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"It is important to understand legal terminology when you are a criminal defendant."

Florida Glossary of Legal Terms
 
If you are a defendant in a criminal case, it is beneficial for you familiarize yourself with the definition of these legal terms. Judges and lawyers in Florida criminal courts frequently use these terms. This glossary is not intended to offer a definitive legal definition of these terms. It is provided to assist with your general understanding of Court terminology. If you have questions regarding the law, or how the law relates to your specific case please click here to contact a criminal defense attorney.

A

Acquittal - An acquittal is a finding of not guilty by judge or jury of the offenses charged.

Adjudication - Adjudication is a judgment rendered by the court after a finding of guilt.

Arraignment - An arraignment is the initial court appearance when the court informs the defendant of the pending charges, advises the defendant of his or her rights, and asks the defendant how he or she pleas to the charge.

Arrest Warrant (Arrest Capias) - An arrest warrant is generally issued if a defendant fails to appear to a Court date for a felony charge. If an arrest warrant is issued a law enforcement officer will attempt to find the defendant in order to bring him or her in front of the judge.

Assistant State Attorney (ASA)
- An assistant state attorney is an attorney that is employed by the state, and designated by the State Attorney to prosecute those accused of crimes. Also known as a prosecutor.

B

Bail - Bail is a sum of money deposited or pledged to the Court as a guarantee that the defendant will appear to future court dates.

Bench Warrant - A bench warrant is generally issued if a defendant fails to appear to a Court date for a misdemeanor charge. If a bench warrant is issued the defendant may be arrested if stopped by a law enforcement officer.

Bond Estreature - A bond estreature is a disposition for misdemeanors in which a defendant's failure to appear in court causes the money or property deposited to secure the defendant's release on bail to be forfeited to the court.

C

Community Control - Community control is form of probation restricting the defendant's movements. It is available as a sentence or plea bargain for a felony offense. It is similar to house arrest, but generally allows the defendant to leave for work or school.

Continuance - A continuance is a postponement or adjournment of a court hearing to a future date. A continuance may be granted to give the parties additional time to prepare for a case, or if good cause is shown why one of the parties will not be able to attend a future hearing.

Conviction - A conviction is a judgment of a court, based either on the verdict of the judge or jury or on the guilty plea of the defendant, that the defendant is guilty of the offense charged, regardless of whether adjudication is withheld.

D

Defendant - A defendant is a person required to answer an accusation in a criminal case.

Deposition - A deposition is when a witness is ordered to appear to answer questions under oath in the presence of a court reporter concerning their knowledge of a criminal offense.

Direct File - Direct file is the filing of adult felony information against a juvenile.

Disposition - A disposition is the final decision or judgment that terminates a judicial proceeding.

Drug Court - Drug court is a diversionary program created to address the issue of first time felony drug offenders. Upon successful completion of drug court the criminal charges against the defendant are dropped.

E

Extradition - Extradition is the return of a defendant to another state or county for prosecution. The defendant may bear the cost of the extradition.

F

Felony - A felony is a crime that is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of more than one year.

G

Grand Jury - A grand jury is a panel of citizens assembled by a circuit court to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to indict a suspect, and continue the criminal proceedings against him or her.

I

In abstentia - In abstentia is latin for "in the absence." It generally refers to a trial where the defendant is not present. With a signed and notorized authority to represent, and a waiver of rights,  some criminal matters can be resolved in abstentia. It depends on the local Court's rules, and the presiding Judge's policies.

Information - An information is the written allegation of the charges filed by the State Attorney's office in a felony case.

J

Judgment - A judgment is a statement of the decision of a court regarding the disposition of a criminal case.

K

L

Lesser Included
- A lesser included offense is any less serious offense whose definition is included within the definition of the original charge.

M

Misdemeanor - A misdemeanor is a crime for which the maximum possible jail sentence is less than one year.

Motion -
A motion is a legal document filed with the court requesting an order or ruling in favor of the applicant.

N

No Contest (Nolo Contendere)
- A no contest plea is a plea by which the defendant neither admits nor denies the charges, but accepts a plea agreement in order to close out a criminal case.

Nolle Prosequi - Nolle prosequi is an announcement by the prosecutor before trial unilaterally dismissing the criminal charges against a defendant.

O

Order
- A order is a legal document signed by the judge making an award or ruling on a legal motion.

P

Plea - A plea is a defendant's formal answer in court to criminal charges pending against them.

Pretrial Diversion (Pretrial Intervention) - Pretrial diversion is a program offer by the State Attorney that allows a first-time offenders in criminal cases to complete a program. Upon successful completion of the program requirements the criminal charges are dropped.

Probation - Probation is a suspension of a sentence that places the defendant under the supervision of a probation officer for a specified period of time, to ensure that the defendant complies with conditions of behavior, and other conditions imposed by the court. If the defendant does not comply with the conditions he can be found in violation and can be sentenced to serve up to the maximum sentence on the underlying criminal case.

Prosecutor - A prosecutor is the attorney who represents the state in a case against a criminal defendant. Also known as an assistant state attorney.

Public Defender - A public defender is an attorney appointed by the court to represent indigent defendants in case in which the state is seeking jail.

Q

R

Release on Own Recognizance (ROR)
- Release on own recognizance is the release of a prisoner by a judge with no bail money to be paid, or no bond to be posted. The suspect merely promises to appear in court for all upcoming hearings.

Restitution - Restitution is an order by the court to indemnify the victim for damage or loss caused directly or indirectly by the defendant's offense. Restitution can be monetary or non-monetary.

S

Scoresheet
- A scoresheet is a form used for sentencing utilizing a point system mandated for all felonies. It is subject to the Criminal Punishment Code.

Speedy Trial - Speedy trial right is the right of a defendant to have a prompt trial. Pursuant to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, the trial must to be held within 90 days for a misdemeanor, and 175 days for a felony as long as the defendant has done nothing to delay the proceedings.

Subpoena - A subpoena is a court order to compel testimony or produce evidence. An order to compel testimony is a subpoena ad testificandum. An order to produce evidence is a subpoena duces tecum.

TU

V

Verdict - A verdict is a decision made by a judge or a jury concerning the matters at issue at the end of a criminal trial.


Voir Dire - Voir dire is a preliminary examination by the judge, defense counsel, and the State Attorney of prospective jurors for selection to serve on a jury panel in a criminal case.

W

Withhold Adjudication - Withold adjudication is a sentencing option that allows judges in a criminal case to find the defendant guilty without adjudicating him or her guilty. Generally, a withhold adjudication won't result in a suspended driver's license, will preserve the defendants civil rights, and may be sealed.

XYZ