Crack the code of legal jargon.
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The legal system can be very confusing to new prison ministry volunteers, but even more so for families of prisoners. This is a quick reference guide to some of the basic terminology often used in the legal system.
Being taking into legal custody by the police or other authorized law enforcement personnel
An official order issued by a judge for a person to be found and arrested
A request by either the defense or the prosecution that a case be moved from a lower court to a higher court in order for the trial proceedings to be reviewed by the higher court to see if errors occurred that made the trial unfair or the verdict unreliable.
The appearance of a person before a judge or magistrate in order to be read the charges against him or her, to be informed of his or her right to counsel, to enter a plea, and to receive notice of bail.
The release of an individual in return for a deposit of a security.
A document acknowledging a responsibility to pay a certain amount of money.
The intake process that occurs when a person goes to jail which involves a medical and mental evaluation, being fingerprinted and photographed, being strip searched, changing into a jail uniform, receiving an inmate number, and being transferred to an assigned cell
A sentencing alternative that requires offenders to work without monetary compensation at public or private nonprofit agencies in the community
A place for the incarceration of individuals accused or convicted of criminal activity; jail or prison
A lawyer who defends and/or speaks on behalf of a person accused of a crime whether before, during, or after the trial; the attorney of record
The person who is being tried for a crime
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS (DOC)
A government agency that is headed by a director who develops policy and oversees the operation of correctional facilities and programs
Also known as the DA, this person is the prosecuting officer for a judicial district; sometimes referred to as simply "the prosecutor"
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS (BOP)
An organization created by Congress in 1930 that is responsible for incarcerating those individuals convicted of violating federal laws
A criminal offense that is punishable by incarceration in a state or federal prison, generally for one year or more, or by death
A transitional living place for those coming out of prison and/or those who need help recovering from substance abuse or other addictions
To be confined in jail or prison
A written statement charging a party with the commission of a crime or other offense, drawn up by a district attorney and presented by a grand jury
A secure lock-up facility within a city or county where people are kept who are accused of a crime, charged with a crime, waiting for trial, or serving a short sentence
A body of persons sworn to judge and give a verdict on a given matter, especially a body of persons summoned by law and sworn to hear and hand down a verdict upon a case presented in court
A court sentence that requires an offender to be imprisoned for life (although in some cases, parole is possible after a certain number of years)
No-knock warrants illustrate an anticipation of exigent circumstances. When a warrant applicant gives reasonable grounds to expect that exigency already exists or will arise instantly upon knocking, a magistrate may authorize a "no-knock" entry in some jurisdictions.
The process of releasing inmates from incarceration before the end of their sentence on conditions of supervision by a parole officer and their maintenance of good behavior (a person can be re-incarcerated if parole conditions are violated)
A correctional agency whose responsibilities may include pre-release investigations, parole plan preparation for prospective parolees, and the supervision of adults having conditional release status
The decision-making body that has the responsibility to grant, deny, and revoke parole; also called the parole board or parole commission
An employee of a parole agency whose primary duties are the supervision of parolees or pre-parole investigation and planning
An act or a failure to act by a parolee which means he/she is out of compliance with the pre-determined conditions of parole
The negotiation of an agreement between the prosecution and the defense whereby the defendant pleads guilty to one (or more) offenses usually in exchange for more lenient sentencing recommendations or dismissal of other charges
Similar to other labor unions, police unions formed after the Boston Police Riot in 1919 and serve to protect the rights of police officers. They are known to carry heavy political clout and influence.
Programs designed to prepare inmates for reentry into society and help them begin to "phase in" to community life
A state or federal facility where people who have been convicted of a crime are confined for the duration of their sentence or until they are granted parole
A court-ordered disposition alternative through which a convicted adult offender or an adjudicated delinquent is placed under the control, supervision, and care of a probation field staff member in lieu of imprisonment, as long as the offender meets certain standards of conduct
A correctional agency of which the principal functions are juvenile intake, the supervision of adults and juveniles placed on probation, the investigation of adults and juveniles and preparation of pre-sentence or predisposition reports to assist the court in determining the proper sentence or juvenile court disposition.
The immunity of civil liability for a public official who is performing a discretionary function, as long as the conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.
RELEASE ON RECOGNIZANCE
A contract between an individual and the court that the person will be released and appear in court, without paying bail; may be referred to as "ROR" or “personal recognizance.”
A program in which those convicted of a crime must do certain things to compensate or repay victims for their losses
Bond that is issued and backed by specific possessions as collateral which can then be sold in a default; most common type of bond. (See also UNSECURED BOND.)
Money given as a guarantee that an individual will appear in court, pay their debts, and any other conditions imposed.
A program in which a person with substance abuse problems or other issues receives therapy and rehabilitation
An addiction recovery program based on the original 12 steps of recovery developed and proven effective by Alcoholics Anonymous
An individual doesn’t pay any money but is liable for the full amount of the bond if they fail to appear before the court. (See also SECURED BOND.)
A person who has suffered death, physical or mental suffering, or loss of property as the result of an actual or attempted criminal offense committed by another person
WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
A legal document requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge and/or requiring that a person who is incarcerated be released if there is insufficient cause or evidence of a crime