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Glossary of Legal Terms
Last Updated: October 13, 2015

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To find a particular term on this page, navigate to the section
by using the linked alphabet above.

How many criminal offenses are there?
What are examples of criminal cases?

Here are further guidelines.
Action A dispute taken to court to be settled. Same as "case," "suit" and "lawsuit" when used in the courtroom context.
Affiant Someone who makes and signs an affidavit.
Affidavit A written statement of fact, signed and sworn to in front of a notary or a person who has the right to administer an oath.

A written statement made under oath and notarized by a Notary Public. Affidavits are no longer required in Washington. Instead the courts use Declarations (see definition below).
Advocate Someone who speaks on behalf of another, frequently a lawyer or paralegal.
Amendment An addition or modification that changes something such as a law, rule or contract.
Appeal A request to change a decision.
Appearance Informing the court of your whereabouts, either in person at a Court hearing or in writing by filling out a Notice of Appearance form.
Arbitration A process where the people in a dispute agree to allow a third person not a judge to decide their disagreement.

Binding Voluntary Arbitration:  A process in which the disputing parties choose a neutral person to hear their dispute and resolve it by rendering a final and binding decision or award.  Arbitration is an adversarial, adjudicative process designed to resolve the specific issues submitted by the parties.  Arbitration differs significantly from litigation in that (1) it does not require conformity with the legal rules of evidence and procedure, (2) there is flexibility in timing and choice of decision makers, and (3) the proceeding is conducted in private rather than in a public forum.  Binding arbitration awards are usually enforceable by courts, absent defects in the arbitration procedure.

Mandatory Non-binding Arbitration:   Describes court-annexed arbitration programs.  Court-appointed arbitrators hear cases subject to jurisdictional limits set by each county.  The losing party has the right to a trial de novo (new trial) in the trial court.

Arrest warrant What is an Arrest Warrant?
When do the police need a warrant to make an arrest?
What are various examples?
Is an arrest warrant the same thing as a bench warrant?
When can a person be arrested without a warrant?

Arrest With a Warrant
Arrest Without Warrant
Bench Warrants
Fugitive Warrants
Search Warrants

What is an Arrest Warrant?
An arrest warrant is a document issued by a judge or magistrate that authorizes the police to take someone accused of a crime into custody.

An arrest warrant is an order that permits law enforcement officials to detain a person who is suspected of a crime. It can only be issued after the recording of a sworn statement by a victim of the crime, a police officer, or a district attorney.
An arrest warrant is an official document, signed by a judge (or magistrate), which authorizes a police officer to arrest the person or people named in the warrant.

The warrant also gives an actual notice to the person or persons being arrested about the charges pressed.

Law enforcement officers may arrive at your home or workplace to make an arrest. You will then be brought to jail and go to court before a judge.

When do the police need a warrant to make an arrest?
An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a judge or magistrate on behalf of the state, which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual, or the search and seizure of an individual's property.

Before an arrest warrant is issued, an investigation by law enforcement is conducted. It may include a sworn statement from a district attorney, police officers or the alleged victim.

What are various examples?
An arrest warrant has been issued against Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina, according to the public prosecutor's office.
September 3, 2015, 6:38 PM
Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina resigns in face of arrest warrant

Is an arrest warrant the same thing as a bench warrant?
An arrest warrant and a bench warrant are not one in the same. An arrest warrant is issued by a judge for an arrest of a person that has committed a crime. A bench warrant is issued by a judge for the arrest of a person because they failed to appear at a required court hearing. A bench warrant allows law enforcement officials the ability to arrest the suspect at their residence, their place of work, or anywhere else they are sighted.

Arrest without warrant

When can a person be arrested without a warrant?
On View Arrests: An officer can arrest an individual if the officer views that individual committing any crime in the officer's presence or within the officer's view. For an officer to use this type of arrest, the officer must view some part of the crime and play some role in the arrest.

