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American Institute Of Criminal Law Attorneys

Criminal Law Defense Dictionary A to W

Accessory

The definition of Accessory is, an accessory is somebody who assists the commission of a crime. This can occur before, during, or after the crime is committed.

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Accomplice

The definition of an accomplice is an An accomplice, commonly referred to as a “partner in crime”, is somebody who knowingly and voluntarily assists someone in the commission of a crime. In California, this person need not have assisted on purpose. Penal Code section 31

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Acquittal

The definition of an Acquittal is a verdict of “Not-Guilty” returned by a jury in a jury trial. Otherwise, the decision that available evidence does not adequately support a conviction by a judge in a bench trial.

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Adult

The definition of an adult is someone 18 or older.

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Affirmative Defense

A defense raised by a defendant in a response to an allegation or charge that brings forth a new matter as a defense to a complaint. Insanity and self-defense are both affirmative defenses to criminal charges. An Affirmative Defense would be a defense to why the defendant acted and that their acts do not amount to breaking the law.

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Aggravated Assault

The definition of an An aggravated assault is an illegal attack by one person onto another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily harm. Often times this crime is accompanied by an “aggravated assault with a weapon or firearm” charge.

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Aiding and Abetting

The definition of Aiding and abetting refers to the crime of actively or intentionally assisting someone with the commission of a crime.

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Alibi

The definition of an alibi is a defensive claim made by the suspect of a crime that they were somewhere else when the crime occurred. Therefore, they could not have committed the crime. An Alibi would be something that would prove the person was not at the specific location at the time. It acts to show that the defendant is truly innocent.

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Arraignment

The definition of an arraignment is the criminal proceeding where the defendant is told which crimes they are charged with and pleads either “Not Guilty”, “Guilty”, or “No Contest”. Typically they enter a plea of not guilty and this is the start of legal proceedings. At an Arraignment, usually, the attorney representing the defendant in the state court waives the reading of the complaint and enters a not guilty plea.

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Arson

The definition of Arson is any purposeful burning ––or attempt to burn–– another person's private property or the property of a public entity. Any charing of a structure can be considered Arson.

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Assault

The threat of physical violence.

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Bail

The ddefinition of Bail is money provided by a defendant accepted by the court in exchange for the defendant's temporary release from jail. The money is held temporarily by the court to ensure that the defendant is present during court proceedings. For cases where the court believes the defendant is not likely to return if bail is paid, bail is often denied. Compare to a security deposit. Bail Bonds

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Bail Bond

The definition of a Bail Bond is an insurance policy written by a bail agent that assures you presence at court or they must pay the bail to the court.

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Bail Exoneration

When a criminal defendant's money is returned to them for being present at court proceedings.

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Bail Forfeiture

A court order that is issued when a criminal defendant fails to attend court proceedings where their presence is demanded. Bail forfeiture causes the defendant to forfeit their money to the court.

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Bail Notice

A court document that demands that the defendant either appear or pay bail. If neither occurs, the court will issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant.

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Bail Receipt

A written statement by the court which states that the defendant has met and paid bail.

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Bail Schedule

The definition of the Bail Schedule is the list of bail amounts that the court may request of the defendant based on the crime. The Bail schedule indicates the recommended bail amount based on the crime classification, among other factors like criminal history, and factual context of the crime.

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Battery

The definition of Battery is unlawful physical violence. Assault is the threat of physical violence, Battery is the physical violence itself.

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Bench Warrant

The definition of a Bench Warrant is a court order issued by a judge for the arrest of an individual.

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Bench Trial

The definition of a court trial is when a case is tried by a judge, as opposed to a jury.

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The definition of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the standard in a criminal case that requires the prosecution to convince the jury to a level of certainty that any ordinary person would not have any reasonable doubt left as to whether the defendant committed a crime. It is the highest standard for court verdicts.

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Bias Crime

A crime committed against a person of color, disability, a specific religion, or sexual orientation based on their association with that protected class or others.

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Bill of Particulars

A statement that includes the charges being brought against a defendant in a criminal case.

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Burden of Proof

The definitions of the standard of judgment or proof is that which must be met for a conviction, or other outcome.

The burden of proof for prosecutors is “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

For Police officers, the burden of proof for a warrant is “probable cause”.

For a probation violation, it is beyond a "preponderance of the evidence"

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Bind Over

The definition of "Binding over" is a procedure that mostly occurs in state court. If the judge or judge magistrate finds probable cause to believe that the charged person did, in fact, commit a crime, they will "bind over" the charged individual by forcing them to stay in jail until trial. Specifically, they will not set bail for the accused until the trial begins. If the person is on bail, the case typically will go forward to the trial court as an arraignment

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Booking

The definition of Booking is what law enforcement officers do when they arrest someone. Booking includes taking down personal information and fingerprints on the arrested person and usually occurs at the police station. It also when someone is placed in jail for an offense.

