Legal Glossary

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  • Abscond
    To leave a jurisdiction to avoid being served with legal papers or being arrested. Leaving with funds that have been stolen, as in "he absconded with the money."
  • Accessory
    Someone who helps in the commission of a crime. Examples are driving a getaway car, carrying weapons, or assisting in the planning of a crime. The accessory does not have to be immediately present during the crime. Punishment for an accessory is usually less than for the main defendant.
  • Accomplice
    Someone who assists in the commission of a crime. Unlike the accessory, the accomplice is almost always present or directly aids in the commission of the crime. The accomplice may be punished as the principal defendant.
  • Accused
    A person charged with a crime. Under our system of justice, the accused is presumed innocent, until proven guilty. For the accused to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.
  • Acquit
    A jury or a judge at the end of a criminal trial renders a verdict for the defendant finding the accused not guilty. Also See: Verdict
  • ADA
    Abbreviation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace against workers who have disabilities, have a history of a disability, or are perceived as disabled. The ADA applies only to employers who have at least 15 employees.
  • ADEA
    Abbreviation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), the federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace against workers over the age of 40. The ADEA applies only to employers who have at least 20 employees.
  • Adjustment Of Status
    The procedure in the law of immigration for converting status to that of a permanent resident.
  • Administrative Employee
    An employee who is exempt from federal laws requiring overtime pay because he makes at least $250 per week, and whose main responsibilities include doing sophisticated work involving the company's policies or business operations, exercising "discretion and independent judgment".
  • Admission
    Permission by an immigration officer admitting a person to the U.S. Also, in the law of evidence, the term admission is anything a party to the action states (admits) orally or in writing and which then is used against that in a civil or criminal proceeding.
  • Admission Against Interest
    An admission of the truth of a fact by a defendant or by a witness such that the admission is made against the person's own interests. This is often used as an exception to the hearsay rule.
  • Admission Of Evidence
    The judge's ruling to accept evidence at trial. The admission of evidence is then considered officially in the case and the jury can then weigh its value.
  • Admission Of Guilt
    A recorded or live statement made by the accused that the crime charged was in fact committed by the accused. An admission of guilt usually occurs after the police have conducted an interrogation of the accused. It is typically preceded by Miranda warnings.
  • Admission To Bail
    A court order in a criminal case allowing the accused to be freed pending trial if the accused posts bail in an amount set by the court. The posting of bail is intended to insure that the defendant will in fact appear in court for all criminal proceedings. If the defendant fails to show up in court the bail is lost. This is also known as forfeiture of bail.
  • Adoption
    A legal procedure that ends the parent-child relationship between a child and his/her natural parent(s) and creates a parent-child relationship with the parent(s) who adopt the child.
  • Affirmative Defense
    A fact or set of facts that operate to defeat a legal claim even if the facts supporting that claim are true. In a civil complaint, for example, a plaintiff sets forth allegations against the defendant, that even if true, still do not state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. The best example of an affirmative defense is the statute of limitations which is the legally(...)
  • Age Descrimination
    The illegal practice of discriminating against a prospective or actual employee based on age. A person's age, race, gender, and religious beliefs are constitutionally protected and therefore the act of discriminating against a person under any one of these pretenses is illegal and therefore actionable under  the law.
  • Age Of Majority
    The age (set by state law) at which a parent is normally no longer legally responsible for the support of his or her child. In most states the age of majority is 18 years.
  • Aggravated Assault
    The crime of physically harming another person which results in serious bodily injury.  This crime usually involves a deadly weapon such as a gun, knife or blunt instrument. Aggravated assault is almost always charged as a felony.
  • Aggravated Felony
    A serious crime that requires a non-citizen's removal from the U.S. and prohibits the person from seeking relief from removal and most immigration benefits.
  • Aid And Abet
    The act of helping someone commit a crime. Depending on the jurisdiction, such an act occurs before the crime is committed.
  • Alias
    A name used by someone other than his or her real name. It is usually used to reference that other name. It is often used to hide a person's true legal identity.
  • Aliens
    A person who is not a citizen of the host country. There are resident aliens officially permitted to live in the country and illegal aliens who have otherwise gained entry into the country. There are even aliens from outer space. :)
  • Alimony
    Spousal support ordered by a divorce court. Family support obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Allege
    The official act of charging a defendant with a fact as true. In criminal complaints a charge is usually defined within the context of the commission of a crime.
  • Ambien
    Ambien is an effective and commonly prescribed sleeping pill. It is often used to treat insomnia. It has an extended-release version, called Ambien CR, which rapidly dissolves into your bloodstream causing you to fall asleep quickly, and then a second stage of the drug releases much slower which extends your sleep over a longer period of time. Try Blink Health For Discounted Medications
  • Annulment
    A legal proceeding in which the judge declares a marriage void - i.e., that the marital status never existed. Annulment is different from divorce in that a divorce ends a valid marriage.
  • Answer
    The Answer is a legal pleading filed in court by the defendant in response to the plaintiffs pleading called a Complaint. If the defense fails to file the Answer within a prescribed period of time, normally 30 days from having been legally served with the Complaint, the defense will be in default and is legally deemed to have waived any and all defenses and objections to(...)
  • Appeal
    The written request usually by the defendant’s lawyer to a higher court asking that court to reverse the decision of the trial court because of a legal error or because the trial was conducted unfairly.
  • Apportionment
    The process in divorce proceedings of deciding how much of the property acquired by the husband and wife is owned by them together, and how much is owned by only one of them. Apportionment is necessary when both marital and non-marital assets are used to buy property during the marriage.
  • Arbitration Clause
    A provision in a contract that requires the parties to have any dispute decided by an "arbitrator" and not in court. An arbitrator is a type of private judge, and the arbitration hearing is much less formal than a court hearing. There is usually no right to appeal an arbitrator's ruling.
  • Argumentative
    A legal objection raised when a lawyer asks a question of a witness that does not seek a direct answer but rather challenges the credibility or truthfulness of the witness. Most courts do not allow this type of question. Questions that are argumentative usually have a sarcastic character and are insincere. It is more often then not provoked for the entertainment of the jury.
  • Aribitration
    A process for resolving disputes outside of court by using an impartial arbitrator instead of judges. An award made by arbitrators can normally be turned into a court judgment and enforced like any other court judgment. This area of law has gained great momentum in recent years and is called Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR.
  • Arraignment
    When a criminal defendant is formally charged with a crime. It is the defendants first formal appearance before the Court. The defendant is given a choice to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In some cases the court will grant a continuance for the defendant to seek counsel before pleading.
  • b

  • Back-To-Back Life Sentence
    A term used to describe consecutive life terms imposed by a judge when there were two crimes committed by the defendant, both of which can result in punishment of a life term.
  • Bailiff
    A court official, usually a deputy sheriff, who keeps order in the courtroom and handles various errands for the judge and clerk. In some jurisdictions, a person appointed by the court to handle the affairs of an incompetent person or to be a "keeper" of goods or money pending further order of the court. "Bailiff" has its origin in Old French and Middle English for custodian, and in the(...)
  • Bankruptcy
    The federal law that allows a debtor to give up his non-exempt property for the benefit of his creditors and be discharged from his debts. Companies as well as individuals can go bankrupt. https://www.gottrouble.com/choosing-debts-require-immediate-attention/ https://www.gottrouble.com/personal-loans-for-legal-fees/
  • Bankruptcy Confirmation Hearing
    A Chapter 13 repayment plan must be “confirmed” by the bankruptcy judge in order for the bankruptcy to be finalized and the debtors debts discharged or modified. This is a judicial hearing in which all creditors and interested parties are notified of the time, date, and place.  Creditors may appear at the hearing to voice their objections to the proposed plan and suggest repayment(...)
  • Battery
    The intentional and unlawful touching of another with intent to harm that person. Battery is a crime as well as a civil wrong. Most battery charges are filed with an allegation for assault which does not require the actual touching of another.
  • Bench Warrant
    An order issued by a judge commanding a suspect or witness to appear before the court in a criminal matter. Failure to obey a bench warrant is also a crime punishable by jail.
  • Best Interests Of The Child
    In family law, this is the most influential legal standard a judge applies in deciding issues of adoption, custody, visitation rights or other matters affecting a child. Lawyers will often argue for their client why their position should be considered to be in the best interests of the child.
  • Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
    Known as the prosecutor's "burden of proof," the jury are instructed by the judge that a defendant can only be found guilty if they are convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the defendant's guilt. In criminal matters, a conviction under this burden of proof must be made by each of the twelve jurors.
  • Bigamy
    The act of having more then one spouse. Such a marriage is considered legally void. A person who knowingly enters into a bigamous marriage is guilty of the crime of bigamy. These types of cases are rarely prosecuted.
  • Bill Of Rights
    The ten Ooriginal Bill 0f Rights was first adopted and ratified in 1794. Three others soon added. Later amendments and articles were incorporated into the Constitution making the sum total of 27 separate amendments. Todays constitutional scholars generally refer to our fundamental individual liberties collectively as the thirteen amendments: The Full Text Of Our 13 Amendments:(...)
  • Bill Of Sale
    Bill of Sale - Plus Free Form A bill of sale is a legal document which evidences the basic terms of the agreement between  buyer and seller of personal property. It has the legal effect of  transferring ownership in personal property  from the seller to the buyer. Get A Free "Do It Yourself" Bill of Sale Form
  • Breach Of Contract
    A failure to perform a contractual obligation, such as a promise to pay a debt. The obligation must be considered material in order to qualify as a breach of the entire contract verses a breach of a provision of the contract. In most commercial settings where there is the sale and purchase of  "goods" the rules covering breach of contract are controlled by the Uniform Commercial Code.
  • Breach Of Peace
    A violent act or an act likely to lead to violence. Today a breach of the peace does not have to lead to the incitement of violence. It is not uncommon to see breach of the peace allegations equate to the act of disorderly conduct.
  • Breaking and Entering
    The criminal act of entering a dwelling of another without legal permission and with the intent to commit a crime inside that dwelling. Today, breaking and entering can apply to a vehicle or any other enclosed structure.
  • Bribery
    The giving or taking of money or something of value in order to influence a public official in the performance of his duties. One example is the secret payments to officials to secure government contracts.
  • Burden Of Proof
    In a criminal trial the burden of proof required of the prosecutor is to prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Each of the twelve jurors must make his or her finding to convict or acquit the defendant. Any other option is considered a hung jury and is declared a mistrial. In civil cases the plaintiff carries the burden to prove her case by the preponderance of the(...)
  • Burglary
    The crime of breaking and entering a dwelling for the purpose of committing a crime. No specific degree of force is required. A burglary is not necessarily larceny or theft. It can apply to any crime such as battery or rape. Today, it does not have to be a dwelling that is entered, but may be any enclosed structure.
  • c

