsewhere when the crime happened; rather, a Prosecutor must disprove a claimed alibi (i.e., Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was present).

ALLOCUTION
A defendant’s opportunity to make a statement to the judge at sentencing. A defendant may make a personal statement, but is not required to do so. His/her attorney may also make a statement.

AMICUS BRIEF
A brief filed by an amicus (“friend of the court”) in support of a party in a lawsuit or pending appeal. The court may have to give the amicus permission to file the brief, and may limit the issues.

AMICUS CURIAE
“Friend of the Court” (Latin). A party who volunteers information on some aspect of a case or law to assist the court in its deliberation.

APPEAL
Request to a supervisory court, usually composed of a panel of judges, to change the legal ruling of a lower court. To make such a request is “to appeal” or “to take an appeal.” One who appeals is called the Appellant; the opposing party is the Appellee.

APPEAL RECORD
The record sent by the trial court to the appellate court of what happened at the trial court. This includes a copy of the docket, the case file (court documents), and transcripts of court hearings.

APPEARANCE
A document filed with the court, and provided to other parties, by an attorney advising that the attorney is representing a specific individual.

APPELLANT
The party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court.

APPELLATE COURT
A court that reviews lower court decisions. District Court of Appeals serves as the appellate court for County Court cases. The Colorado Court of Appeals serves as the appellate court for District  Court and Probate Court cases. The Colorado Supreme Court serves as the appellate court for Court of Appeals decisions.

APPELLEE
The party responding to an appeal filed in a higher court.

ARRAIGNMENT
Criminal defendant’s first appearance before a District Court judge. The primary purpose is to enter into a plea bargain or to enter a plea of not guilty.

ARREST WARRANT
An order issued by a judge or magistrate to a peace officer requiring the arrest of a named person.

ATTORNEY
A lawyer. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.

B

BAIL
Bond money paid to a court, by or on behalf of a criminal defendant, as security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at future hearings. If another person posts the bail money, then that third party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates. Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear or violates release conditions.

BAILIFF
A court employee who assists the judge in maintaining order in the courthouse, and who is responsible for the custody of a jury.

BENCH TRIAL
a trial held before a judge and without a jury.

BENCH WARRANT
A court order commanding the defendant’s (or a missing witness’) arrest and appearance in court after the person had previously failed to appear for a hearing. A bench warrant could also be issued against a defendant for violating a court order, such as conditions of release or probation.

BIND-OVER
a finding at a preliminary examination that sufficient evidence exists to require a trial at the Circuit Court level on the charges made against the defendant.

BOND / BAIL BOND
A promise or contract to do or perform a specified act, or pay a penalty for failure to perform. This is usually guaranteed by a ‘surety’, who promises to pay if the ‘principal’ defaults, or by paying a cash bond. In criminal cases, ‘bond’ means the same thing as ‘bail’: a financial obligation signed by the accused or a surety intended to guarantee the defendant’s future appearances in court. The amount of the bond is set by a judge or magistrate. The bond can include conditions of release (i.e., no contact with the victim, no alcohol consumption, etc.) Factors influencing the amount of bond set include the seriousness of the charge, the defendant’s criminal history, and the defendant’s ties to the community.

There are four types of bonds:

Personal recognizance bonds (a.k.a. “PR” bonds, or “signature bonds”) do not require the defendant or a third party to pay money to the court, unless the defendant later fails to appear.

Cash bonds require the full amount of the bond to be paid in cash before the defendant can be released. If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most of the monies are returned to the person posting the bond.

Surety bonds are posted by a professional bondsman after being paid a non-refundable percentage of the full amount by the defendant.

BRIEF
a written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case that explains to the judges why they should decide the case or a particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer’s client.

BURDEN OF PROOF
the duty to establish by evidence a requisite degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of a trier of fact. The duty to establish facts in an adversary proceeding. Different burdens of proof exist in the law:

Prima facie ~~~ evidence which is good and sufficient “on its face” to establish a given fact when unrebutted or not contradicted.

Probable cause ~~~ facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed.

Preponderance ~~~ the burden of proof in civil cases. Evidence which, as a whole, shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. Evidence which is more credible and convincing to the mind. It is generally visualized as that side of the dispute toward which the scales tip when the credible evidence is weighed by the trier of fact. Something more than 50% of the credible evidence.