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Burglary

The definition of Burglary includes the unlawful entry of a place with the intent to steal or commit another serious crime or felony.

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Capitol Case

The definition of a capital case is a case where a defendant may be punished with the death penalty if found guilty.

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Citing Authority

The definition of a citing agency is an agency or organization that is associated with the court and tasked with enforcing the law. Effectively law enforcement. Some examples include the DEA, ATF, LAPD, LASD, etc.

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Citation

The definition of a citation is a court document that informs the defendant as to what they are charged with and when to appear that is issued by law enforcement. It is typically a ticket given by a cop.

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Commitment Order

A court document that requires a person to be "committed" to the custody of either a jail or mental institution.

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Community Service

Community service is a sentencing option for people convicted of crimes where the court will order the defendant to serve the community for a certain number of hours of unpaid work.

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Commutation

Commutation is a form of clemency in which the sentence tied to a crime is changed. It can be both decreased and increased. It is important to note that if a sentence is completely wiped out, but the charges remain, an act of commutation has occurred, not pardoning.

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Clemency

The definition of Clemency is Intervention by the President of the United States or Governor of the State of California that decreases the penalties associated with a criminal act. The practice of clemency is rare and similar to the practice of pardoning.

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Competence Order

The definition of a competency order is a court document that finds the defendant mentally capable of going to trial.

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Concurrent Sentence

The definition of a concurrent sentence is one where the person is serving time for more than one crime at the same time (concurrently), as opposed to consecutively. For instance, if John is convicted of one crime that carries a 3-year prison sentence and another crime that carries a 9-year prison sentence, but is serving time concurrently, than he will only serve a total of 9-years in prison.

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Consecutive Sentence

The definition of a consecutive sentence is where a person is convicted of more than one crime and each sentence is served after another–– without overlap. This is the opposite of a "concurrent sentence".

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Constructive Possession

Constructive possession occurs when an individual does not necessarily have physical possession of a substance or on their person, but is able to control it. Constructive possession is closely tied to criminal drug charges.

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Conviction

Conviction is a judgement issued by a court where the defendant is found guilty or "convicted".

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Court-Appointed Attorney

A court-appointed attorney is a lawyer who is appointed by the state to assist and defend someone during criminal law proceedings. Researching laws, arguing the defense case before the court, as well as providing legal advice to the defendant, are a few of the tasks a court appointed attorney can perform.

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Count

Each separate charge of the a crime (including the same crime). For example, if Paul robs 4 liquor stores, each robbery is its own count. Similarly, if he only steals money during 2 of the 4 robberies, Paul will face 2 counts of robbery and 2 counts of attempted robbery.

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Crime

An act or lack of action that is against the law. A crime typically results in imprisonment or fine, although there may be other consequences as well.

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Crimes Against the Person

Crimes against the person refers to offenses attempted or committed against an individual, either by force or through direct physical harm, against their will. Assault, rape, and murder are amongst the few examples of offenses categorized under crimes against the person.

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Crimes Against Property

Crime against property is a crime intended to either destroy or deprive an owner of their property against the owners will, in order to obtain some sort of benefit. For example: money or property.

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Criminal Homicide

Criminal homicide refers to the act of committing an intentional, reckless, criminal negligence, that causes another persons death.

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Defendant

Defendant is defined as a person that is being sued or accused of a committing a crime in a court of law.

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Diversion

Diversion is a program whereby the defendant agrees to some sort of rehabilitation or condition set by the court and the case is ultimately dismissed. Under Penal code 1000 a plea of guilty may be deemed a plea of not guilty if conditions are met and thus dismissed. The plea may still effect immigration consequences.

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Driving Under The Influence

Driving under the influence is an offense that entails the operation of a vehicle while being intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol.

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Embezzlement

Embezzlement refers to the act of withholding assets that belong to a business or organization that employs you or were left entrusted with you.

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Entrapment

Entrapment refers to the action in which public officers lure a suspected criminal into a situation that is considered a criminal act, in order to secure their prosecution.

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Exclusionary Rule

Exclusionary rule is defined as a law that prohibits unlawfully obtained evidence from being used in a criminal trial. Refer to Wong Sun v. US doctrine.

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Expungement

Expungement refers to the process of legally destroying or erasing records of information in depositories relating to criminal charges.

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Extradition

Extradition refers to the surrendering of a criminal, by a foreign state, who has fled for refuge from prosecution from the state in which the crime was committed.

