GLOSSARY OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE TERMS
ACQUITTAL: The opposite of a guilty verdict, an acquittal means the defendant has not been convicted.
AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES: Refers to circumstances that increase the culpability of a crime. Examples include a fiduciary relationship between the victim and defendant, excessive brutality, or if a drug crime was part of a major organized distribution activity.
APPEAL: A request by a party after a trial asking the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to review the conviction, the sentence, and all adverse judgments made by the district court.
APPOINTED ATTORNEY: An attorney who is paid by the court to represent defendants who are deemed indigent because they cannot afford a private attorney in criminal cases.
ARRAIGNMENT: The first phase of a criminal case. The defendant is informed of the charges against him or her and is asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
BAIL: Financial security used as collateral to guarantee the defendant's appearance in court as ordered by the judge.
BENCH TRIAL: A trial where the judge, rather than a jury, decides the facts which determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
BENCH WARRANT: A warrant issued by a judge. Bench warrants are usually issued when a defendant fails to appear or is accused of violating the terms of bond.
BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: The standard necessary to convict a person of a crime.
CASE LAW: The use of prior cases with similar circumstances to the case at hand to explain or interpret the law at issue. Caselaw comes from appellate opinions.
CHALLENGE FOR CAUSE: Used during voir dire to remove a potential juror if he or she is so overcome with bias that the potential juror cannot view the evidence fairly.
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: All evidence that is not direct evidence.
CONCURRENT SENTENCE: Running the sentences for separate charges at the same time.
CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE: Running the sentences for separate charges back to back.
CONTINUANCE: A temporary, usually 30-day, postponement of the case.
CONVICTION: A finding of guilt against the defendant.
DIRECT EVIDENCE: Evidence that supports a fact with an inference.
ELEMENTS OF A CRIME: The individual facts needed to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to support a guilty verdict.
EVIDENCE: Information presented at trial by witnesses through testimony or items collected at the scene of the crime.
EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE: Evidence that shows the defendant's innocence.
EXHIBIT: Physical evidence presented at trial such as drugs, paraphernalia, weapons, or photos.
FELONY: A crime carrying a sentence of one year or more.
JURY: The deciders of fact and guilt in a criminal case. In Kansas, misdemeanor cases have 6 jurors while felony cases have 12.
JURY NULLIFICATION: A jury's refusal to find a defendant guilty in a case because application of the law is unjust.
LSI-R: Level Service Inventory – Revised. An interview used as a risk assessment to determine what level of supervision over a defendant will be necessary to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
MISDEMEANOR: A crime carrying a sentence of less than one year.
MISTRIAL: A fundamental error in a case resulting in a new trial.
MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES: Refers to circumstances that decrease culpability of a crime. Examples include the victim was an aggressor, the offender played a minor role, the degree of harm or loss was significantly less than typical.
MUNICIPAL COURT: A city court.
NO CONTEST PLEA: Also known as nolo contendere, has the same effect of a guilty plea without admitting guilt.
ORDINANCE: A city's law.
PLEA BARGAIN: An agreement between the State and the defendant where the defendant pleads guilty in order to receive a recommendation for a lesser sentence or an agreement to drop charges.
PEREMPTORY CHALLENGE: During voir dire, the peremptory challenge is used to dismiss a potential juror without cause.
PRESENTENCE REPORT (PSI): In felony cases, the PSI is used by the court to review the defendant's criminal history score so the appropriate sentence may be imposed.
PUBLIC DEFENDER: A State-paid attorney who represents defendants charged with felonies who are deemed indigent because they cannot afford a private attorney in criminal cases.
SENTENCE: The punishment ordered by the court following a finding of guilt.
SUBPOENA: An order by the court for a witness to appear.
VERDICT: The decision by a jury or by a judge in a bench trial.
VOIR DIRE: The process of choosing a jury.