  • Capital Offense
    A crime which is punishable by the death penalty. This type of crime is referred to as a "capital" offense. The type of death sentence varies from state to state. Many states use lethal injection. The types of crimes punishable by death vary from state to state. In many states murder one is found where the killing was premeditated or where the murder occurred with special circumstances such(...)
  • Certiorari
    A legal order from a higher court to a lower court agreeing to review the lower court ruling as to issues of law. Certiorari is most commonly used by the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court selects only a small number of certiorari requests because it often results in a change of law. The Supreme Court makes a legal statement by denying a writ letting a lower(...)
  • Character Witness
    In criminal trials a person who testifies on behalf of the defendant as to the defendant's reputation for honesty and truthfulness is known as a character witness. This type of evidence is usually self-serving and results in a string of rebuttal witnesses showing the defendant has a bad character for truth and honesty.
  • Churning
    The illegal and criminal act of excessive buying and selling of shares of stock by a stockbroker for the purpose of obtaining more commissions. The act has both civil and criminal consequences. The rules governing illegal stock churning are governed by the blue sky laws of the states and by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States government.
  • Circumstantial Evidence
    Any evidence in a trial which is not directly proved but which requires the inference of another fact to prove its existence. For example, "I did not see the dog eat the bone but I saw the dog and then the bone was gone." The jury may infer the dog ate the bone. This is circumstantial evidence. Such evidence is just as admissible as direct evidence.
  • Citation
    Usually used for traffic violations and infractions, a citation is a formal notice to appear in court.
  • Citizenship
    A person's legal affiliation with a particular country that generally gives the right to enter that country as well as possessing both he legal obligations and benefits of that country.
  • Civil Complaint
    A legal pleading filed with the court by a plaintiff alleging damages against a defenant based on negligent and/or intentional acts arrising out of the defendants conduct and believed to be the legal and factual cause of plaintiffs injuries and/or financial loss.
  • Cleaning Deposit
    A security deposit that is limited to securing the landlord against the cost of cleaning the premises if the tenant fails to leave the premises in a clean condition when the tenant vacates. A cleaning fee is charged by landlords to clean the premises either when the tenant takes possession or when the tenant vacates.
  • Clear And Convincing Evidence
    Clear and convincing evidence is a civil law burden of proof.  It is more than that degree of evidence that proves a fact by a mere "preponderance of evidence" required in most civil cases and instead resembles the highest burden proof  which is "beyond a reasonable doubt" which is needed to convict a defendant in a criminal case. For example, in civil cases, where the plaintiff is trying(...)
  • Closing Argument
    The final argument by an attorney after all evidence has been presented by both sides. Unlike the opening statement, which is limited to what the attorney intends to prove, closing argument often includes emotional argument and appeals to the jury for justice, forgiveness and fairness.
  • Co-tenant
    A person who agrees to a lease or rental agreement together with one or more other persons who will also occupy the premises.
  • Collateral
    Property that is pledged to the repayment of a loan. If the loan is not paid, the debtor must surrender the collateral to the creditor. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, collateral is considered a secured interest and is known as a UCC Article 9 interest.
  • Collection Agency
    Any business entity retained by a creditor to collect a debt. Normally, a collection agency takes it's fee by obtaining a percentage the debt once collected. Collection agencies are notorious for violating consumer rights and are often accused of unconscionable acts of intimidation and threats in violation of federal and state(...)
  • Common Law Partner Agreement
    Under common law,  when partners choose to move in together, whether they are in a traditional heterosexual relationship or a same-sex relationship, there can be serious legal implications concerning their legal status by virtue of their cohabitation. Specifically, some states have characterized this arrangement as creating a domestic partnership or common law marriage. Depending on your(...)
  • Compounding A Felony
    The act of being harmed by a felony, then reaching an agreement with the one causing the harm that the person harmed will not tell the authorities in exchange for money or other recompense. It is often equated to accepting a bribe for silence.
  • Concealed Weapon
    A weapon which is hidden on one's person and which is not readily observable by another. Carrying a concealed weapon is a felony in most states. In most states the only defense is having a permit to carry a weapon. This is usually given only to law enforcement employees.
  • Concealment
    The intentional and bad faith failure to provide material information to someone with the felonious intent to commit a theft on that person. Examples include failure to disclose that a car is known to be a lemon or failing to disclose a bankruptcy in the hope of obtaining credit.
  • Concurrent Sentences
    Two sentences for more than one crime which are to be served at one time, not consecutively. The defendant gets the benefit of not doubling up his or her terms as is the case with consecutive terms. Such a decision by the judge is usually the result of leniency or of a plea bargain.
  • Confession
    The voluntary admission of guilt made to law enforcement. It can be in the form of a written document or verbal confession captured on tape. A confession must be voluntary and knowing. It cannot be the product of coercion or threat. The Miranda warnings are designed to combat the tendency for law enforcement to extract forced confessions from suspects while in custody.
  • Confession And Avoidance
    When a defendant admits the allegations in a criminal complaint but alleges other facts making up an affirmative defense offered to prove that the criminal allegations do not prove a case.
  • Confidence Game
    The procurement of money by trick or deceit. This type of crime is usually perpetrated on the elderly. For more information on elder abuse.
  • Confiscate
    The act of government taking the property of a suspect by force of authority without legal process. Most seizure of property results from acts involving the illegal drug trade. This act has been challenged as unconstitutional.
  • Confront Witnesses - Criminal
    The right of a criminal defendant to confront the witnesses against him or her. Confrontation includes the right to cross examination, which is said to be the great steam engine to the truth.
  • Conservatorship Defined
      Conservatorship  A conservatorship is a probate action filed by a relative or interested person requesting the court to appoint a fiduciary, called a conservator, to care for another persons best legal, physical and financial interests. The person who cannot care for themselves or manage their own financial affairs is called a conservatee. Most are elders who have lost their mental(...)
  • Conspiracy - Criminal
    A conspiracy is the criminal planning and carrying out of illegal activities by two or more people. At least one member of the conspiracy must perform some positive act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Once that act is made by at least one member of conspiracy, all members of the conspiracy will be held jointly and criminally responsible for the conspiracy and whatever criminal acts flow(...)
  • Constitutional Rights
    The rights reserved by the people from the U.S. Constitution. These rights are better known as our Bill of Rights or the first ten amendments. These rights include: writ of habeas corpus; no bill of attainder; no unreasonable search and seizure; no double jeopardy; no self-incrimination; right to due process; and the right to a speedy and public trial.
  • Constructive Eviction
    An act by the landlord that makes the premises unlivable, permitting the tenant to vacate the premises and end her lease obligation to pay rent.
  • Consul - Emabacy
    An official of the U.S. Department of State overseas, who may issue travel documents to someone seeking permission to come to the U.S. The Consul is charged with the responsibility of interpreting and enforcing U.S. immigration laws outside of the U.S. The U.S. Consul also has duties relating to the protection of its citizens in a foreign country. The Benghazi Embassy tragedy was considered(...)
  • Consumer
    A person who buys goods and services for personal, family, or household purposes.
  • Consumer Credit Counseling Definition
      A document containing information about a debtor, including who the debtor borrowed money from, the amount of the debt, whether or not the promised payment was made on time and in full, and the identity of any creditor requesting information about the debtor.
  • Contempt Of Court
    The reckless or intentional disruption of a judicial proceeding such that the court concludes the conduct of that person in court is unlawful. Examples include being disrespectful to the judge or not following the court's instructions. The court's power to punish for contempt includes fines and jail.
  • Contingency Fee
    An agreement between a client and an attorney wherein payment to the attorney is based upon the monetary recovery by the client, and not on an hourly rate. Traditional contingency fees are based on a third of the gross recovery before trial and forty percent of the gross recovery once trial commences.
  • Controlled Substance
    A drug which has been declared by federal or state law to be illegal for sale or use without a medical prescription. As of 2016, under federal law, marijuana is still considered a controlled substance.
  • Conviction
    The act of finding the defendant guilty of a crime after a trial. Today, the term conviction is used interchangeably with the act of the defendant pleading to a crime without having been actually tried and found guilty by a judge or jury.
  • Corpus
    Latin for the body of the accused.
  • Corpus Delicti
    Latin for the substantial fact that a crime has been committed. For example, without finding the body of a person who is alleged to have been murdered, how can the prosecutor prove a killing of another human being actually occurred? Circumstantial evidence can be used, but it is very difficult to obtain a conviction without a physical body or some part of its remains to show a homicide had(...)
  • Corpus Juris
    The total collection of the law. It is also known as a compendium of all laws, cases and interpretations.
  • Corroborate
    To substantiate testimony of another witness or a party in a trial. Example: the witness screamed out, "don't shoot him!" corroborates the testimony of another witness who claims to have witnessed the shooting.
  • Cosign
    To guarantee the repayment of someone else's debt. Although the debtor's obligation is dischargeable in bankruptcy, the cosigner's obligation is not discharged unless the cosigner declares bankruptcy.
  • Cosigned Debt
    A co-signed debt is where the third-party co-signer agrees to be directly liable for the debt of another called the first-party borrower, usually because the first-party borrower would not otherwise individually qualify for the loan. A co-signed debt, under the law, is considered like any other secured debt. For example, if the co-signer offered her real property as collateral, then the(...)
  • Count
    A separate charging allegation in a criminal complaint which states the factual basis which constitutes the exact crime for which the accused is charged.
  • Credit Rating
    The conclusion a creditor makes about a debtor's credit-worthiness, based primarily on a consumer credit report.
  • Creditor
    A person or company to whom a legal debt is owed.
  • Crime
    A violation of a law perpetrated by a person against the interests of another person. The crime is considered to be a wrong against the people, not just the individual. There are three degrees of crimes based on severity: felony, misdemeanor and the infraction.
  • Crime Of Passion
    A mitigating factor in a crime said to be caused by passion rather than specific intent. To make this claim the defendant must prove he or she was provoked into a state of passion and without time for contemplation or cooling off.
  • Criminal Attorney
    An attorney whose practice is substantially devoted to defending people charged with a crime. There are many types of criminal defense attorneys have specific practice expertise such as, but not limited to: federal crimes, drug possession, drug  trafficking, drunk driving, domestic violence, white collar crimes, traffic, and violations of administrative laws.
  • Criminal Calander
    The presiding judge's list of criminal cases to be called in court for some legal proceeding or purpose. Proceedings can include arraignments, pretrial hearings, preliminary hearings, bail settings, motions and sentencing.
  • Criminal Charge
    A specific allegation against the accused establishing that a crime was committed by the accused. It is usually contained in a written criminal information or by indictment. The essence of a charge requires that a factual allegation be clearly alleged and that the doing of the factual allegation by the accused constituted a crime.
  • Criminal Justice
    The procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, evidence gathered, arrests made, charges brought, defenses raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered and punishment carried out. Collectively, these events must comply with providing the criminal defendant with Due Process.
  • Cross Examination
    After direct examination, the opposing party can cross examine the same witness. This usually entails questions that can be leading and aggressive. Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to process of cross examination as the great steam engine to the truth.
  • Cruel And Unusual Punishment
    The constitutional prohibition against governmental penalties that shock our conscience such that it is morally repugnant. Crimes such as these are specifically prohibited under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, no where are these crimes specifically defined.
  • Cumulative Sentence
    Where a defendant has been found guilty of more than one offense, the judge may sentence him to prison for successive terms for each crime. This is also known as a sentencing structure that runs consecutively, meaning, one after the other.
  • d