Clear and convincing ~~~ the burden of proof in selected proceedings, such as termination of parental rights. A measure of proof which produces a firm belief as to the allegations. It is difficult to quantify, but is more than a “preponderance” and less than “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Beyond a reasonable doubt ~~~ the degree of belief a criminal juror (or the judge in a bench trial) must have regarding all factual elements of a charged crime. No doubt, based on reason and common sense, can exist as to any fact needed to be proved.

C

CAPITAL OFFENSE
a crime punishable by death. (Colorado does not have a death penalty.)

CASELAW
Published decisions issued by appellate courts. The legal principals announced in the decisions are binding authority for lower courts.

CASELOAD
The number of cases a judge handles in a specific time period.

CCW
See Carrying a Concealed Weapon.

CHALLENGES (Jury Selection)
a method for striking a prospective juror. The Colorado Court Rules allow two types of juror challenges: for cause (unlimited number; when the juror is shown to be biased for or against a party, is related to a trial participant, etc.) and peremptory (limited number depending on the severity of the crime on trial). No reason need be announced for a peremptory challenge, although a purely racially-based challenge is not permitted.

CHAMBERS
Judge’s office.

CHARGE TO THE JURY
A judge’s instructions to a jury. They contain information on the laws relating to the case, definitions of legal terms, and explanations of procedures relevant to the jury’s duties.

CHIEF JUDGE
In courts with two or more judges, one judge is selected as the chief judge, who has responsibilities as a court administrator, in addition to his/her court docket.

DISTRICT COURT
Colorado’s highest level trial court, with the broadest range of powers (including hearing appeals from County

CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE
indirect evidence that implies something occurred but does not directly prove it. For example, circumstantial evidence of embezzlement includes proof that the defendant-employee made several big-ticket purchases in cash around the time of the alleged embezzlement.   [See also direct evidence.]

CIVIL CASE
a case between private litigants concerning personal wrongs, generally where the losing party must compensate the prevailing party with money or other property. Examples of civil cases include divorces, personal injury, landlord-tenant, small claims and contract or property disputes. A civil plaintiff may be also be asking the court to tell the defendant to stop some behavior or to do a specific thing.

COMMON LAW
a body of legal principles which derives its authority solely from usages and customs of ancient times, or from the judgments and decrees of courts recognizing, affirming, and enforcing such usages and customs; particularly the ancient unwritten law of England. Common law is to be distinguished from “statutory law”, which is enacted by a legislative body such as Congress or a state legislature.

COMPLAINT
the document on which criminal misdemeanors are charged in County Court, as well as the initial charging document for felonies.

CONCURRENT SENTENCE
upon conviction for multiple crimes, a criminal sentence served at the same time as another criminal sentence, rather than one after the other.   [See also consecutive sentence.]

CONCURRING OPINION
An opinion written by an appellate judge who agrees with the decision reached in the case, but would base the decision on different reasons than those expressed by the majority of judges.
See also Dissenting Opinion and Majority Opinion.

CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE
Upon conviction for multiple crimes, criminal sentences that must be served one after the other, rather than at the same time. Consecutive sentences may only be imposed if there is specific statutory authority to do so. In some circumstances, consecutive sentences may be imposed within the judge’s discretion (e.g., when a person is convicted of a new offense committed while on parole status); in other circumstances, consecutive sentences are mandatory (e.g., convictions for felony firearm + another offense).
See also concurrent sentence.

CONSENT, AGE OF
in Colorado, a minor has the legal capacity to consent to sexual activity at age 15. [See Criminal Sexual Conduct.]

CONSPIRACY 
an agreement, express or implied, between two or more people to do an illegal act or to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.
See Wharton’s Rule.

CONTRABAND
Goods barred by law (e.g., specific weapons, or drugs prohibited by law, etc.).

CONVICTION
a judge or jury’s decision that the accused person is guilty of the crime.

CORPUS DELICTI
“Body of the crime” (Latin). The objective proof that a crime has been committed.
A confession is not admissible if the “corpus” of the crime cannot be proven.

CORROBORATING EVIDENCE
Supplementary evidence that supports or confirms the initial evidence. A victim’s or witness’ version of events does not have to be backed up by corroborating evidence.

