Terms & Definitions

The formal act of calling the defendant into open court, informing him or her of the offense charged, and the defendant’s entry of a plea to the charge.


To take a person into custody by legal authority.


Arrest Warrant
A written order which is made on behalf of the state and is based upon a complaint issued pursuant to a statute and/or court rule and which commands any law enforcement officer to arrest a person and bring before a judicial officer.


The touching of another person with an intent to harm, without that person’s consent.


The release of arrested or imprisoned persons when security, cash, or property is given or pledged to ensure their appearance in court at a specified date and place. The most common bond is a surety bond in which bail is guaranteed by a commercial bail agent.


Bail Bond Agent
Any person who furnishes bail for compensation in any court in the state and who is appointed by an insurer by “Power of Attorney” to execute bail bonds.


Bail Bond
An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at trial, which he/she may lose by not appearing for trial. Also, called a bond.


Bail Recovery
Actions taken by a person other than a peace officer to apprehend an individual on bond who has failed to comply with the conditions of the bond.


Bench Warrant
An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.


Bind Over
To require a defendant, following a preliminary hearing, to appear and answer in a court having jurisdiction to try the defendant for the crime with which he or she is charged.


Bond Premium
The non-refundable fee charged by a bail bond agent.


Also known as “booked”. Part of the process of being arrested in which the details of who a person is and why he or she was arrested are recorded into the police records.

Booking Fee
A fee charged by a jail when the person is booked in.


Cash Bond
A bond that must be posted in cash only.


This includes the complaint, information, or indictment charging the accused with the commission of a crime.


An order to appear in court at a certain place at a specified time. Issuance of a citation is not an arrest.


An asset that a borrower agrees to give up if he or she fails to repay a loan.


In a criminal action, a complaint is the preliminary charge filed by the complaining party, usually with the police or a court.


Contempt of Court
Any act calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct a court, or calculated to lessen its authority or dignity. Direct contempt is committed in the immediate presence of the court and may be punished summarily without a jury trial. An indirect contempt usually is a failure or refusal to obey a court order.


An act or omission which is prohibited by criminal law.


Criminal Case
A case brought by the government against an individual accused of committing a crime.


In criminal cases, this means the restraint of a person’s freedom in any significant way.


In criminal cases, the person accused of the crime.


Deferred Prosecution
An arrangement made between the District Attorney and defendant before trial halting the prosecution of a defendant for up to two years on the condition that he or she successfully meets conditions of probation, usually some type of counseling or drug or alcohol treatment. If conditions of probation are violated, the defendant may be tried on the original charge.


Deferred Sentence or Judgment
An arrangement in which a defendant who pleads guilty is placed on probation for up to two years, usually with conditions. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the guilty plea is withdrawn and the case is dismissed. If the defendant fails probation, he or she may be sentenced based upon the guilty plea.


The termination of a case.


Dismissal with Prejudice
When a case is dismissed for good reason and the plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim. A dismissal with prejudice allows “no refilling”.


Dismissal without Prejudice
The dismissal of a case while allowing the party to sue again on the same cause of action at some future time. A dismissal “with prejudice” bars refiling of the lawsuit or charge.


District Attorney
Under the state governments, the prosecuting officer who represents the state in each of its judicial districts.


A schedule of proceedings.


Double Jeopardy
The constitutional prohibition against a second prosecution of a person for the same crime.


Due Process
The idea that laws and legal proceedings must be fair. The Constitution guarantees that the government cannot take away a person’s basic rights to “life, liberty or property, without due process of law.” Courts have issued numerous rulings about what this means in particular cases.


The act of officers or agents of a government in inducing a person to commit a crime otherwise not contemplated for the purpose of prosecuting that person.


The testimony, writings, material objects, or other things presented to the senses that are offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact.


The surrender by one state of an individual accused of an offense to another state.


A crime punishable by death or by imprisonment in a state penal institution.


Occurs when the defendant on bond fails to appear in court.


The false making or material altering, with intent to defraud, of any writing which, if genuine, might be the foundation of a legal liability.


Deceitful conduct designed to manipulate another person to give something of value by (1) lying, (2) repeating something that is or ought to have been known by the fraudulent party as false or suspect or (3) by concealing a fact from the other party from being cheated. Fugitive: One who runs away to avoid arrest, prosecution or imprisonment.