  • D.A.
    District Attorney. Every county has an elected or appointed Prosecutor or District Attorney who manages the criminal filings and prosecutions for that county through department's Deputy District Attorneys. Many states, such as Calfironia, refer to prosecutors that work directly under a city's jurisdiction as City Attorneys. These attorneys handle both criminal and civil matters for the city.
  • D.U.I.
    Abbreviated for driving under the influence. Most states make it illegal to drive while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs such that the driver cannot operate a motor vehicle safely.
  • D.W.I
    Abbreviated For driving while intoxicated. Most states make it illegal to drive while you are impaired by alcohol or drugs such that the driver cannot drive a motor vehicle safely. This is also referred to as drunk driving and driving under the influence or DUI.
  • Damages
    Losses for which the law allows compensation under our civil court system of justice. There are three major types of damages, economic damages, general damages and punitive damages.
  • Dangerous Weapon
    Any weapon which has the actual potential of causing great bodily harm to another.
  • Death Penalty
    The judicial decree ordering the execution of a convicted defendant. All death penalty cases are automatically reviewed by the highest court in the state. Many legal scholars believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. The debate on this issues rages at both the federal and state levels.
  • Death Row
    The term used for where prisoners are incarcerated awaiting their execution. This is the ultimate form of trouble.
  • Debt
    A money or service obligation owed to another.
  • Debtor
    Someone who owes money or a promised service to another.
  • Decubitus Ulcer
    Decubitus Ulcers, also called bed and pressure sores can develop on areas of the body where the skin overlaps bony areas such as the lower spine, ankle and tailbone. It is caused when pressure is asserted upon the skin and the underlying derma is pressed against the bone causing tissue, ligament and muscle to tare, blister, and breakdown. This is a common condition among the elderly and is(...)
  • Deed
    A document that transfers ownership of real property from one person to another.
  • Deed Of Trust
    A document that a lender (often a bank) receives from someone who owns property. If the owner fails to make payments on the loan, the deed of trust gives the lender the right to sell the property to get the loan repaid. Similar to a mortgage.
  • Defamation
    When someone lies about you to another person. Spoken lies are called "slander" and written or printed lies are called "libel".
  • Defandant
    A party who is sued or, criminally charged with a crime.
  • Default
    Failure to fulfill a contractual obligation, such as timely repayment of a debt.
  • Default Judgement
    A judgment obtained by a person who files a lawsuit against a person who fails to file papers defending the lawsuit.
  • Defective Product
    Generally indicating a product, the performance of which, does not meet consumer safety expectations and/or standards, or is considered unreasonably dangerous because of a defect in the product's design, operation and/or its failure to adequately and clearly warn the consumer of the products dangers with respect to its intended, and in some cases, its unintended use. If the injured(...)
  • Defense
    The legal representation by a defense attorney, on behalf of a client, the defendant, who is either charged with a crime or served with a lawsuit. A criminal defense includes the sum total of all actions taken on behalf of the accused by a criminal defense attorney. A civil defense includes the sum total of all action taken on behalf of the a civil defense attorney in a lawsuit. A civil(...)
  • Deficiency Judgement
    A court judgment entitling the creditor to collect the balance of the secured debt remaining after sale of the collateral.
  • Defined Benefit Plan
    A pension plan in which the benefit to the retiree is some portion of the salary paid during the employment. For example, a plan that provides 50% of the average of the three highest earning years is a defined benefit plan. Compare "Defined Contribution Plan."
  • Defined Contribution Plan
    A pension plan in which the employee and employer contribute to a plan in prescribed amounts, but whose benefits to the retiree will depend upon how much the plan earns. For example, a plan in which the employee and employer each contribute 5% of the employee's wages, but which has no obligation to provide any specific amount on retirement, is a Defined Contribution Plan. Compare "Defined(...)
  • Demonstrative Evidence
    Evidence which demonstrates a quality or truth about a relevant part of the case. Examples of demonstrative evidence are: models, diagrams, photos and maps. This form of evidence is meant to clarify the facts that are otherwise considered hard to explain verbally. Such evidence assists the fact finders in their determination of the weight of the evidence.
  • Demurrer
    A formal, legal challenge to a complaint stating that the complaint does not allege facts that would give rise to a cause of action. A demurrer asks for the complaint to be dismissed. The judge must make this determination by limiting the consideration to the only facts pled in the complaint and nothing external to those facts - commonly referred to as reviewing only that which lies(...)
  • Denaturalization
    The procedure for taking away a person's citizenship, where it was obtained through naturalization.
  • Department Of Labor
    The federal agency that enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL investigates claims filed by employees for unpaid minimum wage and overtime pay.
  • Deportation
    The process of ejecting someone from the U.S. Today the removal of foreign nationals is now called deportation, whereas the removal of nationals was called banishment or exile. Laws concerning deportation can be found in legal resources dealing with the process of immigration.
  • Deposition
    After a lawsuit is filed, the lawyer for either party may require the other party or independent witnesses to come to the lawyer's office and submit to a "deposition". The lawyer will ask the "deponent" questions about the case, which the deponent must answer. A court reporter will be present and write down all questions and answers. At trial, the lawyer might introduce the questions and(...)
  • Depreciation
    Physical things - including buildings - deteriorate over time. This loss in value is called "depreciation." A landlord is allowed to consider this loss a cost of doing business and deduct a certain portion of this loss from his income every year. This will reduce his taxable income. And this will reduce the amount of federal and state income taxes he pays. As an accounting method, it is(...)
  • Deuce
    The term is slang for a drunk driving charge commonly used by law enforcement and drunk driving defense attorneys.
  • Diminished Capacity
    A mitigating defense used to establish the absence of malice by the defendant when he or she committed the violent act. It is not considered a form of insanity but rather a suspended mental state where passion and emotional stress dominated the defendants actions and thoughts such that he or she could not act rationally or be aware of the reasonable consequences of his or her actions. Many(...)
  • Direct Evidence
    Evidence which is directly perceived by a person without the need of having to infer anything outside of the observers direct perception. Direct evidence is different from circumstantial evidence, where the perceiver must presume a fact to exist, in order to prove the ultimate fact. With circumstantial evidence an inference must be made whereas direct evidence no such inference is(...)
  • Direct Examination
    Questions asked of one's own witness. The questions cannot be leading or suggestive of the answer.
  • Disability Discrimination
    Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because the employee has a disability, has a history of a disability, or is perceived by the employer as disabled. The same is true when a landlord discriminates against leasing to a tenant on the grounds of the prospective tenants disability. Both forms of discrimination can carry significant penalties(...)
  • Discharge
    The legal release of the obligation to pay a debt. In bankruptcy, a debtor receives a discharge and is therefore freed of the obligation to repay most debts.
  • Discharge Hearing
    A court hearing held several months after the bankruptcy filing, at which the bankruptcy judge grants the formal forgiveness of debts.
  • Dischargeable Debt
    A debt that a debtor will no longer be required to pay, because of a bankruptcy filing.
  • Dischargeable In Bankruptcy
    Debts that a debtor will not be required to pay at the conclusion of a bankruptcy proceeding are "dischargeable." Spousal and child support obligations are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Discovery
    After a lawsuit is filed, each party is allowed to obtain information in the possession of the opposing party. This process is called "discovery". Discovery devices include the deposition, requests for admission, written interrogatories, and a request for production of documents. The federal rules of evidence provide a much more liberal position by allowing a broader scope of discovery to be(...)
  • Disorderly Conduct
    Specific actions that disturb the quiet enjoyment of others. A typical example of such conduct is being drunk in public and causing a disturbance. Most states consider this the same as disturbing the peace. Most of the time the crime is charged as a misdemeanor and in some jurisdictions a mere infraction.
  • District Court
    The federal trial court where federal crimes and civil actions are tried. District courts are exclusively for federal jurisdiction matters. This requires diversity of citizenship (all plaintiffs and defendants must be from different states), and the case presents an important federal question or the action is based purely on a federal statute.
  • Diversion
    In many jurisdictions the court will offer the accused diversion rather then serving jail time.Diversion is a program for first-time offenders of minor crimes allowing them to attend classes and/or perform community service work rather then face incarceration and have a permanent criminal record. One all diversion conditions have been successfully met, charges are dropped and there is no(...)
  • Divisible Divorce
    A procedure by which a judge may grant a divorce and, at a later time, determine the property and support rights of the parties. This procedure is used if one or both of the spouses wants to remarry, but they have not yet resolved their economic or child support issues.
  • Divorce - No Fault
    A system under which a spouse must prove that the other spouse committed specific wrongful conduct before a divorce would be granted. Examples of fault include adultery, extreme cruelty, desertion, and incarceration for the commission of a serious crime. There are very few states that follow fault divorce anymore - most states have adopted no fault divorce system which requires the spouses(...)
  • DNA
    The initials for deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecular code of human life. As with fingerprints, each person possesses a unique chromosomal identity based on hereditary characteristics. DNA can be found in each living cell including blood, sperm, skin and hair follicles. DNA testing can result in absolute proof as to the existence of a physical presence at a crime scene. DNA testing is(...)
  • Document Production
    A type of discovery, during the litigation process, where one party requests documents from the other party. Once documents have been produced, the next stage of discovery is usually the taking of depositions.
  • Domestic Partnership
    A status created by some state or local governments that gives unmarried couples who comply with the necessary requirements some of the same benefits available to married couples - such as insurance coverage, visitation rights in hospitals or jails, and bereavement leave if a partner dies. Having a domestic partnership agreement drafted is recommended. To obtain a state-specific Common(...)
  • Domestic Violence
    The physical beating of a spouse or child. Prosecutors often face the dilemma that a battered woman will not testify against the spouse out of fear or retribution. Domestic violence is very common in inner cities. After the highly publicized  OJ Simpson case, many jurisdictions have enacted tougher laws and penalties against perpetrators of such crimes.
  • Domicile
    The state in which one maintains a permanent home to which he or she intends to return (even though temporarily residing in another state). A Californian who is temporarily working for the federal government in Washington, D.C. may intend to return to California when his job ends. He resides in Washington, D.C., but his domicile is California.
  • Dower
    The right of a widow to a certain percentage of her deceased spouse's property - regardless of the spouse's attempt to will the property to others.
  • Drug Test
    In the employment setting, drug tests are used to see if an employee is "under the influence" of illegal drugs while on the job. The employer usually requires the employee to provide a urine sample, which is sent to a laboratory that tests the sample and reports back to the employer regarding what drugs were found in the employees urine sample.
  • Dual Citizenship
    Having citizenship in more than one country. It is also referred to as multiple nationality. Some countries do not permit dual citizenship.
  • Duress
    Severe pressure, force, or threats that cause a person to act against his own interest. An extreme example would be a threat against a person's life if that person does not sign a property settlement agreement. Agreements signed under duress are usually voidable by the party who was subject to duress.
  • e

  • Earnings Witholding Order
    A legal procedure by which a portion of a spouse's wages are paid directly to the other spouse for alimony or child support. In some states, this is called an "earnings withholding order" or a "wage garnishment."
  • EEOC
    Abbreviation of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC's main office is in Washington, D.C., but the EEOC also has "regional" offices in many other cities. The EEOC enforces federal laws against discrimination in employment.
  • Ejectment
    An old, "common law" lawsuit used to evict a tenant. This is not a particularly speedy remedy, and it is seldom used today.
  • Embezzlement
    A white-collar crime where an employee misappropriates money or property rightfully belonging to the employer. This crime is considered a larceny.
  • Employee Whistle Blower
    Retaliation By Termination  A person who reports his employer to the police or a state or federal agency for some violation of the law is called a whistle blower. Whistle blower protection laws prevent employers from firing workers in retaliation for reporting the employer. Employers that are found to have terminated in retaliation for reporting the employer to the authorities, the(...)
  • Employer Retaliation
    An act by an employer motivated by the employer's desire to punish the employee for the employee's exercise of some right protected by law.
  • Employment At Will
      An employment relationship in which either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment at any time for any reason and without cause. For the employer however, the its reason for termination cannot be for a unlawful purpose such as illegal discrimination.
  • Employment Contract
    A written or verbal agreement that sets forth the terms (such as the amount of pay and length of employment) under which an employee works for an employer. Also known as an "employment agreement".
  • Employment Discrimination
    Discrimination occurs in the employment setting, when an employer is motivated by a discriminatory purpose that result in treating some workers differently from others based on, but not limited to a  worker's age, race, color, gender and religious beliefs. Both state and federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Discriminatory acts include, but are not limited to underpaying(...)
  • Entrapment
    The unethical acts of law enforcement inducing or encouraging a person to commit a crime that the person would not have been predisposed to have committed. A court will usually look to whether the idea for the commission of the criminal act originated with the defendant or with law enforcement. Entrapment is a complete defense to the crime charged.
  • Equal Protection Of The Law
    The constitutional right of all persons to have fair access to the law and courts. It requires that all people be treated equally under the law, insuring due process of law to all people charged with a crime.
  • Equity
    In real estate matters, the market value of a property is the value of the property minus any debts owed on the property.
  • ERISA
    Abbreviation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the federal law that regulates health and retirement benefits in employment.
  • Essential Job Functions
    "Essential job functions" are normally important duties of a job, but not the duties that are only secondary. An employee must be able to perform a position's essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, in order to be covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").
  • Eviction
    A general term for forcing a tenant to vacate the owners premises. State laws have very specific substantive and procedural requirements for landlords who want to evict a tenant from their property. For example, each state has its own tenant notice requirements, specific eviction forms that must be used, and service of process rules concerning giving the tenant sufficient legal notice, for(...)
  • Evidence
    All physical and nonphysical things which are determined by the court to be heard or shown to the jury for their consideration and judgment of the ultimate facts of the case. Examples of evidence are: witness testimony, blood stains, weapons, models, photos and graphs. Only relevant evidence is allowed to be admitted in a case. Evidence is relevant if it tends to prove or disprove a fact in(...)
  • Ex Parte
    A legal proceeding in which only one side appears in court. Ex parte proceedings are usually allowed only where immediate action is necessary and there is not enough time to allow the other side to respond.
  • Examination - Court Testimony
    The legal questioning of a witness by an attorney. There is direct examination, cross examination, redirect examination and recross examination.
  • Excessive Bail
    A bail amount set by a court that is excessive compared to an amount that would reasonably assure the accused would return to court for the criminal proceedings.
  • Exclusionary Rule
    The Fourth Amendment rule that evidence obtained by law enforcement in constitutional violation of a defendant's rights will not be used against the defendant. The intent of the rule is to dissuade the prosecution and law enforcement from infringing on the privacy rights of society.
  • Exculpatory Clause
    A provision in a lease or rental agreement that says that the landlord is not liable to the tenant if the tenant is injured on the property. Sometimes these provisions are valid, and sometimes they are not.
  • Executive Employee
    An employee who is exempt from federal laws requiring overtime pay because she makes at least $450 per week, has the right to hire and fire and regularly directs the work of at least two full time employees, and whose main responsibilities include "managing" the company, a subdivision of the company, or an entire department. For Recent Court Decisions on this subject see:  Magyar v. Davey(...)
  • Exemplary Damages
    If the plaintiff in a lawsuit proves that the defendant acted "maliciously" or with fraud, the court might allow an award of "punitive" damages to punish the defendant and to set an example to other people who might be thinking of doing something similar. This is over and above compensation for the actual damages suffered by the defendant. Same as "punitive damages".
  • Exempt Employee
    A worker who does not have the right to overtime pay.
  • Exempt Property - Bankruptcy
    The property a debtor is allowed to keep after bankruptcy.
  • Expatriate
    An expatriate is defined as a person who is residing in another country and whom is not a citizen of that country. Sometimes called expats, these travelers often select nations with a lower cost-of-living than their own country of origin. With the international and expansive reach of the Internet, may Americans are choosing to work and retire abroad as expatriates.
  • Expatriation
    The process of giving up one's citizenship. Under U.S. law, this can be done only by a U.S. citizen overseas before a U.S. Consul under oath, and the person must first establish that he is doing so voluntarily and that he has a legal status in another country. A person may not expatriate himself if it would render him stateless.
  • Expedited Removal
    Procedure used at a port of entry in which the INS officer has the power to order a person returned without a hearing. It applies to persons entering without a travel document and where the person is believed to have lied or misrepresented himself in getting the travel document to come to the U.S.
  • Express Contract
    An agreement in which all the material terms are stated by the parties. Such a contract can be either oral or written. Compare "Implied Contract".
  • Extortion
    The obtaining of money or property by threat of harm to another. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and/or damaging information to another person or governmental agency.
  • Extradition
    The legal surrender by one state of a person charged with a crime in another state. The defendant may "waive extradition" by surrendering to the state where charges were originally filed.
  • Exulpatory
    Evidence which tends to support the innocence of a defendant.  
  • Eyewitness
    Any person who actually sees or hears an event and then testifies as to what he had seen or heard in open court.
  • f

