Glossary - Part 2
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.