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a decision of "not guilty."
a court hearing held before a judge to inform the defendant about the charges
against him/her, and his/her right to have a lawyer, and a trial. If
necessary, a lawyer is appointed during this proceeding to represent the
defendant at future court events.
a written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a
notary public or officer having the authority to administer oaths. Affidavits
are not admissible in criminal trials or hearings in lieu of testimony,
because the opposing party has not had an opportunity to cross-examine the
person giving the statement.
the transfer of a case from a lower court to a higher court (appellate court)
to review the decision of the lower court.
an order issued by a judge or magistrate to a police officer requiring the
arrest of a named person.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
a lawyer hired by the Commonwealth's Attorney to assist him/her in prosecuting
criminal cases; also called a prosecutor.
a lawyer. A person authorized to practice law in a particular state.
Bail or Bond
a defendant's written promise to pay a specific sum, as ordered by an officer
of the court, as a condition of his/her pre-trial release from custody. The
purpose of bail is to ensure the return of the defendant at future court
a trial held before a judge and without a jury. The judge determines the facts
of the case.
Certiorari (writ of cert)
a higher court's acceptance of a case from a lower court to review as an
the court that has trial jurisdiction over all criminal misdemeanor
appeals from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and the General
District Court. The circuit court also has trial jurisdiction over all
an elected official with the authority and responsibility to represent the
public interest and take legal action against persons violating state or local
criminal laws. May also be known as a prosecutor.
Competent to stand trial (legally competent)
a decision by the court that a defendant is able to stand trial (usually
following an examination by a doctor to find out his mental condition).
upon conviction for multiple crimes, a criminal sentence served at the
same time as another criminal sentence, rather than one after the other. The
person is released at the expiration of the longest term specified.
upon conviction for multiple crimes, criminal sentences that must be
served one after the other rather than at the same time.
a judge or jury's decision that the accused person is guilty of a crime.
a charge filed by a prosecutor against a defendant concerning the
violation of a criminal law. The act of violating a criminal law is an offense
against the community, not a private wrong.
a person accused of committing a crime. (He/she must now defend his/her
the lawyer who speaks for the defendant and represents his/her interest in
the right of the defendant to know what evidence the State has against
the final result of a case.
the number assigned by the court's clerk to identify a case.
a pattern of physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abusive behaviors
used by one individual to assert power or maintain control over another, in
the context of an intimate or family relationship.
the conduct of a legal proceeding according to established rules and
principles to ensure the protection and enforcement of an individual's rights.
information presented in the form of testimony, documents, physical
objects or other things that are used to prove or disprove facts relevant to a
the formal process of delivering a person found in one state to
authorities in another state where the individual has been accused or
convicted of a crime.
family (or household) members are defined as spouses or former spouses,
regardless of whether you are presently living together, or someone with whom
you have a child in common, regardless of whether you have ever been married
or have ever lived together. A parent, child, step-parent, step-child,
brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, mother-in-law, father-in-law,
brother-in-law, or sister-in-law who lives with you is a family or household
member. Family or household members also include a person with whom you
presently cohabit or with whom you have cohabited during the past 12 months,
as well as any children of either of you who live with you.
a major crime that may be punished with a minimum of one year in jail or
General District Court
the court that has trial jurisdiction over misdemeanors, as well as all
traffic offenses. This court also conducts probable cause hearings
(preliminary hearings) on all felony cases. There are no jury trials in
General District Court.
a group of citizens convened in a criminal case to consider the
prosecutor's evidence and determine if there is enough evidence to bring the
defendant to trial.
Guardian Ad Litem
a person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of a child
or an incompetent adult or a missing person who is involved in a court case.
The "GAL" may be an attorney.
a defendant's admission to the court that he/she committed the crime.
a decision by the judge or jury that the defendant committed the crime.
Household Member (See: Family Member)
the situation where a jury cannot collectively agree on a verdict. When
this happens, the case may be tried all over again.
a conclusion by a grand jury that a case should be tried.
the person in charge of the courtroom and the trial.
a young person who has not yet attained the age at which he or she should
be treated as an adult for purposes of criminal law. In Virginia, a juvenile
is any youth under the age of 18.
Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
the court that handles cases involving persons accused of committing
offenses against family or household members. This court also has
jurisdiction over cases involving a juvenile defendant or a juvenile victim. This court does not conduct jury
trials. A judge hears all cases.
the government's general power to exercise authority over all persons and
things within its territory. It is also a court's power to decide a case or
a group of men and women (usually 12) who must listen to and watch the
trial and decide whether or not the defendant is guilty.
a court official having the authority to bring criminal charges based on
the sworn testimony of an individual or a law enforcement officer. A
magistrate can also set bail.
a crime that is less serious than a felony and is usually punishable by
confinement in the city jail for a maximum of one year, a fine of not more
than $2,500, or both.
a trial that is declared invalid because of an error in procedure or
because a jury could not agree upon a verdict (hung jury).
a written or oral request to the court to make a specified ruling.
a conclusion by a Grand Jury that a case should not be tried.
the voluntary withdrawal of criminal charges by the prosecuting attorney
(commonly called "nol pros.")
Not Guilty Plea
a defendant's admission to the court that he/she did not commit the crime.
Not Guilty Verdict
a decision by the court or jury that the State has not proven beyond a
reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.
Order of protection
a court order that prohibits a person from having any type of contact with
knowingly making a false statement about a fact while under oath to tell
the release of an arrested person from jail on his/her written promise
that he/she will return to court for trial, or obey an order of the court.
a formal, written request for a court or judge to do something.
the defendant's answer to the charge against him. If he/she pleads
"guilty," a trial is not necessary. The defendant may plead guilty to a less
serious charge than the one for which he/she was indicted.
a negotiated agreement between the prosecutor and the defense counsel for
the defendant to plead guilty or "no-contest" under certain terms and
conditions. The judge must approve all plea agreements.
a legal process at which the judge decides if there is enough evidence to
send the defendant's charges to the Grand Jury.
a report prepared by a probation and parole officer to help the judge in
deciding a sentence. A victim impact statement may be included in this report.
evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime was
committed by the person accused.
releasing a convicted offender instead of sending him/her to prison. An
offender on probation must agree to follow certain guidelines and limits. If
he/she "violates probation", that is, fails to keep the agreement, he/she may
be sent to prison.
to bring criminal action against a defendant.
another name for the Commonwealth's Attorney or Assistant Commonwealth's
the doubt that prevents one from being firmly convinced of a defendant's
guilt or the belief of the real possibility that the defendant is not guilty.
payments ordered by the judge to repay victims for economic losses
incurred as the result of a crime (property loss or injuries). This does not
include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, or other
Revocation (of bond or probation)
the withdrawing (taking back) of bond or probation when the defendant
fails to obey the requirements of bond or probation. For example, a defendant
released on bond or probation may be required to stay within the state. If
he/she leaves the state, his/her bond or probation may be revoked, and he/she
may be locked up in jail or prison.
a written order form a judge or magistrate that an officer may search a
specific location for specified items which, if found, can be seized for
possible use in court as evidence. Search warrants are issued upon a showing
of probable cause that the items are in the place to be searched, and are
evidence of a crime.
the punishment or legal consequences given to a convicted defendant.
a hearing at which a judge imposes punishment on a convicted defendant.
Show cause order
an order directing a party to appear in court and explain why the party
took (or failed to take) some action or why the court should or should not
take a proposed action.
a law passed by a legislature.
a written, legal order telling a person to be in court at a specific time
and place to give testimony, sometimes called a summons.
the facts as stated by a witness. To give testimony is to "testify".
the presentation of the facts of a case in court before a judge (bench
trial), or a judge and jury (jury trial), ending with a decision regarding the
defendant's guilt or innocence.
the decision of a judge or jury.
anyone suffering physical, emotional, or financial harm as a direct result
of a crime.
a person whose role is to help those who are victims of crime, family
members of victims of crime, and witnesses to crime. The Victim/Witness Office
is a division of the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.
Victim Impact Statement
a victim's statement that tells the judge the ways in which the crime has
affected him or her, for example, emotional difficulties, monies lost,
physical problems, job problems, etc.
an organization, located in the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, that
assists victims and witnesses of crime. Trained staff provide a variety of
services including emotional support, explanation of the criminal justice
process, and referrals and information about community resources.
the jury selection process. Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor
may "strike" (reject) a limited number of people, disqualifying them from
serving on the jury.
a person who testifies under oath as to what he/she knows, has heard, or
observed about a crime.
a written order issued by a court commanding someone to do or stop doing a