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
    The Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") is the federal law that governs workers' wages, including payment of minimum wage and overtime.
  • False Arrest
    The unlawful detaining of someone by law enforcement without legal cause. Legal cause is that determination by law enforcement that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The act of false arrest by law enforcement is rarely the basis of a lawsuit.
  • False Pretenses
    A crime of larceny where the perpetrator knowingly makes material untrue statements for the purpose of obtaining money or property fraudulently.
  • Family And Medical Leave Act
    The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 requires large employers to permit employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they become seriously ill, have complications due to pregnancy, become a parent, or need to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. Update: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour announced on February 23, 2015 to revise(...)
  • Family Home
    The home in which the parent with physical custody resides with the children. Family homes are frequently treated differently than other marital property, with the judge allowing the custodial parent to remain in the home until the child reaches his or her majority.
  • Fascism
    Fascism is a authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization led by a small group of powerful elites and/or dictator. The meaning is often associated with the terms like: authoritarianism, totalitarianism, dictatorship, despotism, and autocracy.
  • Federal Premption
    The doctrine that federal law overrides state law. In family law, federal preemption comes into play in cases of military pay, social security benefits, railroad retirement benefits, and other property provided through federal programs, as well as in issues covered by ERISA.
  • Federal Wild Card Bankrutpcy Exemption
    The wildcard exemption is currently $1,225 plus any unused portion of the federal homestead exemption up to $12,250. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy then these amounts are doubled. Consequently, for a single filer who does not have home equity, the wildcard exemption is $12,725.  Some states allow you to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of your state exemptions.
  • Felonious
    A criminal act done with criminal intent such that it amounts to a felony. It has been traditionally understood as an act of malicious intent to harm another.
  • Felony
    A crime punishable by a minimum of one year or more in state or federal prison.
  • Felony Murder Doctrine
    The law that any death which occurs during the commission of a dangerous felony is considered per se a murder in the first degree. The prosecutor does not have to prove that the accused intended to kill the person, only that he or she intended to commit the dangerous crime. For example: a perpetrator robs a bank with a toy gun, a felony. The teller has a heart attack in the process, the(...)
  • FEMA
    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) FEMA is the Federal Agency in charge of  providing  citizens with financial and emergency support and relief in times of state declared and national emergency disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes. FEMA has 11 offices around the United States. To contact FEMA to obtain emergency information go to their(...)
  • Finder Of Fact
    In a criminal or civil trial it is usually the duty of the jury to determine the truth and weight of all facts in controversy. A fact finder is not allowed to determine issues of law. This is reserved only for the judge.
  • First Degree Murder
    Commonly considered the killing of a human being with deliberate and premeditated intent. The intent can be proved by showing the killing was planned or was part of a scheme. It can also be the result of a death committed in the commission of a dangerous felony. The specific elements for first degree murder and their variations are established by statute in each state.
  • Forcible Entry
    The crime of unlawfully taking possession of a house or structure by the use of force or threat of force.
  • Foreclosure
    Legal action a creditor takes to force the sale of real property so the debt can be repaid from sales proceeds. There are two types of foreclosure: judicial foreclosure and non-judicial foreclosure.
  • Forensic Expert
    An expert whose testimony is scientific in nature and who testifies on behalf of either the prosecutor or the defense. The goal of the expert is to assist the fact finder in understanding scientific information. Forensic medicine is a very lucrative business.
  • Forgery
    The making of false documents by alteration or by a false signature.
  • Foundational Evidence
    A determination by the court to hear and consider why certain evidence is sufficiently relevant and trustworthy before allowing it into evidence. For example, before an expert can give expert opinion as a witness a foundation must be proved establishing that the expert is qualified by virtue of training, education and experience to give such testimony.
  • Fraud
    The act of obtaining money or property by deceit, tricks or dishonest acts. Most acts of fraud are felonies. Criminal fraud is commonly perpetrated against the aged and infirm.
  • Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree
    New evidence which is discovered but which was derivative from a illegal search or seizure must be excluded, based on the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. You cannot use the fruits of a illegal search in a criminal action.
  • Fugitive
    Usually refers to a person already convicted of a crime who has escaped from the police or governmental custody. Under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution a governor must return a fugitive to the state where the crime was originally committed.
  • g

  • Gag Order
    A court or executive order prohibiting attorneys or anyone working on behalf of the attorneys in a pending criminal or, civil matter from communicating their thoughts or impressions about their case to the media or to the public at large. The goal is to prevent pretrial prejudice from contaminating the jury. Most constitutional scholars believe that the First Amendment should limit the(...)
  • General Damages
    Damages that cannot be precisely calculated such as damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress, or loss of comfort and support.
  • Grand Jury
    Some states still use the grand jury system. In essence it is a probable cause hearing before a jury to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the accused over for trial. Many states now use the "preliminary hearing" system which allows the judge independently to make the probable cause finding rather than going through the expense of a grand jury.
  • Grand Larceny
    Also known as grand theft. It is the theft of another's property valued over a certain statutory amount. The federal goverment impose a $950.00 threshold. So do many states. Grand larceny is considered by most states to be a felony punishable by a term of one year or more in state prison. Many states still use different amounts that will constitute Grand Larceny.
  • Green Card
    Commonly used term for the document issued by the INS as evidence of lawful permanent resident status. The "green" card no longer exists, because the card issued is now blue. A permanent resident is required to carry his green card at all times.
  • Grievance
    A written claim that a union files for a worker against an employer. A grievance explains why an employer's actions against a worker were not for "good cause" or were in violation of the union's collective bargaining agreement with the employer.
  • Guarantor
    A person who guarantees that the person making the promise to perform a particular promise will in fact perform the obligations under contract. If the promisor does not fulfill the promise, the guarantor will be held legally responsible for the breach.
  • Guilty
    A legal finding by a judge or a jury of someone who has been charged with a crime and has been found to have legally committed that crime. A defendant may also be found guilty subject to a plea without a trial as the result of a plea bargain.
  • h

  • Habeas Corpus
    Latin for the writ or petition made on behalf of an incarcerated defendant requesting that a court determine whether there is a lawful basis for the defendant's incarceration. The court will usually set a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient basis for the custody. This constitutional protection is used to safeguard against arbitrary confinement without due process of law.
  • Health Care Directive
    Health Care Directive  (AKA: Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney) The purpose of a “Health Care Directive” is to provide your medical providers with your end-of-life instructions, specifically, whether you wish to be resuscitated, and under what circumstances, should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This form of legal document goes by different names depending(...)
  • Hearsay
    In a judicial proceeding, a witness cannot testify as to what another person says outside of court. A classic example of hearsay is when a witness testifies that he heard someone say on the street that the defendant loves to beat his wife. This out of court statement is unsubstantiated and therefore excluded from evidence under the hearsay rule. It should be noted that there are many(...)
  • Heat Of Passion
    A state of emotional rage wherein the accused is unable to form the required specific intent of a legally deliberate act. In some states, showing this state of emotional rage may bring a murder charge down to one of manslaughter. This mitigating defense is also known in some states as diminished capacity.
  • Hit And Run
    The act of a driver who is involved in a collision with another vehicle and then fails to stop to exchange information as required by law.
  • Homestead
    The family home has been traditionally considered sacred under the law. The law as therefore afforded the the family residence with certain legal protections. For example, a part or even all of the equity in the homestead can be exempt or immune from taxes and valid creditor claims.
  • Homicide
    The unlawful killing of another human being. Included among homicides are the crimes of murder and manslaughter. Defenses to a homicide include self-defense, accident and insanity. The courts look to whether the defendant possessed the required specific intent to do harm.
  • Household Goods
    In bankruptcy, an individual's ordinary household furniture and furnishings are generally exempt from creditors.Exemptions allow you to keep a certain amount of your property so that you can make a fresh start after the bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, if an asset is deemed exempt, the bankruptcy trustee will deny the creditors claim for that exempt property.
  • Housing Code
    A series of state or local laws that legally requires landlords to maintain their property up to code and tenant-habitable.
  • HUD
    The federal Department of Housing & Urban Development. HUD's main office is in Washington, D.C., but HUD also has "regional" offices in several major cities and "area" offices in many other cities. HUD oversees the public housing program, and HUD also enforces federal laws against discrimination in housing.
  • Hung Jury
    When a jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a unanimous decision concerning the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The judge will be forced to declare a mistrial. The prosecutor will need to decide whether it is worth the expense of another trial. Most states only allow prosecutors three chances to obtain a verdict.
  • i