For example, if a felony or misdemeanor crime is committed in police presence, they can legally arrest you on the spot without a warrant.

Here are further facts.

Bench warrant

A bench warrant is a variant of an arrest warrant that authorizes the immediate on-sight arrest of the individual subject to the bench warrant.

Outstanding arrest warrant

An outstanding arrest warrant is an arrest warrant that has not been served. A warrant may be outstanding if the person named in the warrant is intentionally evading law enforcement, unaware that there is a warrant out for him/her, the agency responsible for executing the warrant has a backlog of warrants to serve, or a combination of these factors.


A mittimus is a writ issued by a court or magistrate, directing the sheriff or other executive officer to convey the person named in the writ to a prison or jail, and directing the jailor to receive and imprison the person.
Attorney of Record An attorney who has filed either a Notice of Appearance or any court papers in the case.
Allegations Statements against one party which the other party is prepared to prove.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) A process to resolve a dispute in lieu of traditional litigation e.g. mediation, arbitration or settlement conferences.
Arbitrator An attorney selected to hear a case and settle the legal dispute without a formal trial.
Assistant Judge See Judge in this Glossary.

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Bailiff Courtroom attendant responsible for keeping order in the courtroom and supervising the jury.
Breach A failure to carry out an agreement or legal obligation.
Brief Written statement explaining facts of a case and laws that apply.
Calendar The court's schedule of cases to be heard, also called a Docket.
Caption The heading of each legal document that contains the name of the court, the names of the parties, the case number, and the name of the document itself.
Case Schedule A printed schedule issued by the court in some counties showing major dates and deadlines in your case.
Cease and Desist Stop
Case Lawsuit, suit or action being resolved through the court system.
Case Law Law composed of previous written decisions of appellate courts.
Case Number A number assigned by the court to identify your specific case.
Certified Copy A copy of a paper which has been signed and certified as a true copy by the officer in whose custody the original is entrusted.
Capital offense A crime punishable by death.
Counsel Legal advice; a term also used to refer to the lawyers in a case.
Count An allegation in an indictment or information, charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.
Civil Action or Suit A non-criminal case concerning the claim of one individual or entity against another.
Civil Law Area of law that deals with disputes between individuals, not involving crimes.
Claim Legal and factual grounds for a court to grant relief.
Complaint Legal paper telling the court and the defendant what the plaintiff’s claims are. This document is filed with the court at the beginning of a case.
Conclusions of Law The decision made by the judge by applying the law to the facts of the case.
Contested Case An action in which the defendant opposes the relief sought by the plaintiff.
Continuance Postponement of a court hearing.
Contract An agreement that may be enforceable through a court action.
Counsel See Lawyer or Attorney at Law in this Glossary.
Counterclaim A claim asserted by a defendant against the plaintiff.
Court Reporter A person who records courtroom proceedings in order to be able to produce a transcript of the proceeding.
Courtroom Clerk Person in charge of making and keeping the docket of court proceedings and other court records.
Crime An act forbidden by law and punishable by fine, probation, imprisonment or death.
Default Failure to respond to a lawsuit.
Default Order (Order of Default) An Order that is entered after a party fails to respond to court papers within the designated time.
Deferment A postponement of a responsibility to a later date.
Defendant The person against whom a lawsuit is started; sometimes this person is called a respondent.
Delinquent Act An act committed by a juvenile that if committed by an adult would be a crime.
Denial An answer to a complaint in which the defendant denies the allegations made by the plaintiff.
Department of Economic Security (DES) The agency in ________ responsible for overseeing ________ coordinate their activities.
Deponent Someone who gives a deposition.
Deposition Testimony taken orally or in writing outside of a courtroom by question and answer under oath. It may be read in court and may be admitted by the judge as evidence.
Discovery The procedures available to a party to a lawsuit to learn relevant facts which are known to other parties or witnesses, in order to enable the party to prepare for trial.
Docket A written list containing brief notes of all the important acts done in court in each case. The name " docket" or " trial docket" is sometimes given to the list or calendar of cases set for trial or other hearings at a specified time and date.
Docket Number A number that is given to each case as it is filed in the court. This number should be listed on all papers that are filed with the court.
Due Process of Law State Criminal Law
No person's life, liberty, or property may be taken without "due process of law."
Substantive Due Process
Procedural Due Process
Internet service by publication.
Here are further facts.
Emotional blackmail What is Emotional Blackmail?
Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten (either directly or indirectly) to punish us if we don't do what they want.

