Plea Bargaining Vocabulary List

Acquittal: Acquittal refers to a legal judgment or verdict that declares a defendant not guilty of the charges brought against them. When a defendant is acquitted, it means that the evidence presented in the case was not sufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, resulting in their exoneration.

Bail: Bail is a form of pretrial release in which an accused person provides a monetary deposit or property as a guarantee to appear in court for their scheduled hearings. It allows the individual to be released from custody pending trial, with the understanding that they will return to court as required.

Charge: A charge refers to a formal accusation or allegation of committing a specific offense or crime. It is typically brought by a prosecutor or government authority and specifies the criminal offense(s) with which an individual is charged.

Charge Bargaining: Charge bargaining is a form of plea bargaining where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge than the one originally filed by the prosecutor. This negotiation typically involves reducing the severity or number of charges against the defendant in exchange for the plea.

Coercion: Coercion refers to the use of force, threats, intimidation, or pressure to compel someone to act against their will or better judgment. In the context of criminal law, coercion may involve actions by law enforcement or other individuals that unlawfully influence a person’s decision-making or lead them to engage in criminal behavior involuntarily.

Cross-appeal: Cross-appeal occurs when both the prosecution and the defense file separate appeals in response to an appeal made by the opposing party. It allows each party to challenge specific aspects of the trial court’s decision or to seek additional relief.

Criminal Justice: Criminal justice refers to the system of institutions, practices, and procedures established by a government to maintain social order, prevent and deter crime, and administer punishment to those who violate the law. It encompasses law enforcement agencies, courts, corrections, and other components involved in the detection, apprehension, prosecution, and punishment of criminal offenders.

Criminal Law: Criminal law refers to the body of laws that define and govern offenses committed against society as a whole. It sets out the rules and regulations related to crimes, their classification, and the penalties or punishments that can be imposed upon conviction. Criminal law addresses acts deemed harmful or threatening to public safety, order, and welfare, and typically involves the prosecution of individuals accused of committing criminal acts.

Defendant: The defendant is the person accused or charged with committing a crime in a legal proceeding. They are the party against whom the case is brought, and they have the right to present a defense and be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Discovery: Discovery is the pretrial phase in which both the prosecution and the defense exchange relevant information and evidence regarding the case. It allows each party to obtain information held by the other side, such as witness statements, documents, or other evidence, to prepare for trial.

Due Process: Due process is the principle that ensures fair treatment and protection of individual rights in legal proceedings. It guarantees that all individuals, including the accused, have the right to notice of the charges against them, the right to a fair and impartial hearing, the right to present a defense, and protection against arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or property. Due process is a fundamental aspect of a fair and just legal system.

Exoneration: Exoneration is the legal process or act of declaring a person innocent of the charges brought against them. It involves the reversal of a conviction and usually occurs when new evidence emerges that undermines the original conviction.

Fact Bargaining: Fact bargaining, also known as fact stipulation or evidentiary bargaining, involves an agreement between the prosecution and the defense regarding specific facts or evidence in a criminal case. It typically involves the defendant admitting to certain facts or waiving the presentation of certain evidence in exchange for concessions from the prosecution, such as a reduced charge or sentence.

Fundamental Right: A fundamental right is a basic and essential right that is considered inherent to individuals by virtue of their humanity or citizenship. These rights are typically protected and guaranteed by constitutions or international human rights treaties. Examples of fundamental rights may include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial, and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Grand Jury: A grand jury is a group of citizens convened by the court to review evidence and determine whether there is enough evidence to formally charge someone with a crime. Grand juries are typically used in the United States for serious felony cases and operate in secrecy.

Guilty Plea: A guilty plea is a formal admission by the defendant that they committed the offense(s) they are charged with. By pleading guilty, the defendant waives their right to a trial and accepts responsibility for the alleged criminal conduct.

Habeas Corpus: Habeas corpus is a legal principle that protects against unlawful detention and ensures that individuals have the right to challenge their imprisonment or detention. It allows a person to petition a court to determine whether their confinement is lawful and whether they should be released.

Inculpatory Evidence: Inculpatory evidence refers to evidence that tends to establish or support the guilt of a defendant. It is evidence that suggests or points toward the defendant’s involvement in the alleged crime.

Indictment: An indictment is a formal charging document issued by a grand jury that accuses an individual of committing a specific crime. It signifies that the case will proceed to trial.

Mandatory Minimum: A mandatory minimum is a statutory requirement that a certain minimum punishment must be imposed for a particular crime. These sentencing laws mandate fixed minimum sentences, often for serious offenses, and limit judicial discretion in determining the appropriate punishment.