COURT
a government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use “court” to refer to themselves in the third person, as in “the court has read the briefs.” Courts and judges are part of the Judicial Branch of government.

COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY
legal counsel assigned by the court to represent an indigent criminal defendant. A court-appointed attorney is not necessarily a “free” attorney; the court can order that some or all of the attorney’s bill be reimbursed. If jail time will not be imposed on a misdemeanor, the judge need not appoint an attorney.
See also Guardian ad Litem.

COURT OF APPEALS
an “intermediate” appellate court between the Supreme Court and the Colorado trial courts. Final decisions from a District or Probate court hearing may be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

COURT REPORTER/RECORDER
a person who makes a word-for-word record (either through stenography/short-hand or audio/video recording) of what is said in court, and can produce a transcript of the proceedings upon request. Colorado court reporters or recorders must be trained and certified.

CRIMINAL CASE
a charge filed by a prosecutor against a defendant concerning violation of a criminal law. The act of violating a criminal law is an offense against the community, not a private wrong. Examples of criminal cases include theft, murder and DUI.

CROSS EXAMINATION
the questioning of a witness by a party other than the one who called that witness to the stand.

D

DEFENDANT
a person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.

DELIBERATIONS
Discussions held by the jury, after all evidence has been presented, to decide the outcome of a case.

DELINQUENCY
a crime committed by a minor under the age of 18. Juvenile delinquency offenses are prosecuted in the Juvenile Division of District Court.

DE NOVO
“Anew” or “afresh” (Latin). A “trial de novo” is the retrial of a case. A “de novo” standard of review permits an appellate court to substitute its judgment for that of a trial judge, (e.g., interpretations of laws).

DIRECT EVIDENCE
evidence that stands on its own to prove an alleged fact, such as testimony by a teller that she saw the defendant pointing a gun at her and heard him demand money during a bank robbery.   [See also circumstantial evidence.]

DIRECT EXAMINATION
the questioning of a witness by the party who first called the witness to the stand.

DISSENTING OPINION
An opinion written by an appellate judge explaining why he or shoe disagrees with the decision reached by the majority of judges considering the case.
See also Concurring Opinion and Majority Opinion.

DOCKET / CASE DOCKET
A written list of all important acts done in court in the conduct of an individual case, from beginning to end. This term is also commonly, but improperly, applied to the case calendar (a list of cases set for a hearing by a court on a specific day).

DOCKET NUMBER
Number assigned by the court’s clerk to identify each case.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY
being tried twice for the same offense. Jeopardy ‘attaches’ (begins) in a jury trial when the selected jury is sworn, and attaches in a bench trial when the first witness is sworn.

E

EN BANC
“In the bench” or “full bench.” Refers to appellate court sessions with the entire membership of a court participating rather than the usual quorum. The Colorado Court of Appeals usually sit in panels of three judges, but may expand to a larger number in certain cases. They are then said to be sitting en banc (pronounced “on bonk”).

ENTRAPMENT
Entrapment occurs when police engage in impermissible conduct that would induce an otherwise law-abiding person to commit a crime in similar circumstances, or when police engage in conduct so reprehensible that it cannot be tolerated by the court. Entrapment does not occur if the defendant has the propensity to commit the crime, and the police conduct only gives the defendant the opportunity to commit the crime.

EVIDENCE
information presented in testimony or documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side or the other. [See also direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.]

EXCLUSIONARY RULE
A court-made rule preventing illegally-obtained evidence from being used by the government in its case-in-chief against a criminal defendant. The rule is derived from the 4th and 5th Amendments to the US Constitution.

EX-PARTE
Latin that means “by or for one party.” Refers to situations in which only one party (and not the adversary) appears before a judge. Such meetings are often forbidden.

EX-PARTE ORDER
an order entered without giving the party affected by the order an opportunity to be heard in court before the order is issued. An emergency order used when one party could be irreparably harmed by waiting for a hearing date. The orders are generally short-term, and hearings are scheduled soon after the order is entered to give the other party a chance to be heard.

EXPUNGMENT  
a process where an arrest or certain convictions may be removed from a criminal history.

EXTRADICT / EXTRADITION
The formal process of delivering a person found in one state to authorities in another state where that person has been accused or convicted of a crime. See the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act.

F

FELONY
a crime carrying more than one year possible incarceration.