Habitual Offender
Also known as a “recidivist”. A person who is convicted and sentenced for crimes over a period of time and even after serving sentences of incarceration, such as demonstrates a propensity toward criminal conduct.

Used in variety of legal contexts to describe words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person.


Evidence that is not within the personal knowledge of the witness but was relayed to the witness by a third party.

Hearing Date
The time, in criminal law, for the trial of a person charged with a crime of misdemeanor.

Imprisonment, confinement in a jail or penitentiary.


A written statement, presented by a grand jury to the district court, which charges the commission of a crime by an alleged offender.


Meeting certain standards of poverty, thereby, qualifying a criminal defendant for a public defender, waiver of fees and court- appointed counsel.


A written statement signed by a district attorney presented to the district court, which charges the commission of a crime by an alleged offender.


Sometimes called violations. Minor offenses, often traffic tickets, which are punishable only by a fine.


In a criminal case, it includes the pronouncement of guilt and the sentence.


The power, right or authority to apply the law.


Citizens sworn to inquire into matters of fact and declare the truth about matters laid before them during a trial.


Jury Instructions
The judge’s instruction to the jury on the issues to be decided and the rules of law that apply to the case.


Jury Trial
A trial whereby a group of citizens serving as a jury listens to evidence presented in court and gives its verdict.


The unlawful taking and carrying away of a human being by force and against his or her will.


With knowledge, willfully, with respect to a material element of an offense.


A person learned in the law; an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person licensed to practice law.


Leading Question
A question so worded that the desired answer is suggested to the witness, particularly when it may be answered by yes or no. It is proper on cross-examination, but is normally prohibited on direct examination unless the witness is hostile or unless the court allows it. Lesser included offense: One composed of some, but not all, of the elements of the greater crime and which does not have any element not included in the greater offense.


A person who does not have the legal rights of an adult. A minor is usually defined as someone who has not yet reached the age of majority. In most states, a person reaches majority and acquires all of the rights and responsibilities of an adult when he or she turns 18.


Miranda Rule
Before any interrogation by law enforcement authorities after a person is taken into custody, he or she must be warned: (1) that she/he has a right to remain silent; (2) that any statement she/he does make will be used as evidence against her/him; (3) that she/he has a right to the presence of a lawyer; (4) that if she/he cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for her/him prior to any questioning if she/he so desires; and (5) that she/he may end the questioning at any time.


A criminal offense punishable by a sentence of two years or less to the county jail.


A trial terminated prior to a verdict as a result of a fundamental error prejudicial to the defendant.


Mitigating Circumstance
A circumstance which does not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense, but which may be considered as reducing the degree of moral culpability.


An application for a rule or order, made to the judge.


Motion for New Trial
Request in which a losing party asserts that a trial was unfair due to legal errors that prejudiced its case.


Nolle Prosequi
The notice that a prosecutor will no longer pursue charges, i.e., the dropping of charges.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
A person who is so diseased or defective in mind at the time of the commission of the act as to be incapable of distinguishing right from wrong with respect to that act is not accountable.” A defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity is committed to the Department of Institutions until declared sane.


A felony or misdemeanor, a breach of criminal laws that subjects the offender to imprisonment, and/or fines.


Own Recognizance
Sometimes called personal recognizance bond. A person who promises to appear in court to answer criminal charges can sometimes be released from jail without having to pay bail. This person is said to be released on his or her own recognizance.


A command from the court directing or forbidding an action.


The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.


Personal Recognizance
A type of bail consisting of a written promise to appear in court when required. A bond secured only by the personal obligation of the person giving the bond. See Own Recognizance.


Five pleas possible in criminal cases: (1) not guilty; (2) not guilty by reason of insanity; (3) not guilty because of impaired mental condition; (4) no contest; and (5) guilty.


The process whereby the accused and the prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case. The defendant may plead guilty to a lesser offense or to only one or some of the charges. In return, the defendant seeks concessions on the type and length of sentence or a reduction of counts charged.

PR Bond
Also known as a personal recognizance bond, is a bond in which the court allows a defendant to sign his own name to a bond.


Preliminary Hearing
A hearing in which a judge or magistrate determines there are sufficient grounds to compel the accused to stand trial. If probable cause is found, a defendant is “bound over” for trial.