Miranda Rights: Miranda rights refer to the rights that individuals must be informed of when taken into custody by law enforcement. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the warning that anything they say can be used against them in court. Miranda rights stem from the U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona.

Plea Bargain: A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant in a criminal case. In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to one or more charges in exchange for certain concessions from the prosecutor, such as a reduction in charges, a lesser sentence, or the dismissal of other charges.

Plea Colloquy: A plea colloquy refers to the formal questioning and conversation between the judge and the defendant during a plea hearing. This process ensures that the defendant understands the nature of the charges, the consequences of the plea, and the rights they are giving up by pleading guilty or no contest. The judge typically asks the defendant a series of questions to establish that the plea is voluntary and informed.

Precedent: Precedent refers to a legal principle or decision set by a court in an earlier case that serves as a guide or authority for resolving similar cases in the future. Precedents play a crucial role in interpreting and applying the law consistently.

Pretrial Hearing: A pretrial hearing is a court proceeding that takes place before a trial, where various matters related to the case are addressed. This may include motions, evidentiary issues, legal arguments, and discussions regarding plea negotiations.

Probable Cause: Probable cause refers to the reasonable belief or grounds that a crime has been committed and that a particular individual or property is connected to the crime. It is a standard of evidence necessary for law enforcement to make an arrest, conduct a search, or obtain a warrant.

Probation: Probation is a court-ordered alternative to incarceration, allowing an individual convicted of a crime to serve their sentence under supervision in the community. Probation typically involves specific conditions and requires regular reporting to a probation officer.

Prosecution: A prosecutor, also known as a prosecuting attorney or district attorney, is a legal professional who represents the government in criminal cases. Their role is to initiate and conduct legal proceedings against individuals accused of committing crimes. Prosecutors are responsible for gathering evidence, presenting the case in court, and advocating for the conviction of the accused.

Punitive: Punitive refers to something that is intended as, or related to, punishment. In the criminal justice context, punitive measures or actions are those designed to penalize or discipline individuals who have been found guilty of committing a crime. These measures may include fines, imprisonment, or other sanctions intended to deter future wrongdoing and provide a sense of justice.

Racism: Racism is a belief or ideology that asserts the superiority or inferiority of individuals or groups based on their perceived race or ethnicity. It involves the prejudiced attitudes, discriminatory practices, or systemic structures that result in unequal treatment, oppression, or disadvantage for certain racial or ethnic groups. Racism can manifest in various forms, such as institutional racism, systemic racism, or individual acts of prejudice and discrimination.

Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation is a goal of the criminal justice system that focuses on reforming and reintegrating offenders into society. It involves programs, treatments, and interventions aimed at addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior and facilitating positive change to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

Restorative Justice: Restorative justice is an approach to the criminal justice system that focuses on repairing the harm caused by the offense rather than solely punishing the offender. It involves involving all affected parties, including victims, offenders, and the community, in a process aimed at healing, accountability, and reconciliation.

Sentence: A sentence refers to the punishment or penalty imposed by a court on an individual who has been convicted of a crime. It typically includes a combination of imprisonment, fines, probation, community service, restitution, or other sanctions deemed appropriate based on the severity of the offense and relevant legal guidelines.

Sentence Bargaining: Sentence bargaining is a type of plea bargaining where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for a specific sentence or sentencing recommendation from the prosecution. The focus of sentence bargaining is on the length or type of punishment the defendant will receive rather than the charges themselves.

Sentencing Guidelines: Sentencing guidelines are a set of recommended principles and factors used by judges to determine appropriate sentences for specific offenses. These guidelines take into account factors such as the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

Sixth Amendment: The Sixth Amendment is an amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees certain rights to individuals accused of crimes. It includes the right to a fair and public trial, the right to a speedy trial, the right to be informed of the charges, the right to confront witnesses, the right to compel witnesses, and the right to legal representation.

Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is a legal time limit within which a lawsuit or criminal charges must be filed. It varies depending on the nature of the offense and jurisdiction, and once the specified time period has elapsed, the claim or charges may no longer be pursued.

Victim Impact Statement: A victim impact statement is a written or oral statement made by a victim or survivor of a crime to the court, describing the physical, emotional, and financial impact of the crime on their lives. It is considered during the sentencing phase to help inform the judge’s decision.

Witness: A witness is a person who has relevant knowledge or information about a crime or legal matter and provides testimony or evidence in court. Witnesses can be either fact witnesses who have firsthand knowledge of the events or expert witnesses who provide specialized knowledge or opinions related to the case.