  • Immigrant Visa
    A travel document issued by a U.S. Consul allowing a person to seek admission to the U.S. for permanent residence.
  • Immigration And Naturalization Service
    An federal agency within the U.S. Department of Justice that is charged with administering the immigration laws at the border and within the U.S. is the "I.N.S". This stands of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
  • Immunity
    In criminal law, a person who would otherwise be guilty of a crime is granted exemption from all prosecution and penalties arising out of that crime. Most often, the government grants immunity in exchange for the promise to testify against another defendant against whom the government seeks to secure a conviction.
  • Impeachment At Trial
    In cross examination, a government prosecutor or private civil trial lawyer may challenge the credibility of a witness on the stand by showing that the witness has not been truthful, by establishing prior inconsistent statements of that witness or by introducing evidence which points to the witnesses basis.
  • Implied Contract
    An agreement in which the terms are not expressly stated, but can be inferred from the conduct of the parties. For example, if two people put their salary checks in a joint checking account and use the account to pay household expenses, one may infer that there is an implied agreement to share the household expenses - even if the parties did not expressly say so.
  • Implied Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
    A requirement implied into a lease or rental agreement, under which a landlord promises not to disturb the tenant's right to peaceful possession of the property.
  • Implied Employment Contract
    An employment contract between an employer and employee that is not written or even verbal, but rather "implied" from the circumstances of the worker's position. There are many factors that may prove that a worker has created an "implied" contract, including: 1) long term employment (the longer the worker is on the job, the better his claim), 2) promises of future employment (such as "as(...)
  • Implied Warranty Of Habitability
    A doctrine adopted by the courts that permits tenants to withhold rent or sue landlords if they fail to comply with housing codes.
  • In Camera
    Latin for "in chambers." There are times when proposed evidence must be first examined by the court before allowing it to be shown to the jury. This commonly occurs in the privacy of the judge's chambers. A court reporter is usually present if the judge is prepared to accept arguments and make a ruling on the proposed evidence.
  • In Forma Pauperis
    A person who is unable to pay court filing fees or costs may petition the court to be allowed to proceed under the status "in forma pauperis" (too poor to pay) and if the judge is convinced of the persons financial condition, the court will grant the request. At that point party should ask the clerk of the court for forms that the party submits to be allowed to proceed with the court(...)
  • In Limine
    A pretrial motion usually made for the purpose of suppressing or limiting certain testimony or physical evidence from the trial.
  • In Prop Per
    Abbreviation of in propia persona, meaning representing yourself without a lawyer.
  • Income And Expense Declaration
    In family law, it is a document filed with the court in a divorce proceeding that itemizes a party's monthly income and expenses. The document is used by the judge in awarding spousal and child support.
  • Incompetent
    A defendant who cannot fully appreciate or understand the charges being brought against him or her and/or cannot assist in their defense may be judged incompetent to stand trial. Often the defendant is institutionalized until such time that competency returns.
  • Incriminate
    A statement, action or utterance that tends to prove the guilt of the person charged. Under our constitution, a person cannot be compelled to provide information that might be self-incriminating.
  • Indecent Exposure
    The act of being naked in front of another in a public place. When the charge is combined with a sex charge, i.e., to obtain sexual gratification from the act of exposure, the penalties can be severe.
  • Indictment
    The judicial proceeding (preliminary hearing or grand jury) in which the sole determination is made of whether there is sufficient evidence to force a defendant to stand trial for felony charges. The burden of proof is very low. All the prosecutor needs to show is that it was more likely than not that the defendant committed the crime.
  • Indigent
    A person in poverty who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them in a criminal matter. In those cases, the person is appointed free counsel known as a public defender.
  • Insanity Defense
    For criminal defense purposes it is the mental state of a defendant during a commission of crime, such that, at the time the defendant was committing the crime, he or she could not tell the difference between right and wrong nor did he or she appreciate the wrongfulness of conduct. This state of mind, if proved, can be a total and complete defense to a crime.
  • Insider Trading
    The unlawful stock trading by a company insider such as a high-level employee who possesses confidential and nonpublic information about his company and thereafter trades stock to gain unfair advantage. The Securities and Exchange Commission enforces insider trading laws to protect the unsuspecting investing public.
  • Intent
    Two Types of Legal Intent: "Criminal" And "Civil": Criminal Intent: also known as "mens rea" or "criminal intent" it is the foundation of all criminal law. Our criminal  justice system demands that before one can be found guilty of a crime, the state must show that the person intended to do the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Without intent there can be no crime. Civil Intent: is a(...)
  • Intentional Infliction Of Emotional Distress
    A legal claim brought against an employer by an employee who suffered emotional distress at the hands of an employer whose conduct was so outrageous that a court would consider the conduct "beyond the bounds of common decency".
  • Interim Order
    A temporary order pending a hearing and final order on the matter.
  • Interrogatories
    After a lawsuit is filed, either party may seek to "discover" information from the other party. One of the discovery devices is "written interrogatories" which ask the other party certain questions that must be answered in writing and is under penalty of perjury These answers may be used against that party at trial.
  • Intoxication
    A person is legally intoxicated when impaired to such a level the person is a danger to him or herself or to others. Drunk driving laws set intoxication as that level of impairment where one cannot operate a vehicle in a reasonably safe manner. Most states have laws establishing presumptive levels of intoxication. In many states that level is .08.
  • Irreconcilable Differences
    The standard basis for a divorce complaint in a no-fault divorce system; that the parties have irreconcilable differences.
  • Irrelevant
    Any evidence which does not tend to prove or disprove a fact of consequence in the trial. However, almost any related issue can be argued to tend to prove something of consequence in the trial. The judge must rule on issues of relevancy based on fairness, due process and judicial expediency.
  • j

  • Job Benefits
    "Benefits" are job-related "perks," such as health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurance - often with the insurance premiums paid partly or entirely by the employer - as well as pension and retirement benefits. This dynamic has changed with the Affordable Care Act.
  • Joint Tenancy
    A means of owning property by two or more owners. If one of the owners dies, the other owner or owners automatically take over that person's portion of the ownership.
  • Judgement Notwithstanding The Verdict
    A debtor who has only exempt property or no property, so that a creditor will be unable to collect a judgment against him or her.
  • Judgement Proof
    A debtor who has only exempt property, so that a creditor will be unable to collect a judgment against him or her.
  • Judgement-Proof
    The financial state in which a debtor has no assets, money or property upon which a judgement creditor can attach or collect through legal process in which to satisfy a debt. The popular term, one cannot "squeeze blood out of a turnip" aptly describes the state in which a creditor tries to obtain money from someone that has none.
  • Judgment Creditor
    A creditor who has successfully sued the debtor and has obtained a court judgment against the debtor. The judgment is considered perfected and is now a secured debt.
  • Judicial Discretion
    The appellate courts give trial court judges deference in their rulings when reviewing their decisions on the basis that the sitting judge was actually present during trial. Judges are therefore given wide discretion on their rulings and how they conduct their court.
  • Judicial Notice
    he power of the court to make a finding of a fact as true. Examples of matters given judicial notice are public and court records.
  • Judicial Order
    Any directive issued by a judge ordering someone to do or not to do something. A person that disobeys a court order is guilty of contempt of court and can be incarcerated. Restraining orders are a good example.
  • Jurisdiction
    A system of courts of law limited to a geographical area which litigate issues that arise out of that geographical area. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases involving violations of federal law.
  • Jury
    Typically a collection of twelve members of the defendant's community sworn to hear the facts of a case, apply the law, and determine the guilt or innocence of the accused. In a criminal trial the law requires a unanimous decision by the jury. Civil court juries do not require a unanimous verdict.
  • Jury Selection
    he procedure by which a jury is chosen. From a panel of potential jurors the judge and attorneys ask questions of prospective jurors to determine if they can be fair and unbiased about the case.
  • Jury Tampering
    A federal and state crime of intentionally and illegally influencing the outcome of a criminal trial by making direct or indirect contact with a juror.
  • Justifiable Homicide
    A killing of a human being without criminal intent. There can be no criminal liability for such a killing. Examples include self-defense and insanity.
  • Juvenile Court
    A special trial court which exclusively governs the prosecution of under-age defendants. The typical age is under 18 years. The goal is not to punish but to rehabilitate the minor. Social workers and probation officials are usually very active in such proceedings.
  • k

  • Kidnapping
    Kidnapping Kidnapping is the unlawful removal and/or transporting of another person against their will and without consent. Kidnapping is usually associated with requesting ransom for the safe return of the person taken. More often however, kidnapping is connected with divorce and child custody disputes where one parent takes the child out of the state.
  • l

  • Larceny
    The intentional taking of another person's property without legal permission. What constitutes legal permission varies from state to state. Whether it is grand larceny or petty larceny depends on the actual value of the property stolen.
  • Law Of The Case
    Upon the determination of a legal issue by the court that determination becomes binding throughout the life of the case.
  • Leading Question
    A style of questioning in which the answer is suggested by the wording of the question. Leading questions are allowed in cross-examination but generally prohibited in direct examination unless the witness is a child.
  • Legal Aid Defined
    Free or highly discounted legal assistance provided to those individuals who cannot financially afford the ordinary pricing of legal services. See: Legal Aid Programs In All Fifty States.
  • Legal Brief
    A legal argument, usually in a written form and specifically prescribed by the courts. A brief makes factual statements supported by an argument of law. A brief is submitted to the court for a legal determination of the issues and in some cases, of factual findings. Both federal and state trial and appellate courts use briefs to decide important legal issues.
  • Legal Custody
    The parent-child relationship in which the parent has the right to make decisions about the child's lifestyle (for example, what religion the child should be raised in or what school the child should attend).
  • Legal Divorce
    Divorce The legal process by which a marriage is terminated. Divorce is sometimes referred to as "dissolution." It requires the resolution of property division as well as spousal and child support issues.
  • Legal Separation
    A proceeding in which the property and support rights of a husband and wife are determined by a judge, but the parties remain legally married. Legal separation can be used in place of divorce if the spouses want to live separately but do not want to get divorced because of religious reasons.
  • Lesser Included Offense
    A lesser crime which is proved by the same facts as a more serious crime. The defendant is typically not charged with the lesser crime on the basis that the punishment is already covered by the more serious crime.
  • Libel
    When someone publishes a written or printed lie about you. A form of defamation.
  • Lipitor
    Lipitor is used to treat high cholesterol, and to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, or other heart complications in people with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or other risk factors. Try Blink Health For Discounted Medication  
  • Living Will
    Living Will (AKA: Health Care Directive, Medical Power of Attorney) The purpose of a  "living will" is to provide your medical providers with your end-of-life instructions, specifically, whether you wish to be  resuscitated, and under what circumstances, should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. This form of legal document goes by different names depending on the(...)
  • m

  • M.O.
    The term modus operandi means that the defendant's behavior possesses a common pattern that distinguishes the unique identity of the defendant.
  • M'Naughten Rule
    The earlier judicial test to determine whether a defendant was insane at the time the crime was committed. Under M'Naughten a defendant is legally insane if the defendant could not distinguish between right and wrong when the crime was committed.
  • Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
    The U.S. Congress enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in 1975. The Act establishes three basic rules in the sale of products to consumers: A seller-warrantor must designate its written warranty as either "full" or "limited." A seller-warrantor must state certain specified information about the coverage of the warranty in writing and in clear and easy-to read language. A(...)
  • Malice
    That mental state of the defendant demonstrating a conscious and intentional wrongdoing directed at another with the specific intent to inflict harm. Malice in the criminal sense is viewed as an evil which is so despicable it justifies the greatest punishment possible. Malice is often an element in first degree murder.
  • Manslaughter
    The unlawful but unintentional killing of another person. It is commonly distinguished from murder because of the absence of the intention to kill or create a dangerous situation. There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is considered a killing which occurs in heat of passion. The act suggests the defendant could not control his or her actions.(...)
  • Marital Settlement Agreement
    An agreement between husband and wife that provides for division of property, support obligations, custody and visitation matters, and anything else that the parties want to resolve in their divorce. A marital settlement agreement is normally approved by the court and becomes a part of the divorce decree.
  • Mayhem
    The intentional and criminal act of cutting, disfiguring or dismembering a human being. This form of hideous crime carries the most severe penalties and is considered a compound or aggravated felony.
  • Mediation
    An informal and usually voluntary process in which a third party tries to get the husband and wife to resolve their differences without the need for litigation. Often the mediator is an attorney who does not represent either husband or wife, but simply tells them what they are likely to get in a litigated matter and tries to get them to resolve their differences without going to court. If(...)
  • Medical Malpractice
    Negligence, a form of carelessness, committed by a professional health care provider resulting in injury to the patient. In legal terms, the actions or omissions of the health care provider fell beneath the accepted "standard of care" within their community and within the health providers specific specialty. This can include hospitals, doctors, dentists, or nurses.
  • Mens Rea
    The mental state of being which demonstrates criminal intent. Without criminal intent there can be no crime.
  • Mental Competency
    The state of mind of a criminal defendant that is accused of a crime. The accused is considered mentally competent if the accused understands and appreciates the charges made against them and is able assist in their own defense. A court cannot try someone who is mentally incompetent. Similarly, is believed that one who is deemed mentally incompetent was also likely incapable of forming the(...)
  • Miranda
    The requirement, also called the Miranda rule, set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), that prior to the time of arrest and any interrogation of a person suspected of a crime, he/she must be told that he/she has: the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, and the right to be told that anything he/she says can be used in court against him/her. The warnings are(...)
  • Misappropriation
    The intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one's own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a dead person's estate or by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another's assets (a fiduciary duty). It is a felony (a crime punishable by a prison sentence of(...)
  • Misdemeanor
    A crime punishable by less then one year in county jail. Felonies are crimes punishable by one year or more in state prison. Misdemeanors include petty theft, drunk driving, and disturbing the peace.
  • Mitigating Circumstances
    Those circumstances surrounding the commission of a crime which reveal the lack of serious criminal intent. These conditions compel justice to favor leniency towards the defendant.
  • Mold
    Most Types Of House Mold Is Not Toxic To Your Health. Notwithstanding, there are more then a hundred different strains of house mold that can be injurious to your health.  One such mold is known as black mold and it can be extremely toxic, and in some cases, can even lead to death. Toxic Mold Exposure to toxic mold can be costly to remove and dangerous to your health. It is reported(...)
  • Month To Month Rental Agreement
    An agreement between a landlord and tenant that permits either party to terminate the agreement or change the terms (including rent) by giving the other party prior written notice at least 30 days before the date of termination or change of terms.
  • Mortgage
    A document that a lender (often a bank) receives from someone who owns property. If the owner fails to make payments on the loan, the deed of trust gives the lender the right to have the property sold to get the loan repaid. Similar to a deed of trust.
  • Motion For Dismissal
    A defendant's motion requesting the judge to rule that the prosecution failed to reach their burden of proof. Alternatively stated, the prosecutor's evidence fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
  • Motion For New Trial
    A motion made after trial requesting that the court grant a new trial on the basis of some error of law or prejudice during the trial which could not be corrected by a jury instruction.
  • Motion For Summary Judgment
    After a lawsuit is filed, but before trial, under the law either party may file a motion claiming that there is no need for a trial because the undisputed evidence clearly shows that the party making the motion must win. If the judge agrees, the judge will enter judgment for the moving party, and there will be no trial. To defeat the motion, the opposing party must submit papers showing that(...)
  • Motion To Quash Service
    After a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff must have a proper "summons" properly served on the defendant, telling the defendant about the lawsuit and that the defendant must respond. If there is something legally wrong with the summons or the manner of service, the defendant may file a motion to "quash" service of the summons. If the judge agrees, the plaintiff will have to serve a new summons.(...)
  • Motion To Surpress
    A common motion in criminal trials wherein counsel for the defendant claims that evidence brought against the defendant was illegally obtained and therefore cannot be used against him or her. A coerced confession in violation of Miranda is one such example.
  • Municipal Court
    A lower state court with jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors. In many states a felony criminal filing will first be filed in municipal court and then subsequent to indictment be transferred to superior court for felony arraignment. Misdemeanors remain in municipal court through trial.
  • Murder
    The intentional killing of a human being with malice aforethought and without legal excuse or justification. Many states consider it murder when a killing results while in the course of a felony such as a car jacking or a robbery. Most states consider it murder when the killing results from torture, kidnapping or the death of a police officer.
  • n