Preponderance of Evidence
The greater weight of evidence, or evidence that is more credible and convincing to the mind.


Pre-Sentence Investigation
The abbreviation is “PSI”. An investigation conducted at the request of the court after a person has been found guilty of a criminal offense. Provides the court with extensive background information to determine an appropriate sentence.


Pre-Sentence Report
A report prepared by a probation department for a judicial officer to assist in the sentencing. Typically contains information about prior convictions, arrests, work history, family details and interview between the probation department and the defendant.


Presumption of Innocence
Every defendant enters a trial presumed to be innocent. The presumption remains until and unless the state overcomes the presumption by competent evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Pre-Trial Diversion
Also known as adjournment in contemplation of dismissal or conditional dismissal. A program in which a Defendant essentially is put on probation for a set period of time and his/her case does not go to trial during that time. If the Defendant meets the conditions set by the court, then the charge will be dismissed.


Probable Cause
Reasonable cause, having more evidence for than against. A reasonable ground for belief in the existence of facts that a particular event occurred.


The sentence of a court whereby an individual is put under the jurisdiction of a probation officer, rather than incarcerated. Sometimes, a short jail sentence is a condition of probation. It is the most widely used correctional disposition both in Colorado and in the United States.


Pro Bono
For the good; used to describe work or services done or performed free of charge.


Promissory Note
A written document in which a borrower agrees (promises) to pay back money to a lender according to specified terms.


Property Bond
A bond where the financial amount of the bond is guaranteed by real estate owned by the defendant or a third party in which the equity is at least 1.5 times the amount of the bond.


A government lawyer who tries criminal cases, typically known as the District Attorney, State’s Attorney or the United States Attorney.


Protective Order
In litigation, an order that prevents the disclosure of sensitive information except to certain individuals under certain conditions. In a domestic dispute, an order that prevents one party from approaching another, often within a specified distance.


Abbreviation for Pre-Sentence Investigation, used to gather information for a pre-sentence report from the probation department or a private probation.


Public Defender 

A lawyer employed by the government to represent individuals accused of crimes that cannot afford their own attorney.


Reasonable Doubt
That state of mind of jurors in which they cannot say that the crime charged has been proved. Reasonable doubt is based on reason and common sense. It is not vague, speculative, or imaginary. It would cause reasonable persons to hesitate to act in matters of importance to themselves.


Search Warrant
An order in writing by a judicial officer, directing a law enforcement officer to search for and seize any property that constitutes evidence of the commission of a crime, contraband, the fruits of crime or things otherwise criminally possessed; or property designed or intended for use which is or has been used as the means of committing a crime. A search warrant may be issued upon an affidavit or sworn oral testimony.


The protection of one’s person or property against some injury attempted by another. The law of self-defense justifies an act done in the reasonable belief of immediate danger.


Statutes of Limitations
Laws setting deadlines for filing lawsuits within a certain time after events occur that are the source of a claim.


An order stopping a judicial proceeding or execution of a judgment.


An order to a witness to appear and testify at a specified time and place.


An order to a sheriff or other officer to notify a named person that a civil action has been commenced against him or her and that he or she is required to appear within a specified period and answer the complaint. A written order or notice directing that a person appear before a designated court at a stated time and place and answer to a charge against him or her. The document initiates all civil law suits and is referred to as process.


Suppression of Evidence
A trial judge’s ruling that evidence sought to be admitted should be excluded because it was illegally acquired. A hearing for this is required outside the presence of a jury, often before trial.


Surety Appearance Bond
A bond that is posted by a bail bonding agent.


The opinion rendered by a jury, or a judge where there is no jury, on a question of fact. A verdict differs from a judgment in that a verdict is not a judicial determination, but is a finding of fact.


Victim Impact Statement
A written statement from the victim detailing how the crime has impacted them. This statement will include a section showing the financial losses of the victim due to the crime, which could ultimately be ordered by the court and recovered as restitution.


An order issued by a judicial officer of a court of record directed to any peace officer commanding the arrest of the person named or described in the order.

Warrant-less Arrest
An arrest of a person without a warrant. It is generally permissible if the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person has committed a felony or if the person has committed a misdemeanor amounting to a breach of the peace.