FORFEITURE
Real or personal property to which a person loses his right of possession due to the commission of a crime or by way of an assessed penalty. A forfeiture may be either administrative or judicial.

404(b)
Colorado Rule of Evidence 404(b):

RULE 404. CHARACTER EVIDENCE NOT ADMISSIBLE TO PROVE CONDUCT; EXCEPTIONS; OTHER CRIMES

(a) Character Evidence Generally. …
(b) Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts.

     (1) Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case.

     (2) The prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial … of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial and the rationale, whether or not mentioned in subparagraph (b)(1), for admitting the evidence. If necessary for a determination of the admissibility of the evidence under this rule, the defendant shall be required to state the theory or theories of defense, limited only by the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination.

Permits some “prior bad acts” evidence to be admitted at trial.

G

GOOD TIME
Reduction in time served in county jails as reward for good behavior. “

GRAND JURY
a group of citizens convened in a criminal case to consider the prosecutor’s evidence and determine whether probable cause exists to prosecute a suspect for a felony. Grand juries are rarely used in Colorado state courts, but are used by Federal courts.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM
a person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of an infant or an incompetent adult, or a missing person who is involved in a court case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of juvenile abuse or neglect. The “GAL” may be an attorney.

H

HABEAS CORPUS
a writ (order) to bring a person before a court. In its most common usage, the writ directs a warden or jailer to bring a prisoner or person detained so that the court may determine whether such person is lawfully confined.

HEARSAY
a statement made outside of court (i.e., not from the witness stand at the present proceeding) that is offered into evidence not merely to prove that the statement was made but to prove that it was true. Dozens of long-established exceptions exist to the general rule that hearsay statements are inadmissible in court; the exceptions are based on circumstances where the out-of-court statements carry a likelihood of trustworthiness (e.g., deathbed statements, self-incriminating statements, statements made to doctors about medical conditions, etc.).

HUNG JURY
A criminal jury that cannot reach a unanimous verdict.

I

IN CAMERA
In chambers; in private. A hearing or inspection of documents that takes place outside the presence of the jury and public, usually in a judge’s office.

IMMUNITY
A court-approved agreement by a prosecutor to not prosecute a person, in return for providing criminal evidence against another person or party.

IMPEACHMENT
the process of calling something into question, as in “impeaching the testimony of a witness.” Impeachment generally challenges a witness’ credibility with evidence of bias, prior inconsistent statements, etc.

INDICTMENT
a formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.

INFORMATION
the document on which criminal felony charges are filed in County Court.

INJUNCTION
an order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.

INTERLOCUTORY
Provisional, temporary, non-final orders and decrees of a court.

J

JUDGE
government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts.

JURISDICTION
the power of the court to decide a case before it, which depends on the type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county where the court is located. [See also venue.]

JURY
persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.

JUVENILE
a youth under the age of 18.

JUVENILE COURT
Juvenile Court is responsible for all juvenile delinquency offenses.

L

LARCENY (THEFT)
stealing. The unlawful taking and carrying away of property of another with the intent to keep it from the owner. This is a specific intent crime, and cannot occur accidentally. The crime is completed when the defendant actually or constructively possesses or controls the property, moves or hides it, and specifically intends to permanently deprive the owner of it.

LAWYER
An attorney. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.

LEADING QUESTION
A question that instructs a witness how to answer, or suggests which answer is desired. These questions are usually prohibited on direct examination.

M

MAGISTRATE
Used generally, this title means a judge. In Colorado, it is a quasi-judicial officer in a county court who has the authority of a County Court Judge if the parties agree to submit to the Court’s

MAJORITY OPINION
A written decision of the majority of appellate judges considering the case announcing the court’s ruling, and the legal basis for the decision.
See also Concurring Opinion and Dissenting Opinion.

MALICE
Intent to commit a wrongful act without just cause or excuse. Evil intent, motive or purpose.

MENS REA
The state of mind of the defendant that the prosecution must prove in order to establish criminal responsibility. Criminal intent. Some crimes require proof of a “specific intent” (i.e., in larcenies, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s specific intent to steal). Other “general intent” crimes require no proof of intent.

Colorado RULES OF EVIDENCE (CRE)
Rules adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court to govern admissibility of evidence in all courts.