  • Negligence
    The failure to use reasonable care, the result of which, has caused harm to another.
  • Net Lease
    A commercial lease under which the tenant pays most or all of the landlord's expenses (such as property taxes), so the landlord receives a "net" amount that is mostly pure profit.
  • NLRB
    Abbreviation of the federal National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB's main office is in Washington, D.C., but the NLRB also has "regional" offices in many other cities. The NLRB enforces federal laws governing labor relations between employers and unions and union workers.
  • No Contest
    A defendant's plea not contesting the criminal charges. This is called a plea of nolo contendere and is essentially the same as a guilty plea. While technically not an admission of guilt as to the commission of the crime, the punishment is identical. Such a plea is made in cases where there is pending civil liability. For this reason many states will not permit a no contest plea where there(...)
  • No Fault Insurance
    A system of automobile insurance where one collects from his or her own insurance company regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
  • Nolo Contendere
    The Latin term for a defendant's plea of not contesting the criminal charges. It is essentially the same as a guilty plea. While technically not an admission of guilt as to the commission of the crime, the punishment is identical. Such a plea is made in cases where there is pending civil liability. For this reason many states will not permit a no contest plea where there has been injury as a(...)
  • Non-Dischargeable Debt
    Any obligation that cannot be wiped out in bankruptcy.
  • Non-Exempt Property
    Property that a debtor loses in bankruptcy. A debtor who files a Chapter 13 plan must pay creditors at least as much as the value of the nonexempt property.
  • Non-Immigrant Visa
    A travel document allowing a person to seek admission at a U.S. port of entry to be admitted for a definite period of time.
  • Non-Modifiable Order
    A court order that cannot be modified by the court regardless of any change in the circumstances of the parties. Some spousal support orders are non modifiable, generally by agreement of the parties.
  • Notice To Appear
    A document issued by the immigration court directing the person to appear for a hearing at a specific time and location, to determine whether the person should be admitted or removed from the U.S. This document is referred to as an "NTA".
  • Notice To Pay Or Quit
    A written notice given by the landlord ordering the tenant to pay overdue rent or leave the premises within a stated period of time (usually 3 days).
  • Nuisance
    A wrongful use of property that hurts the ability of neighbors to use their properties peacefully. Loud noises and noxious smells and sometimes nuisances.
  • o

  • O.R.
    The term "O.R." means being released from custody without the need for the defendant to post bail on the defendant's own promise (own recognizance) to return to court for continued criminal proceedings. See "own recognizance".
  • Obscene
    A term to describe content which is usually sexual in nature and appeals to people's "prurient interest," with no legitimate artistic, literary or scientific purpose. A Supreme Court Justice once said about obscenity: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."
  • Oligarchy
    Oligarchy Is a form of power structure in which political and social power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, and corporate control. Oligarchies are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next. Throughout history, oligarchies(...)
  • Open Adoption
    The adoption process in which the birth parents and adoptive parents know each other's identities.
  • Opening Statement
    At trial, before evidence is received, both the prosecution and the defense are allowed to tell the jury what they intend to prove over the course of the trial. The opening statement is not a time for argument, but rather a factual presentation of the case.
  • Ordinance
    A local statute legislated by a city or municipality. Most ordinances are infractions.
  • OSHA
    Abbreviation of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the government agency that enforces federal laws requiring safety standards in the workplace.
  • Overtime
    Hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. Under federal law, overtime hours generally should be paid at the rate of one and a half (1 ½ ) times a worker's regular rate of pay.
  • p

  • Pain And Suffering
    An element of general damages in most personal injury cases which allows for monetary compensation for one's pain, suffering, and emotional distress.
  • Parole
    A document allowing a person to be admitted to the U.S. on other than an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, usually to allow humanitarian admission to the U.S.
  • Paternity Action
    A lawsuit brought to determine paternity. Paternity actions can be brought by the mother and, in many states, by the District Attorney of the county in which the mother lives.
  • Pedophillia
    A sexual obsession for children. Many believe most pedophilia is a mental illness related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Many others believe it is the worst form of criminal deviance and should carry the most severe penalties possible. Everyone agrees that the harm done to children who are molested is massive and life-shattering.
  • Pendente Lite
    During the litigation. This term is generally used to describe an award of temporary support while the litigation is going on. A retirement plan that is set up by an employer for his employees.
  • Periodic Tenancy
    A rental agreement that runs from week-to-week, month-to-month, or year-to-year.
  • Perjury
    The unlawful and intentional falsification of one's testimony while under oath to tell the truth. Perjury can occur in court, administrative hearings, depositions, and even the formal acknowledgment of a written legal document such as an affidavit signed under declaration of perjury.
  • Permanent Residence
    The status of being authorized to remain in the U.S. permanently. A money judgment based on a civil wrong to an individual, such as an automobile accident. A portion of the personal injury award is exempt property that may be retained by a debtor who files bankruptcy.
  • Physical Custody
    The parent-child relationship in which the child actually resides with the parent. Compare Legal Custody, Joint Legal Custody, Joint Physical Custody.
  • Plea
    A defendant's formal response to criminal charges brought against him or her in a court of law. The procedural response to these charges can be a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. The initial plea is made at the defendant's arraignment.
  • Plea Bargain
    A negotiated settlement of a criminal matter between the defendant and his or her attorney on one side and the prosecutor on the other. It usually results in the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduction in the severity of the penalty. Courts favor plea bargains because they result in judicial expediency and predictability in the outcome of the matter.
  • Polygraph
    More commonly known as a lie detector, it is a device designed to measure physiological responses resulting from specific questions being asked of the subject. The theory being that when one lies the body reacts by increasing breath and heart rate. While polygraphs are not allowed as evidence of guilt or innocence in a court of law, law enforcement and prosecutors have been known to rely on(...)
  • Pornography
    The visual and auditory display of sexual activity intended solely to excite sexually with no redeeming social or artistic value. The publication, sale and distribution of child pornography is a serious felony. Under federal law, possession of child pornography and trading such pornography with others carry a minimum federal prison sentence of five years. State laws vary significantly from(...)
  • Possession Of Stolen Property
    The unlawful possession of goods known to have been stolen. It is generally considered a felony.
  • Post Mortem
    It usually refers to the physical condition of a person after death. In criminal investigations the medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine not only the cause of death, but the time and likely conditions surrounding the death.
  • Power Of Attorney
    A legal document in which an individual designates another individual to act on his or her behalf. The power of attorney can be very broad, or can be restricted to one type of act (for example, signing checks). Get A Free Power Of Attorney Form For Your State.
  • Preemptory Challenge
    Jury selection is a vital part of the right to a fair trial. In a criminal jury trial it is the right of either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer to remove a juror from sitting on the jury. When this is done for a justified reason such as prejudice, the basis of the challenge is for cause. If the juror is removed without cause it is called a peremptory challenge. Typically each side is(...)
  • Pregnancy Descrimination
    Pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because she is pregnant.
  • Preliminary Hearing
    A formal hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the accused over to answer felony charges. The burden of proof is minimal. The prosecution normally presents only enough evidence and testimony to show the probability of guilt. The preliminary hearing is heard by a judge rather then a grand jury.
  • Premises Liability
    A formal hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to hold the accused over to answer felony charges. The burden of proof is minimal. The prosecution normally presents only enough evidence and testimony to show the probability of guilt. The preliminary hearing is heard by a judge rather then a grand jury.
  • Prenuptial Agreement
    A written agreement made by people who intend to get married, in which property rights, support rights, and other rights and obligations are set out. This agreement is sometimes referred to as a premarital agreement and in most states are enforceable.
  • Preponderance Of Evidence
    What the plaintiff's burden is in a personal injury claim. Generally, this means proof, by more than 50%, that the defendant was legally responsible for an injury.
  • Presidential Executive Order
    Executive Orders are Presidential decrees that have the force and effect of law. Presidential orders do not require prior consent or ratification from Congress, Judiciary, or the People of the United States. Executive Orders can dismantle or rescind prior presidential executive orders and many legal scholars argue, by doing so, effectively make new law. Executive Orders, however, can be(...)
  • Presumption Of Innocence
    The fundamental right of a person accused of a crime. The defendant is always presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. The prosecution must carry the burden of proving a defendant guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.
  • Prima Facie
    A Latin term describing the bare minimum allowed to prove a case against a defendant. In a criminal prosecution all the elements of a crime must be proved by the prosecution. Also, a prima facie case presented to a Grand Jury will result in an indictment.
  • Privilege Against Self Incrimination
    The constitutional right to refuse being compelled to testify in a court of law if that testimony can later be used against that person in a criminal proceeding.
  • Privileges And Immunities
    In the U.S. Constitution it provides under Article IV that citizens of each state shall be entitled to the same privileges and protections provided to the citizens in that state. The 14th Amendment specifically provides: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
  • Probable Cause
    That amount of proof necessary before law enforcement can stop, search or arrest a criminal suspect. It is that degree of belief necessary which will cause law enforcement to say that under the totality of the circumstances a crime has been or is about to be committed. Probable cause is often more subjective then objective.
  • Probation
    Probation is totally discretionary and is granted by a judge to a person convicted of a crime. Probation allows that person to avoid incarceration in exchange for agreeing to comply with the terms and conditions of probation. Examples of probation terms can include making restitution to the victim and attending rehabilitation. Probation often requires that the person violate no law. A(...)
  • Product Liability
    An area of law which holds manufacturers, designers and other makers of products responsible for defective products.
  • Proof
    Evidence used in a civil, criminal or administrative hearing which tends to prove a fact in controversy. Proof can be testimony, expert opinion, and physical evidence. Evidence that is not admissible, cannot be used to determine cvil or criminal liability. Proof can be presented as direct or circumstantial evidence. Both forms of evidence, if admitted, carry the weight of legal proof.
  • Prosecute
    The decision to prosecute is made by the prosecutor. The attorney and resources that represent the government in bringing formal criminal charges against a person accused of a crime.
  • Protective Custody
    The placing of a person in government control so as to protect that person from threats of danger. Protective custody is sometimes used to help a child who has been threatened or abused by his parents.
  • Public Benefits
    Public assistance programs of the federal or state governments.
  • Public Defender
    The public official regularly assigned by the courts to defend people accused of crimes who cannot afford a private attorney.
  • Public Housing
    Housing owned by a local government agency (usually called a "housing authority") and rented out to low-income people at rents below market rates. This program is subsidized by the federal government, through HUD.
  • Punitive Damages
    If the plaintiff in a lawsuit proves that the defendant acted "maliciously" or with fraud, the court might allow an award of "punitive" damages to punish the defendant and to set an example to other people who might be thinking of doing something similar. This is over and above compensation for the actual damages suffered by the defendant. Same as "exemplary" damages.
  • Putative Spouse
    A person in an invalid marriage who believes in good faith that he or she is legally married.
  • q

