Terms & Definitions

Bench Trial (also called a court trial) – A trial that is conducted by a judge without a jury: where the defendant waives a jury trial.

Conviction – A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant. A conviction is final at the time of sentencing, however, can be “reversed” by an appeals court.

Dismissal – The dropping of a case by decision of the judge or prosecutor.

Guilty – Plea that defendant enters in court admitting that he/she committed the crime; a verdict returned by a jury or judge finding that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime(s).

Initial Hearing– A court hearing at which time a judge reads the charging information and determines if the person may be released on personal recognizance or on bond and setting a time for a pre-trial hearing in felony cases or bench or court trial in a misdemeanor case.

Jury Trial – A trial before a judge and jury, as opposed to a bench trial before a judge alone.

Misdemeanor – A criminal charge, which is punishable by a fine or incarceration in the county jail.

Not Guilty Plea – A statement that a defendant enters at arraignment denying committing the crime(s).

Perjury – Deliberate false testimony given under oath.

Pro se – Latin phrase meaning “in his/her own behalf” where a defendant can choose to represent themselves without an attorney.

Pretrial Hearing – A meeting where the parties appear before the judge in a formal or informal setting to attempt to work out an agreement and settle the case without the necessity of a trial. It is used to narrow issues to be tried, and evidence to be heard, and to take all necessary steps to aid in the disposition of the case.

Sentencing – Court proceedings held after a guilty plea of a defendant at which time the judge sets the length and conditions of punishment.

Victim – An individual who suffers direct physical, financial and/or emotional harm; or is threatened as a result of the commission of a crime.