MINOR
a youth under a law’s age of majority. Procedurally, a youth is considered a minor regarding criminal offenses until his 18th birthday, and are handled in Juvenile Court; offenses committed after his 18th birthday are handled in District Court and County Court. Some crimes have substantive age limits: alcohol offenses have an age of majority of 21, tobacco offenses have an age of majority of 18, etc.

MIRANDA WARNING
A warning given by police before custodial interrogation. It advises the person that he does not have to talk to police, and his silence will not be held against him, and his right to legal counsel before talking to police.

Refers to a US Supreme Court decision: Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966).

MISTRIAL
A trial declared by a judge to be defective and void, generally due to prejudicial error in the proceedings or a “hung jury” (a jury that could not agree upon a verdict).

MOTIVE  
whether the defendant had a reason to commit the alleged crime … but a reason to commit the crime, by itself, is not enough to find a person guilty of a crime. Motive is not an element of a crime that a prosecutor must prove.

N

NEGLIGENCE
slight negligence: doing something that isn’t dangerous, that only an extremely careful person would have thought could cause injury.
ordinary negligence: carelessness … not taking reasonable care under circumstances as they were at the time … something that a sensible person would know could hurt someone.
gross negligence: more than carelessness … failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of others due to an act or failure to act … defendant must have known of the danger to another (i.e., knew of a situation requiring ordinary care to avoid injuring another) and could have avoided injury by using ordinary care and failed to use ordinary care to prevent injuring another when a reasonable person would have seen that serious injury would likely result.

NO CONTEST PLEA
also known as a nolo contendere plea … A plea in which the facts supporting the crime’s elements come from a source other than the defendant’s own words in court (generally, from police investigation reports, witnesses statements, photographs, etc.). A “nolo” plea is used when the defendant cannot recall his criminal actions (sometimes due to intoxication), or his verbal plea from a traditional guilty plea would be used in a potential civil law suit. Regardless, the defendant is treated by a sentencing judge the same as if he was convicted via a guilty plea or trial verdict.

NOLLE PROSEQUI
a form filed by a prosecutor to dismiss the prosecution of a particular defendant. A “nol pros” usually means the end of the matter, but can be filed “without prejudice” so that the prosecutor may reopen the case against the defendant at a later date. This device may not be used to deny the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

NOLO CONTENDERE
Latin term meaning “I will not contest it.”. See No Contest Plea.

O

OBJECTION
Taking exception to a statement or procedure in trial. Used to call the court’s attention to improper evidence or procedure.
Objection Overruled – a judge’s rejection of an objection as invalid.
Objection Sustained – support or agree with an objection. Used by the judge to indicate agreement with a motion or request.
ORDER
a decision of a court made in writing.

ORDINANCE
A local law or regulation enacted by the governing body of a municipality or county. It has no effect outside that village, city, township or county.

OVERRULE
A judge’s decision to not allow an objection to prevail. Also, a decision by a higher court that a lower court’s decision was in error.
See also sustain.

P

PAROLE
the conditional release from prison of a convict before the expiration of a felony sentence. The parolee (the released person) need not serve the remainder of his sentence, unless he violates terms of his release. The parolee is under the supervision of a state parole officer during the parole period.

PERJURY
knowingly making a material false statement while under oath to tell the truth.

PETITION
In juvenile delinquency or child protective proceedings before the Juvenile Court, a petition is the document in which the charged offenses or allegations are set forth. The petition includes the Delinquency Proceedings

PETITIONER
The person signing or filing a petition.

PLEA
the defendant’s response to a criminal charge (guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere).

PLEA AGREEMENT / BARGAIN
an agreement between the Prosecutor and the defendant for the defendant to plead guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions. The agreement could include the defendant pleading to all pending charges with a sentence agreement, or pleading to less than all of his pending charges, or pleading to a less serious charge, or pleading guilty to one or more pending charges in exchange for dismissal of other unrelated charges. All plea agreements must be approved by the judge. Plea agreements are a means of arriving at a reasonable disposition without the necessity of a trial.

POLLING THE JURY
Asking jurors individually, after their verdict has been announced, whether they agree with verdict.

PRECEDENT
a court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to a dispute currently before a court. Precedent will ordinarily govern the decision of a later similar case, unless a party can show that it was wrongly decided or that it differed in some significant way.