  • Qualified Domestic Relations Order
    A court order that satisfies the requirements of federal law and allows support payments to be made from an employee's retirement plan to the spouse or child to whom support is owed.
  • Quash
    A judicial term used to set aside or conclude an otherwise lawful motion or subpoena thereby eliminating its legal effect and force.
  • Quasi Community Property
    Property acquired in a non-community property state that would have been community property if acquired in a community property state. If the spouses move to a community property state, that state may for some purposes treat such property as if it were true community property.
  • Question Of Fact
    The trier of fact determines the truth and weight of all evidence submitted in a criminal trial. In a trial by jury the trier of fact is the jury. In a non-jury trial it is the judge. Questions of fact are all factual issues that must be determined in order to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of fact should be distinguished from questions of law which rest in(...)
  • Question Of Law
    Questions of law are determined only by the judge. They are distinguished from questions of fact which are usually, but not always, determined by the jury as fact finders. Questions of law are legal issues that must be determined in order to proceed with the prosecution of the defendant. Questions of law include interpretation of statutes and case law as well as legal rulings on issues of(...)
  • r

  • R.I.C.O.
    A federal law otherwise known as the "Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization" act. It was originally intended to crack down on criminal conspiracies and actions which used otherwise lawful enterprises to hide the underpinnings of criminal activity. Over the years, the law was expanded to use criminal conspiracies to implicate vicariously others not directly linked to the center of a(...)
  • R.V. Classifications
    Recreational Vehicles Class “A” Recreational Vehicles Class A recreational vehicles are motor homes, regardless of the type of chassis beneath them and whether or not the vehicle contains “slide-outs” which allows for additional living space when the vehicle is stopped for camping. Class “B” Recreational Vehicles Class B recreational vehicles are campervans. Campervans are conventional(...)
  • Race Descrimination
    Race discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because of the employee's race or because of a characteristic that is related to the employee's race.
  • Ransom
    The money or valuable consideration demanded by a kidnapper for the release of the person kidnapped.
  • Reasonable Accomodation
    A "reasonable accommodation" is a change or modification to a job that makes it easier for an employee with a disability to do the job.
  • Reasonable Doubt
    The most crucial element to the prosecutor's burden of proof. The prosecutor must prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. Ultimately the jury must be convinced of the defendant’s guilt without material doubt. However the doubt must be reasonable, not created by a clever and skilled lawyer.
  • Rebuttal
    The collection of evidence and argument offered in response to an opposing attorney’s evidence and argument.
  • Reckless Driving
    The dangerous and careless operation of a motor vehicle such that it creates a substantial certainty that harm will ensue from the circumstances. Most common forms of such behavior involve driving while impaired from alcohol or drugs.
  • Refugee Visa
    A travel document issued to a refugee allowing him to seek admission to the U.S.
  • Regugee
    A person outside his country or place of last residence who has established a well founded fear of persecution on account of political opinion, race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group. A refugee will not necessarily be allowed to come to the U.S. unless he fits into a designated category of persons who should be admitted. A refugee admitted to the U.S. may seek(...)
  • Release Of Claims
    A "release" of claims is a written document, signed by an employee that gives up legal claims the employee may have against the employer. An employee might be required to sign a release of claims in exchange for a severance package.
  • Relevancy
    Only relevant evidence can be admitted in a trial. Evidence is relevant if it tends to prove or disprove a fact in controversy at trial.
  • Relief From Judgment
    A court order relieving a party from the effect of a judgment (generally for support or property distribution) based on such things as fraud, duress, perjury, and the like.
  • Religious Discrimination
    Religious discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because of the employee's religious beliefs. Under certain circumstances, the employer may be required to accommodate the employee's beliefs - as long as that accommodation does not cause a hardship for the employer.
  • Remand
    A high court's review of a lower court’s decision on a matter such that it results in the case being sent back to the trial court for purposes of correcting a legal deficiency or because the high court did not have proper jurisdiction to hear the matter.
  • Rent Control Law
    A law (usually enacted by a city, but sometimes by a county or state) that limits the amount by which a landlord may raise rents.
  • Repossession
    A secured creditor taking possession of the collateral when the debtor defaults.
  • Request For Admissions
    As part of the "discovery" process, either party to a lawsuit may serve on the other party written requests to admit certain facts, in order to save time at trial. Admissions will then be admitted into evidence at the trial.
  • Request For Production Of Documents
    As part of the "discovery" process, either party to a lawsuit may serve on the other party a written request for production of specified documents, such as promissory notes and sales contracts.
  • Resisting Arrest
    Once arrested, legally or not, one must comply with the arrest and be taken into custody. The physical resistance to an arrest is a crime even if the arrest was not supported by probable cause or was the result of mistaken identity.
  • Restraining Order
    A court order preventing parties from engaging in certain conduct, such as harassing each other or disposing of marital assets.
  • Retaliatory Eviction
    An eviction motivated by the landlord's desire to punish the tenant for the tenant's exercise of some right protected by law.
  • Retaliatory Termination
    A firing of an employee motivated by the employer's desire to punish the employee for the employee's exercise of some right protected by law (also known as "retaliatory discharge").
  • Reversal
    A high court’s decision to reverse the outcome at the trial court such that the case must be tried over or the criminal action dismissed. This will happen when the reviewing court finds an error of law or substantial prejudice in the proceedings.
  • Right To Sue Letter - EEOC
    The letter issued by the EEOC that gives a worker permission to file a discrimination lawsuit against his employer in federal court.
  • Robbery
    The unlawful taking of property from a person through force, threat or intimidation. Robbery is a considered an aggravated felony when it is accompanied with a dangerous weapon such as a gun. Such a felony is punishable by state or federal prison.
  • s

  • Scienter
    Latin for "willful" conduct. The focus is on whether the defendant actually had criminal intent. Criminal intent is a necessary element for all crime.
  • Search And Seizure
    An intrusive search of a person’s residence, business, person or vehicle by law enforcement. A legal search and seizure must be based on probable cause that a crime was committed or is in the process of being committed. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution provides: "The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and(...)
  • Search Warrant
    A judicial declaration in writing granting permission to law enforcement to search and seize identifiable evidence at a specific time and place. The search warrant must be supported by probable cause. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifies: "…no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched(...)
  • Second Degree Murder
    The killing of a human being without malice or premeditation. Most states have specific statutory distinctions between murder in the first degree and second degree. Murder in the first degree is usually a killing that was premeditated and was particularly malicious.
  • Secured Debt
    A secured debt is one in which the debt has been collateralized by something of value which exceeds or is equal to the value of the debt. Examples of a secured debt is a car loan in which the creditor upon the borrowers default on the loan may repossess the vehicle. Another example is a home mortgage where the mortgage loan is secured by the home itself. A unsecured debt leaves the creditor(...)
  • Sedition
    Similar to treason, sedition is intentional insurrection and rebellion against the government. Sedition also applies to actions which support and aid the enemy in times of war.
  • Self Defense
    Self-defense is a common defense to assault, battery or homicide. It is interpreted to mean that degree of reasonable force necessary to protect oneself from physical harm. Self-defense cannot include killing or great bodily harm to defend property, unless it also threatens to harm that person. A common example is self-defense during the commission of a burglary.
  • Self Help Eviction
    Acts by a landlord to evict a tenant, other than through an eviction lawsuit. Such acts might consist of changing locks, turning off utilities, or removing doors or windows. In most instances, self-help evictions are illegal.
  • Self Incrimination
    The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that one cannot "be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…". It is unlawful for law enforcement or government to compel a person to testify against his or her legal interest under oath or force another to produce evidence which tends to prove his or her guilt.
  • Separate Property
    Non-marital property. Generally, separate property includes property owned before marriage as well as property acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance to only one spouse. "Separate property" can also refer to the system of marital property ownership that is followed by non-community property states.
  • Sequester
    To keep separate or apart. In so-called "high-profile" criminal prosecutions (involving major crimes, events or persons given wide publicity) the jury is sometimes "sequestered" in a hotel without access to news media, the general public or their families except under supervision, in order to prevent the jury from being "tainted" by information or opinions about the trial outside of the(...)
  • Service Of Process
    Notification to a party that a lawsuit has been brought against him or her, normally by personally delivering a summons and a copy of the complaint.
  • Severance Package
    Money and/or other benefits that an employer may offer to a terminated employee to temporarily offset the employee's job loss. Also known as a "separation package".
  • Sex Offender
    Generic term for all persons convicted of crimes involving sex, including rape, molestation, and pornography. Once convicted as a sex offender many states require the sex offender to register as such within the city and state in which the offender resides. The registration is public information and therefore is readily accessible on the Internet. See Megans Law  Megan's Law requires(...)
  • Sexual Assault
    Unlawful sexual intercourse with another without consent. Most forms of rape are executed with force or threat of force. Rape can also be done through trick or deceit. This would include drugging a person into sexual submission. In either case, the major element to prove is the lack of consent. Statutory rape occurs when a person has sexual intercourse with an underage minor. It is(...)
  • Sexual Harassment - Hostile Work Environment
    Sexual harassment occurs when there is a "hostile work environment" - which is "severe or pervasive" unwelcome sexual conduct related to the workplace, such as sex jokes, posters or flyers that make fun of women, unwanted touching, requests for sexual favors, comments about a person's body or sexuality, or actual sexual assault or rape. Sex harassment also occurs when an employer denies an(...)
  • Sexual Orientation Descrimination
    Sexual orientation discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because the employee is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. In 2015, federal law enacted broad protections to employees from employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation including a person that is gay, lesbian, or transgender.
  • Situs
    Latin for "location." This usually refers to where the crime occurred. Situs can often determine where the court allows jurisdiction of the matter.
  • Small Claims Court
    The trial court for cases with relatively modest sums in dispute. As of 2016, most state small claims courts limit their jurisdictional amount in controversey in amounts that do not exceed $10,000. Some much less. Attorneys are not allowed to appear in small claims court.
  • Social Security Benefits
    Compensation from the federal government for retirement, death, or disability. It is exempt property in bankruptcy.
  • Social Security Disability Benefits
    Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death. Federal law requires this very strict definition of disability. While some government programs offer money to people with partial disability or short-term disability, Social Security does not. There are two ways that injured people can(...)
  • Sodomy
    Anal copulation by force and without consent.
  • Special Appearence
    The representation by an attorney at court that he or she appears specially for the defendant for this appearance only. A special appearance will not obligate the attorney past that one appearance. A special appearance is different from a "general appearance" in which the attorney is committed to represent the client in all future proceedings in that matter.
  • Speedy Trial
    In criminal prosecutions, the right of a defendant to demand that trial commence within a specified time from the date of incarceration. To hold a defendant in jail without trial is a violation of the "due process" provision of the Fifth Amendment. Charges must be dismissed and the defendant released if the period expires without trial.
  • Spousal Support Order
    A court order that one spouse pay money to the other spouse for his or her support either during the divorce proceeding or after the divorce has been granted.
  • States Rights
    Under our political doctrine of Federalism, there is a legal separation between individual state rights to legislate on a state-by-state basis verses federal law which may preempt (override) state law where there is a conflict between  federal law and the inherent right of states to legislate on its own. One such example is the growing legalization and regulation of the use and sale of(...)
  • Status Conference
    A pre-trial meeting before a judge in which the prosecutor and the defense lawyer meet to confer about the evidence, exchange exhibits and schedule the structure of the upcoming trial.
  • Statute Of Limitations
    A law prescribing time limitations on the right to bring a lawsuit. Failure to bring the lawsuit within the prescribed time will result in dismissal of the case on the grounds the suit is time-barred. For example, in California, the prescribed time to bring a lawsuit for personal injuries is two years from the date of the incident. Statutes of limitation are strictly enforced.
  • Statutory Rape
    The sexual intercourse of an adult with another below the legal age of majority. In almost all states the age of majority is 18 or older.
  • Stipulation
    An agreement between the parties (and usually their lawyers) made in court and presented to the judge, who will make an order based on the matters agreed to. For example, if the parties stipulate to a certain amount of spousal support, the court will make an order consistent with that stipulation.
  • Stop And Frisk
    The lawful search for a concealed weapon by patting down a person who is suspected of a crime. The objective is to protect the officer from concealed weapons. Outside of a "pat down," any further search by law enforcement requires a warrant or sufficient probable cause.
  • Strict Liability
    A theory of law which holds certain sellers and manufacturers liable for products that cause harm without requiring the plaintiff to prove negligence on the part of the seller or manufacturer.
  • Structured Settlement
    An agreement wherein one party agrees to pay a sum of money over a period of time to settle a case as opposed to a lump sum payment.
  • Subornation Of Perjury
    The crime of encouraging, influencing or assisting another to commit perjury.
  • Subpoena
    A court order demanding a witness to appear in court to testify. A subpoena can also include a demand to produce documents and records at the time of trial.
  • t