Emotional blackmail is a form of psychological manipulation in which one person attempts to coerce another into doing what he wants through the use of emotional threats and the creation of undeserved guilt. People often commit emotional blackmail by threatening to harm themselves, their victim, or someone else if the victim does not provide them with the type of attention that they want. An emotional blackmailer may also simply demonstrate strong, frightening, and inappropriate emotions if their victim makes or considers a decision that the blackmailer does not like. As a result, the victim of emotional blackmail will often give in to the blackmailer in order to avoid being subject to an emotional meltdown or being made to feel responsible for the blackmailer's threatened consequences.
Estoppel A legal bar to allowing something from happening.

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Evidence Testimony of a witness, an object or written documents submitted in court regarding the facts in a case.
Exempt Property Property that can not be taken to pay off a debt.
Exhibit Documents or papers that are attached to legal pleadings. For example, if you want to make an exhibit to the Findings of Fact form, you would attach a piece of white paper, leaving at least a one-inch margin all around, write on it in black ink, and write "Exhibit A" at the bottom. If you have more than one Exhibit, you can letter them (A, B, C) or number them (1, 2, 3). If your case goes to trial, documents, records, and photographs that are introduced into evidence are also called exhibits.
Exhibit A document or object that is offered into evidence during a trial or hearing.

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Felony A serious crime, punishable by imprisonment in a state penitentiary.  In some cases, the death penalty can be imposed.
Findings or Findings of Fact Rulings by a court as to what facts are true.
Flawed order, verdict from state court or outside state. What are examples of a flawed order or verdict from state court or outside state court?
Any order or verdict violating human rights is a flawed order or verdict from state courts or outside state courts.
Any order or verdict that can lead to community discord is a flawed order or verdict from state courts or outside state courts.
Other examples.

What are the duties of courts in the state or outside the state in these situations?
What further questions need to be answered in case of any flawed order or verdict from courts in or outside the state?

Here are further guidelines.
Forcible Entry and Detainer A special proceeding for returning possession of lands, tenements or other real property to a person who has been wrongfully kept off the land or deprived of use of the land.  This is a common proceeding used in landlord/tenant disputes, also known as eviction.

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Grand Jury A group of 12-16 citizens who usually serve a term of not more than 120 days to hear or investigate charges of criminal behavior.  TA grand jury indictment is a written accusation charging a defendant with commission of a crime.
Guardian A person appointed by the court to manage the affairs of a child or incapacitated person. Note: A guardian does not have a duty of support to the child in his/her care.
Guardian Ad Litem A person appointed by the court to represent the interests of a minor child in a divorce or parentage case. Guardians ad litem are different from attorneys in that they make a recommendation to the court about what they think is best for the child. Attorneys must tell the court what their clients (including children) want even if it is not in their best interests.

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Hearing A proceeding scheduled by the court at a particular date and time that may include presentation of evidence by the parties.

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Incorrigible Refers to a juvenile who is unmanageable by parents or guardians.  Incorrigible offenses include running away and truancy.
Indictment A formal, written accusation by a grand jury charging that a person or business committed a specific crime.
Initiating Jurisdiction/State A county, district or state in which a legal action is initiated. Used most often in reference to interstate cases.
Injunction An order of the court directing a person not to do certain things.
Interrogatories Written questions of one party, which are served on the other party, who must answer by written replies under oath.
Interstate A case which involves two or more states.
Intrastate A case which involves two or more courts within a state.
Irretrievably Broken The standard used in Arizona by the court to decide if a divorce should be granted. It means that there is no reasonable chance that the spouses will agree to stay married.
IV-A Title IV-A of the __________ Act is that portion of the _________ program.
IV-A Referral The notice (now automatically provided through computer interface) provided to IV-D by IV-A when an applicant/recipient is determined to be eligible for __________.

