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​Accountability: Being held responsible for the incident and the harm caused.

Adjudication: A fact-finding hearing that determines if a defendant is guilty of committing the act as charged.

Arraignment: Court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges again him; discussion of an attorney; and trial date is set.

Bond:  The amount of cash or surety a defendant may have to present before being released from jail pending trial.

Capias: A warrant for arrest that is issued when a defendant does not appear in court.

Continuance: Rescheduling/postponement of a hearing to a later date.

Conviction: The finding by the court of a verdict of “guilty” against the defendant.

Defendant: The person charged with committing a crime.

Detention Center: A temporary, secure holding facility for a juvenile.

Disposition: The court’s decision as to what should happen to the defendant following their conviction. For example, the defendant may receive incarceration, fines and or ordered to participate in rehabilitative services (ie, anger management, alcohol/substance abuse evaluation/treatment).

Grand Jury: A random selection of citizens who decide if there is probable cause for a criminal case to to proceed to trial in the Circuit Court.

Magistrate:  A judicial officer who has the authority to issue warrants.

Nolle Prosequi/Nolle Pros:  A dismissal of the charge by the prosecution.

Plea: The answer that the defendant makes to the charges brought against him/her: Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest.

Plea Agreement:  In some cases, the Commonwealth's Attorney may agree to modify the charge(s) or recommend the defendant receive a specific sentence in return for a plea of guilty.

Preliminary Hearing: A lower court hearing in which the prosecutor must prove that there is probable cause/sufficient evidence to certify a felony case to the Circuit Court Grand Jury for further processing.

Pre-Sentence Report:  After a finding of guilty, an investigation of the defendant's history (ie; criminal, medical, psychiatric) completed by a Department of Corrections probation officer, and used by the judge in deciding the sentence.

Probable Cause:  Reasonable grounds for belief that a crime has been committed and that the person charged committed the crime.

Probation: A sentence in which the defendant is released into the community and supervised by a probation officer for a specified period of time.

Protective Order:  An order issued by a judge or magistrate to protect the health and safety of a person who is alleged to be a victim of any active involving violence, for or threat that results in bodily injury or placed places that person in fear of death, sexual assault or bodily injury.

Record Expunged: Record erased.

Restitution: Repayment of financial loss to the victim by the defendant.

Sentence: The defendant’s punishment of incarceration imposed by the judge.

Show Cause:  A court order that requires a person to justify, explain or prove something to a court.

Subpoena: A document ordering a person to appear in court.

Testimony:  Information or evidence given by a witness under oath.

Transfer Hearing: A hearing to determine whether a case should be moved from the juvenile system to the adult system.

Victim:  A person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime.  Victimization can also include monetary loss and/or damages as a result of a crime.

Victim Impact Statement: A statement submitted by the victim to the Court that explains the physical, psychological, and financial harm the crime has caused.

Waive: To surrender a privilege or right.​

Warrant: A written, legal order authorizing a law enforcement officer to make an arrest.



Petitions, Summons, Subpoenas, and Warrants:

A petition is a legal document containing the written statement that brings the case into court. The petition contains facts concerning the case and requests a hearing to determine the truth of these facts and to take whatever action is appropriate and permitted by law.

A summons is a legal document requiring a person to appear in court at the date and time stated on the summons. The petition is delivered with the summons to people who are required to be in court as parties in the case. No petition is required when a child is arrested and released on a summons written by an arresting officer.

A subpoena is a legal document delivered by law enforcement to witnesses who are required to be in court, telling them when and where they are required to appear. A subpoena duces tecum is a legal document delivered to persons to provide documents or written records to the requesting party in a pending court matter.

A warrant is a legal document accusing an adult of committing crimes, requiring that the person be arrested, be brought before a magistrate for a pretrial release (bail) hearing, and be required to appear in court to answer the accusations.

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