PREJUDICIAL ERROR
Reversible error. Error committed during a trial serious enough to require an appellate court to reverse the judgment.

PRELIMINARY HEARING
a District Court evidentiary hearing for felonies where the Prosecutor must present evidence amounting to at least probable cause that the charged felony crime(s) in fact occurred and that the defendant committed it (them). Generally, the Prosecutor presents just a fraction of his total evidence and witnesses. The defendant (or his attorney) can cross-examine the People’s witnesses, and present his own proofs to refute the People’s evidence. If the Prosecutor meets his burden of proof, the case is “bound over” to District Court for arraignment on an information, and possible trial.

PRIMA FACIE
Evidence that are sufficient to prove a fact, or facts sufficient to establish a party’s right to legal relief, if no evidence to the contrary if offered.

PRIOR BAD ACT
See CRE 404(b).

PROBABLE CAUSE
facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed; mere suspicion or belief, unsupported by facts or circumstances, is insufficient. A search warrant may be authorized, or a warrant-less arrest may be made, upon probable cause.

PROBATION
a discretionary sentencing option for most misdemeanor and felony convictions where the defendant avoids some/all incarceration, and is released back into the community under the supervision of a probation officer for a specific time period, with many rules to follow. Some rules are standard (i.e., to not violate any more laws), while others are specific to the defendant or crime (i.e., alcohol counseling when convicted of DUI). If the defendant violates any term of probation, the assigned probation officer (or the Prosecutor) can ask the sentencing judge to impose additional penalties.

PROBATION ORDER
An official written directive from the court ordering that a defendant in a criminal case is sentenced to a term of probation. This document is signed by both the judge and the defendant, and includes all legal conditions (both standard condition and special conditions) with which the defendant must comply during probation, fines, costs, restitution, etc.

PRO BONO
Legal services provided to a client free of charge.

PRO PER / PRO SE
a person who represents himself/herself in court without an attorney. The term comes from the Latin phrase in propria persona.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
The term Colorado uses for a Prosecutor.

PROSECUTOR
an elected or appointed official vested with authority by a constitution, statute or ordinance to represent the public interest and take legal action against persons violating state or local criminal laws. Colorado’s prosecutors are known as “Prosecuting Attorneys”. In other states they are called District Attorneys, State’s Attorneys, County Attorneys, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, or other titles.

Q

QUASH
to nullify, void or declare invalid.

R

REASONABLE DOUBT
a fair, honest doubt based on the evidence produced at trial (or missing from the proofs). A reasonable doubt must be based on reason and common sense, not on conjecture, speculation, possibilities or imaginary scenarios.

RELEVANCE
Evidence having any tendency to make the existance of a fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the evidence. CRE 401.

REMAND
when an appellate court sends a case back to a lower court for further proceedings.

RESPONDENT
The juvenile court equivalent of a defendant in a criminal case. The juvenile charged in a delinquency case, or the at-fault parents in a child protection proceeding, are respondents.

RESTITUTION
payments ordered by the judge to repay victims for economic losses incurred as the result of the crime (property loss or injuries). Does not include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress or other non-economic damages that can result in compensation through a civil law suit.

S

SEARCH WARRANT
a court order that a specific location may be searched for items which, if found, can be seized by the government for possible use in court as evidence.

SELF DEFENSE
a legally-justified use of force to protect one’s self, another person, or property against some injury attempted by another person … the right to repel force with force … the defendant (i) must have honestly and reasonably believed that he had to use force for protection, (ii) may use only the type and degree of force that seems necessary for protection at the time based on the circumstances known to him, (iii) must not have acted wrongfully and brought on the assault (i.e., provoked the attack) … In Colorado, a Prosecutor has the burden of disproving a defendant’s self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

SEQUESTER/SEQUESTRATION
a procedure to shelter a trial participant from outside influences. The term most frequently applies to witnesses, and prevents them from watching court proceedings and testimony (or talking outside the courtroom to other witnesses) before they actually testify. In very rare cases, a jury can be sequestered during part or all of a trial.

SHOW CAUSE HEARING
a court hearing held so a person can explain why (s)he should not be considered in violation of a specific court order.

SIDEBAR
a conference between the judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.