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Judicial Performance Review The process as required by the State Constitution to periodically review the performance of judges appointed by the governor.

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Litigant A generic term used to describe a party to a legal action. A litigant can be a plaintiff or a defendant.
Litigation A judicial contest which seeks a decision from the court.
Long-Arm Statute A statute permitting a state court to exercise jurisdiction over a non-resident.

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Magistrate See Judge in this Glossary.
Mediation A process in which the disputing parties use a third party to assist them in reaching a settlement of the dispute.  The process is private, informal, and non-binding.   The mediator has no power to impose a settlement, but rather attempts to assist the disputants in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute.
Memo in Opposition A memorandum in response to another written memorandum or written request to the court.
Memorandum A written document in support of a certain position.
Merit Selection A system for a judicial nomination commission to recommend candidates for judicial appointments to the governor.
Mini-trial A process in which each side presents its case to a neutral third party, usually one impartial advisor who has been selected by the litigants and their attorneys.   Although the process resembles a trial, the presentation is abbreviated.   Following the presentations, the parties' representatives meet, with or without the neutral third party, to negotiate a settlement.
Misdemeanor Offense less serious than a felon, punishable by a sentence other than being sent to prison.  (A.R.S. Section 13-105)
Modification Order An order of the court that alters, changes, extends, amends, limits, or reduces an earlier order of the court.
Modify To alter; to change; to extend; to amend; to limit; to reduce.
Motion A request to a court for an order granting any kind of relief.

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Notary Public A person who is legally authorized to administer oaths and verify that someone has completed an affidavit under oath.

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Oath Swearing or affirming that a statement is true. If someone makes a statement under oath and knows it is false, that person may be subjected to prosecution for perjury. Written documents as well as spoken testimony may be made under oath.
Obligee Commonly refers to the person to whom monthly support is payable.
Obligor Commonly refers to the person ordered to pay support.
Offset The reduction of a support indebtedness. (In IV-D, refers to the application of federal or state tax refund monies to child support arrearage.)
Opinion Written statement issued to report the decision of an appellate court.

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Party A person who has appeared in court in regard to an action and whose rights are subject to the court's jurisdiction.
Pass-Through The amount of a collection, full or partial, which is paid to a custodial parent, including the $50 TANF disregard.
Petit (Trial) Jury The group of people selected to decide the facts and render a verdict in a civil or criminal trial.
Petition A formal written request filed with the Clerk of the Court requesting the court to take action.
Petition for Review An application asking an appellate court to examine a ruling or decision.
Plaintiff Someone who brings an action, such as a complaint.
Plea Response of a defendant to the criminal charges stated; the plea is usually "guilty" or "not guilty."
Pleading The process by which parties file things in court, including beginning a case, responding to issues in court, and counterclaims. Eventually, only one or a few issues remain which the parties disagree on, and these are the issues that the court decides upon.
Points of Law The legal questions that a case may raise.
Precinct Geographic subdivision of city, town or county, used to describe the jurisdiction of a Justice of the Peace or for election purposes.
Pre-Filing Conference A meeting intended to resolve issues in lieu of court action.
Preliminary Hearing Court proceeding used to determine whether there is enough evidence against a person charged with a felony to proceed to trial.
Presiding Judge See Judge in this Glossary.
Probable Cause Reasonable cause; there is more evidence for an argument than against it.
Probation A conditional suspension of the sentence given by a court in a criminal case.  If the terms of probation are violated, probation may be revoked and the sentence carried out.
Pro Bono Publico "For the public good." When a lawyer takes a legal case without being paid, and without expecting payment.
Pro Per (Pro Se) A Latin phrase meaning For oneself. A person appearing without benefit of an attorney, appearing for him/herself in court.
Prosecutor Attorney representing the citizens of a particular community or the state in a criminal case.  This may be the city attorney, county attorney or attorney general.
Pro Tem A person appointed as a judicial officer on a temporary basis.