  • Tax Evasion
    The intentional defrauding of the government of taxes legally owed. Evasion is distinguished from the lawful interpretation of tax rules which can be challenged by either the government or the taxpayer.
  • Temporary Conservator
    In Conservatorship cases, especially matters involving the elderly, if there is an urgent need to immediately care for the health and safety of the elder, the court may appoint a Temporary Conservator until a General Conservator can be appointed by the court.
  • Tenancy In Common
    A form of owning property by more than one person, in which each person owns an undivided interest in the whole property. Unlike joint tenancy, the interests do not have to be equal, and upon the death of a tenant in common, his or her interest does not pass automatically to the co-tenants, but is disposed of in the same way as all other property.
  • Tenant At Will
    A person who occupies property with the landlord's permission with no clear agreement as to how long the tenant may stay. The law will usually allow either party to terminate a tenancy at will on 30 days written notice.
  • Tenant Holdover
    A person who entered into occupancy of property with the landlord's permission but now occupies it illegally (e.g., because the lease has expired).
  • Testimony
    The answering of questions or making of statements in a court of law under oath in a criminal or civil proceeding. The witness testifies under penalty of perjury. A witness is subject to direct and cross-examination by the trial attorney.
  • Theft
    Crimes of larceny. Larceny is the unlawful and intentional taking of another person’s property with the intent to deprive that person of said property permanently. Larceny can be done by fraud, force or threat of force. In many states, the value of the property will dictate whether the crime will be charged as grand theft or petty theft.
  • Three Strikes
    Many states have enacted laws which make life terms mandatory for offenders who have been convicted of three or more dangerous felonies. The societal goal behind "three strike laws" is to stamp out the presence of violent repeat offenders.
  • Time Served
    That length of time the criminal defendant has been in jail while awaiting trial. Often a judge will give a defendant credit for the "waiting time" served when sentencing.
  • Title
    Ownership of property as shown by the name on an appropriate document. Title to property may be held by either spouse, by both spouses, or by a spouse and other individuals. Titled property can be both real (land, a house) or personal (stock certificates, bank accounts, etc.).
  • Title VII
    The section of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits certain types of discrimination in the workplace, such as racial or national origin discrimination. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Tort
    A civil wrong which injures another - for example, an automobile accident where one of the drivers is negligent.
  • Tracing
    The method of determining whether property possessed at the time of the divorce was purchased with marital or non-marital property.
  • Trade Secret
    Confidential company information that an employee knows about only because the employee worked for the employer. For information to be a "trade secret," the employer must make sure that the information doesn't become generally available to the public.
  • Transmutation
    Changing, by agreement, the nature of property owned by spouses. Separate property of one spouse might be "transmuted" into separate property of the other or into community property, and community property might "transmuted" into the separate property of either spouse.
  • Trespasser
    A person who enters upon property without the permission of the person who is entitled to possession. (A landlord who enters a tenant's apartment without permission of the tenant or authority of state law is a trespasser.)
  • Trial
    The formal judicial proceeding by which a person is judged guilty or not guilty. The proceeding is guided by rules of evidence and procedure to safeguard against unfair prejudice. All issues surrounding rules and procedure are decided by the judge exclusively. A jury decides all questions of fact. Sometimes, in court trials without a jury the judge is both the finder of fact and law.
  • Trustee
    The person in charge of a bankruptcy. In an ordinary Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the trustee's duty is to gather and sell the debtor's non-exempt property and divide the sales proceeds among creditors. In a Chapter 13 wage earner's plan, the trustee's duty is to make the payments to creditors as specified in the plan.
  • u

  • U.S. Constitution
    The U.S. Constitution was originally adopted in the convention of September 17, 1787. It was thereafter ratified by the states and amended 27 times. It is the legal foundation made up of our nations cherished first principles from which all decisions by our courts including the Supreme Court are based. It is also the legal premise from which our individual rights are given the force of law.(...)
  • UCCJA
    Common name for the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, which sets out the law when more than one state is involved in a custody dispute.
  • UIFSA
    Common name for the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which in many states has replaced URESA as the basis for interstate enforcement of support orders.
  • Ultimate Fact
    At trial, evidence is considered an ultimate fact if its existence is necessary to prove a required element of the crime. A foundation of facts must often be established before the court will allow an ultimate fact to be introduced into evidence. The mere statement by a witness that "John is a crook" is not sufficient to prove John committed a larceny.
  • Unconscionable Contract
    An agreement that is so grossly unfair that no sensible person would be likely to have entered into it unless that person were acting under duress or was unaware of the agreement's provisions.
  • Unconstitutional
    That governmental action, law or police conduct which violates the fundamental principles of the constitution. The ultimate determination of constitutionality is the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits
    Payments made by a state agency to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
  • Uniform Commercial Code
    The Uniform Commercial Code, or UCC, is considered the model rules governing the sale of goods between merchants, and between merchants and consumers. The UCC contains nine major sections known as Articles: They Include: Article 1: General Provisions Article 2: Sales And Leases Article 3: Negotiable Instruments Article 4: Bank Deposits, Collections, &Transfers Article 5:(...)
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage
    Automobile insurance coverage allowing for recovery when one is injured due to the negligence of a person without liability insurance coverage.
  • Unlawful Detainer - UD Action
    A lawsuit filed by a landlord to evict the tenant.
  • Unlawful Detainer Action
    A special type of legal landlord remedy, often referred to a UD action, which allow a landlord to evict a tenant after personally serving  the tenant with a three-day "pay or quit" notice. This lawsuit is designed to give the landlord a speedy remedy and prevents a tenant holdover. However, the proceeding can be interrupted and delayed if the tenant files for bankruptcy before the eviction(...)
  • Unsecured Debt
    Any debt that is not secured by collateral.
  • URESA
    Common name for the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, which establishes procedures for interstate enforcement of support orders.
  • v

  • Vagrancy
    This is better known as loitering or causing a public nuisance. Vagrancy is typically the product of poverty and mental illness. This has been constitutionally challenged on the basis that it should not be a crime to be homeless.
  • Vehicular Manslaughter
    The unintentional killing of a human being by the reckless use of an automobile. Most criminal charges are based on impaired driving as the result of drug and/or alcohol use.
  • Venue
    The proper court or venue in a criminal case is the judicial district or county in which the crime was committed. In certain criminal matters where the crime received substantial publicity, the defense lawyer may motion the court for a change in venue. The motion is based on the argument that the defendant could not receive a fair trial in the county in which the crime took place because(...)
  • Verdict
    At the conclusion of a trial the defendant will receive the decision of the jury regarding the defendant’s guilt or innocence. The trial court, when it acts as the trier of fact, can also render a verdict. All verdicts are subject to appeal and review by a higher court.
  • Veterans Benefits And Descrimination
    Compensation from the government for previous military service. Such benefits are exempt property in bankruptcy. Veteran status discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee differently because of the employee's military veteran status.
  • Visa
    A travel document allowing a person to seek admission to a country. A visa may be in the form of an immigrant visa, a nonimmigrant visa, or a refugee visa. Sometimes a visa can be obtained through the Visa Lottery system which is a annual lottery conducted to allow the admission of a limited number of persons from certain designated countries as immigrants.
  • Visitation Rights
    Rights granted to the spouse who does not have physical custody of the child to spend specified periods of time with the child. Visitation rights are sometimes granted to other relatives, such as grandparents.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
    Training that is paid for by an employer or workers' compensation insurance company for a worker whose on-the-job injury prevents him from going back to his old job.
  • Void And Voidable Mariages
    A void marriage invalid as a matter of law. For example, a marriage between brother and sister is invalid from its inception and is void. A voidable marriage is a marriage in which one or more requirements was not met, but which remains valid until a court annuls it. For example, a marriage entered into by persons younger than the legal age is voidable, but it remains a valid marriage(...)
  • Voir Dire
    French for "speak the truth." It is the formal questioning of prospective jurors to determine if they could be fair and follow the law as it relates to their judgments and predispositions. Prospective jurors are asked to speak the truth about their ideas and feelings relative to the crime they must judge. If the juror is so biased or has such prejudice that he or she could not be fair and(...)
  • w

  • Wage Assignment And Garnishment
    Wage Assignment A legal procedure by which a portion of a spouse's wages are paid directly to the other spouse for alimony or child support. In some states, this is called an "earnings withholding order" or a "wage garnishment." Wage Garnishment A manner of debt collection whereby the sheriff takes up to 25% of a debtor's paycheck and forwards it to a creditor who has a court judgment(...)
  • Wage Earners Plan
    A "Chapter 13" filing with the bankruptcy court that allows the debtor to keep all of his property while attempting to repay debts in full or in part over a three-year period.
  • Warrant
    A judicially backed order directing law enforcement to arrest or search the person or premises of a suspect. A warrant must be based on declaration establishing a specific factual basis for probable cause that a crime was committed or in the process of being committed.
  • Wet Reckless Alchohol Related Driving
    Alcohol-related reckless driving. In many states it is used as a plea bargain rather than pleading guilty to drunk driving. Such a plea is used where the blood alcohol level is less than the legal limit. The punishment usually does not include community service or incarceration.
  • White Collar Crime
    A category of crimes committed under the guise of legitimate business affairs. Usually it involves fraud, stock market manipulation, embezzlement and other forms of dishonest business practices
  • Withdrawal Of Counsel
    A criminal defense attorney can withdraw from representation of a client for due cause only and with court permission. Not getting paid is not considered good cause. In some states, an attorney can make a special appearance at arraignment for the purpose of limiting the representation to that one hearing. Good cause is any situation in which the attorney believes that further representation(...)
  • Writ Of Possession - Eviction
    A court order commanding a sheriff or marshal to physically evict a tenant within a specified number of days (usually about 5). A writ of possession will be issued only after a judgment has been entered.
  • Wrongful Death
    A cause of action by the heirs and/or loved ones of a person killed by the negligence of another.
  • Wrongful Eviction
    A lawsuit filed by a tenant against a former landlord who used self-help or other illegal methods to evict a tenant.
  • Wrongful Termination
    A lawsuit filed by an employee against a former employer who used illegal methods to terminate an employee. Also known as a "wrongful discharge lawsuit."
  • x

  • X-Ray
    Diagnostic tool physicians use in personal injury cases to determine whether the injury includes any fractures or breaks in bone or cartlidge which can indicate a serious injury especially if the spine canal has been compromised.
  • Xanax
    Xanax is the  brand name for the generic drug alprazolam. Xanax belongs to a family of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Xanax acts on the brain and central nervous system to produce a calming effect while reducing nervous tension and anxiety. Xanax is commonly used for the treatment of anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, and is also taken for generalized anxiety disorders. Try(...)
  • y

  • Year To Year Lease
    An agreement between a landlord and tenant that permits either party to terminate the agreement or change the terms (including rent) by giving the other party prior written notice at least one year before the date of termination or change of terms.
  • z

  • Zoloft And Marijuana
    Zoloft (Serotonin) Zoloft is one of the most commonly used medications to treat depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic-attacks. According to a 2017 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, marijuana use while under the influence of  marijuana may be contraindicated for people suffering from panic disorder and anxiety. Combining Zoloft with marijuana may also(...)
  • Zoning
    Zoning Legally sanctioned municipal, state and federal laws used to manage and regulate the use and character of real property.