SPECIFIC INTENT
acting with intent to cause a particular result

a special mental element that must be proven for some crimes. For example, larceny requires proof that the defendant specifically intended to steal the victim’s property (i.e., to permanently deprive the owner of the property); if the defendant unknowingly possessed the victim’s property or was truly borrowing it temporarily, no theft/larceny occurred.

Specific intent may be proved by what the defendant says, does, how he does it, etc.

STANDING
a party’s right to make a legal claim, or to seek judicial enforcement of a right or duty.

STARE DECISIS
the doctrine that once a principle of law has been determined to be applicable to certain facts, that principle will be followed in future cases involving substantially identical facts. This body of “case law” — along with Common Law and statutes — becomes the Laws of the Land.

STATE BAR OF Colorado
An association for attorneys licensed to practice law in Colorado. All attorneys, including prosecutors, must be a member of the State Bar in order to practice law in Colorado.

STATUS OFFENSE
An act declared to be a delinquency offense which can only be committed by a juvenile — e.g., habitual truancy, running away from home, violating curfew.

STATUTE
a law passed by a legislature.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
deadlines set by statute for filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits within a certain time after events occur that are the source of the charge or claim. The time limit on the right to seek relief in court.

STIPULATION
An agreement between opposing parties on any matter relating to the case, including case facts. Courts must approve stipulations to take legal effect.

SUBPOENA
a court order requiring a person to appear in court and give testimony as a witness, and/or to produce documents. An employer cannot act upon or threaten to discharge or discipline a witness for missing work to testify in court when subpoenaed.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM
a court order to produce documents. (Pronounced DOO-suhz TEE-kum.)

SUPPRESS
Legal bar to admitting evidence at a trial or other court proceeding.

SUPREME COURT
the highest appeals court in Colorado. An appellant files an application for “leave to appeal” in the Supreme Court, which the Court can grant (accept) or deny (reject) at its discretion. If an application is granted, the Supreme Court will hear the case; if denied, the decision made by the lower court remains unchanged. The Supreme Court usually selects cases involving important constitutional issues and questions of public policy. The Supreme Court also has administrative duties — general administrative supervision of all courts in the state, establishing rules for practice and procedure in all Colorado courts, etc.

SUSTAIN
A judge’s decision to allow an objection or motion to prevail.
See also overrule.

T

TESTIMONY
evidence presented orally and under oath by witnesses during trials or other court proceedings.

TRANSCRIPT
the official record of the testimony adduced in a trial or hearing.

V

VACATE
To set aside. Example: a court may vacate an earlier order.

VENUE
the geographic location (e.g., city or county) where an event occurred. A “change of venue” happens when a case is moved to a court in another county or to a court having other jurisdictional powers … generally because the case should have been filed there originally, or for the convenience of the parties/witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be had in the original court’s location.

VERDICT
Decision of a jury or a judge on the issues submitted to the court for determination.

VICTIM
a person or entity who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.

VOIR DIRE
the process of jury selection, generally involving the judge and attorneys asking potential jurors about their experiences and beliefs. The purpose is to determine if the jurors are appropriate for sitting on the case at hand. This French term (pronounced “vwa dear”) means “to speak the truth”.

W

WAIVER
Intentionally giving up a right. Example: a defendant waiving his right to remain silent to be interviewed by police.

WARRANT
a court order authorizing an arrest.

WHARTON’S RULE
A substantive limitation on the scope of the crime of conspiracy. This rule provides that an agreement by two persons to commit a crime cannot be prosecuted as a conspiracy when the target crime requires the participation of the same two persons (for example dueling, bigamy or incest). The applicability of the rule focuses on the elements of the target crime, rather than on the factual circumstances of the particular case. So, if the offense could logically be accomplished by a single person, or the number of alleged conspirators exceeds the minimum number logically necessary to complete the substantive offense, Wharton’s Rule does not apply.

WITH PREJUDICE
A dismissal “with prejudice” forever bars the same charge arising from the same incident from being brought against the same defendant again.

WITHOUT PREJUDICE
A dismissal “without prejudice” allows a prosecutor to re-file the same charge arising from the same incident against the same defendant again.

WITNESS
person who comes to court (sometimes by subpoena) and swears under oath to give truthful evidence.

WORK RELEASE
a probation program where the defendant is permitted to maintain employment while residing in jail. The defendant leaves jail on work days only for his work hours, plus limited travel time.


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H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
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