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Relief The redress or assistance awarded to a plaintiff or petitioner by the court.
Remand To send back; an appellate court may remand a case to the trial court for re-trial or other action.
Reopen Reopening of a case permits the introduction of new evidence and to permit a new trial.
Request to Find Request for written determination of facts by a judge after a trial.
Respondent The party who answers a complaint in a civil case or a party against whom an appeal is brought.
Responding Jurisdiction A county, district or state to which an interstate case is forwarded by the initiating jurisdiction for legal disposition.
Responding State See: Responding Jurisdiction
Rest A party is said to "rest" or "rest its case" when it has presented all of the evidence it intends to offer.
Retention The electoral process by which voters decide whether judges appointed by the governor will continue to serve another term in their current judicial capacity.
Return of Service A statement that a complaint or other document has been served on a party.
Reverse Decision of an appellate court to change all or part of the decision of a lower court.
Review and Adjustment In IV-D cases, a process to determine the appropriateness of the amount of support ordered to be paid and to change (modify) that amount to conform to state child support guidelines.
RURESA Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act:  a statute adopted by most states to assist in the establishment and enforcement of support obligations when parents reside in different states.

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Sentence Punishment set by the court or jury within the range of punishments authorized by statute.
Service or Service of Process The formal delivery of a petition, notice, or other papers to a party in a legal action as prescribed by court rule.
Settlement An agreement that is reached by the opposing parties making it unnecessary for the court to resolve the controversy.
Small Claims Court A court that can decide on claims up to a certain, limited dollar amount. The proceedings are in the Justice of the Peace Court and are less formal than in other types of courts and parties usually represent themselves.
Status Conference A meeting at court, in which the court attempts to identify what issues are contested, what discovery needs to be completed, and what future hearings are needed. No evidence is presented and no witnesses are called at these meetings.
Statute Law enacted by the Legislature and published in the Arizona Revised Statutes.
Statute of Limitations Refers to the period of time within which a party must begin a legal action.
Suit See Action in this Glossary.
Summary Jury Trials A process whereby a jury is selected, and counsel for each side in the dispute present their best case before the jury and judge.  The jury is empanelled by the court, and at the conclusion of the presentations, the judge gives abbreviated instructions.  The jurors return with an advisory verdict intended to educate the parties about the jury's view of the case.  Counsel and parties are usually given an opportunity to discuss the basis for the advisory verdict with the jurors.  A settlement conference is then conducted by the judge.  If no settlement is reached, the parties may proceed to trial.
Summons A document directing a sheriff or other officer to notify the person named in the summons that a lawsuit has been started against him or her in court, and that he or she must go to court on the day listed in the summons and must file an answer to the complaint.

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Testimony Statements made by witnesses who have taken an oath or affirmed that they will tell the truth.
Transcript Official written, word-for-word record of court proceedings.
Trial Formal presentation of facts to a court or jury in order to reach a legal decision.
Trial De Novo A re-trial of a case.
True Bill An indictment by a grand jury.

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Uncontested A case in which all of the issues are resolved and agreed upon by all parties; usually the parties will file a stipulation and proposed order with the court.

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Vacated A legal term meaning canceled or rescinded.

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Waiver The intentional and voluntary relinquishment of a known legal right.
Witness Person who gives testimony regarding what he/she saw or heard.
Writ A document issued by a court which compels a sheriff or other officer to do something.
Common Legal Words
World Constitution
Last Updated: October 13, 2015