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Felony

A felony is serious crime, like murder or arson and is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor in the amount of punishment a criminal gets when convicted.

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Fraud

Fraud refers to deceitful practices or intentional misrepresentation made to deprive another of their assets.

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Guilty Plea

A guilty plea is when a criminal defendant voluntarily admits guilt in a criminal court, often in exchange for lenient sentencing.

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Hate Crime

A hate crime is defined as a crime that is motivated by prejudices such as race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

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Incarceration

Incarceration refers to the state of being imprisoned due to a penalty imposed by in court.

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Indictment

Indictment refers to an illustration of a situation that is wrongful and needs to be condemned.

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Jury Trial

When a case is tried by a jury, as opposed to a judge.

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Juvinile

A juvenile is someone under the legal age of 18.

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Larceny

Larceny is a legal term for the theft of someones personal property with the intent to convert ownership into the thieves possession.

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Mayhem

Mayhem refers to the act of maliciously injuring someones body to impair or destroy a victims capacity for self-defense.

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Misdemeanor

Misdemeanors are defined as being committed acts that are less serous than a felony and are punishable by a fine or imprisonment in a city or county jail opposed to a prison.

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Motor Vehicle Theft

Motor vehicle theft is a crime act where somebody attempts to steal or stole a motor vehicle.

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Murder

Murder is defined as killing somebody unlawfully and with premeditation.

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Nolo Contendere

Nolo Contendere refers to when a defendant does not admit to or deny guilt but agrees to accept punishment. It is a latin phrase which means "I do not wish to contend".

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Own Recognizance

Own recognizance refers to a written promise a defendant signs where they vow to appear in court as required, in order to avoid paying bail.

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Parole

Parole is defined as the temporary or permanent release of a prisoner before the completion of a sentence, as a reward for behaving well.

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Perjury

Perjury is defined as a voluntary violation of a vow that is told in court after taking an oath.

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A Plea

A plea is a formal reply to a charge given by an accused person that gives reasoning to why a suit should be a dismissed, delayed, etc.

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Plea Bargain

A plea bargain refers to any agreement in a criminal case between the defender and prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty, in exchange for a reduced charge or any other type of concessions.

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Probation

Probation is defined as a punishment in which a person convicted of a crime is monitored and has to report to their probation officer according to a set schedule given by a judge.

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Due Process of Law

Due Process of Law is a legal obligation of all fifty states that acts as a safeguard from the denial of "life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of the law"

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Prosecute

Prosecute refers to when a person is accused of a crime and a trial is held against that person in order to find if the individual is guilty.

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Prosecuting Attorney

A prosecuting attorney is a government official who conducts criminal prosecutions on behalf of the state and is responsible for starting legal proceedings and then providing proof that the accused suspect committed the crime.

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Public Defender

A public defender is an attorney who is employed by either the state, local or federal government to represent indigent defendants.

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Rape

Rape is defined as a sexual act that is forced upon another individual, against their will.

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Receiving Stolen Property

Receiving stolen property refers to the crime in which a person receives, disposes or retains stolen goods with the knowledge that it has been stolen.

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Remand

When a case is remanded by higher courts, it means that the case is sent back lower courts for further action.

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Robbery

Robbery is the act of taking personal property from another person against their will and is often accomplished by means of force or fear.

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Search Warrant

A search warrant is a written order that is issued by a justice, that directs and commands a sheriff or officer to search a specific premises for personal property that has been stolen or for any other unlawful goods. After a premises has been searched and items have been found, the officer will return to a justice with the items and usually along with the person occupying that premises, where they will be dealt with according to the law.

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Self Defense

Self defense is the act of protecting oneself or ones property against an attack or injury attempted by another person.

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Sexual Offense

Sexual offenses are defined as crimes that involve the engagement of unwanted sexual acts by force, and often threat.

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Supervised Release

Under the supervision of the probations office, aA supervised release is when recently released prisoners are given a preliminary period of freedom until that individual completes his or her term of federal custody.

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Suspended Sentence

A suspended sentence refers to a legal arrangement where the person found guilty of a crime is not sentenced to jail but may be sentenced at a future date if they commit another infraction during their probation period.

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Warrant

A warrant is defined as a written order that is issued by a judge, instructing a law enforcement officer to arrest a person based off probable causes.

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Weapon

A weapon is defined as something that is used to inflict an injury, cause damage or defeat. Some instruments that are categorized as weapons include and are not limited to: pistols, knives, firearms, razors, etc.

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Vandalism

Vandalism refers to the act of defacing or destroying property without permission. Some examples of vandalism are: graffiti, damage to vehicles and broken windows.

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