Glossary - Part 1
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
- Character Evidence Generally.
- Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts.
- 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.
- 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.