Legal Terms You Should Know

Being arrested is something no one wants to experience.  You could find yourself in a New Port Richey jail with legal terms being thrown around that you’ve never heard or only have a vague idea of their meanings.  It can be a confusing time where decisions that can affect your future and your very freedom need to be made quickly.  Arming yourself with knowledge of legal terms can help you make those decisions, and informed decisions are always better decisions.

Here are some legal terms that may be useful in your time of need:

Accusedthe person who has been arrested and is on trial for a crime

Affidavita written statement of all of the facts of the case

Aiding and Abettinghelping someone commit a crime (can occur before or after the crime)

Alias Warrantarrest warrant issued when a defendant fails to appear in court or fails to respond to a citation

Appealif found guilty, the convicted person can appeal to a higher court for them to hear the case

Arraignmentcourt proceeding where the defendant is formally presented with the arrest charges and enters a plea in response

Arrest Warrantwarrant issued by a judge on the state’s behalf which allows for a person’s arrest or seizure of their property

Bail―a monetary amount set by the court to be paid as assurance that the defendant will make all court appearances

Bail Bond―a written contract that the defendant can make with a licensed bail bondsman to pay the bail if he or she doesn’t have sufficient funds for the bail or chooses not to pay the bail up front.  

Bail Bondsman―a person who acts as a surety and pledges to pay the full amount of the bail on behalf of the defendant

Bail Schedule―the list that states how much bail should be set for each crime

Bench Trial―a trial where the judge makes the decision instead of a jury

Bond―a written contract

Cash Bond―the entire bail amount paid up front to the court without the use of a bail bondsman

Charge―accusation of a crime

Citation―notice to appear in court for a minor crime

Citation Release―when an officer chooses to release the offender and inform him or her when and where to appear in court

Collateral―something of value such as property or vehicles which is offered as bail payment instead of cash

Conviction―to be found guilty by the court or jury

Defendant―a person accused of a crime in the court of law

Deposition―an oral statement made to a court officer about a case

Discharge―the release of bond when all bond obligations have been fulfilled

Docket―the list of cases for a court

Exoneration―legally absolving a person of responsibility for a crime

Extradition―one jurisdiction giving a defendant over to another jurisdiction to answer for a crime committed

Failure to Appear―when a defendant does not show up for court-appointed appearances which could result in an arrest warrant and forfeiture of bail and/or collateral

Felony―a crime that is more serious than a misdemeanor, conviction could mean jail or even death

Forfeiture―to give up as in money or collateral if the defendant fails to appear in court

Fugitive―a person who flees to escape legal prosecution

Indemnitor―a person who offers money or collateral to a bondsman in order to secure the bond and assumes the obligation if the defendant flees

Indictment―to be formally charged with a crime

Injunction―a judicial order that restrains a person from doing something or compels them to do something

Jurisdiction―the legal authority or power to oversee a case and make legal decisions

Jury―a group of people (usually 12) chosen by the court to hear a case and make a verdict

Jury Trial―a legal proceeding at which a group of people chosen by the court to make a verdict in a case

Lien―the right to keep possession of a property until legal debts are resolved and discharged

Misdemeanor―a lesser offense than a felony, usually a conviction results in fines and little or no jail time

Motion―a formal request brought before a judge for a decision on things like postponing the trial, administrative issues, sanctions, etc.

Premium―the non-refundable fee paid to bail bondsman to post bond on your behalf

Probation―the part of a sentence that allows for the convicted to be released but returned to jail if   conditions are not followed such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, not using illegal substances, and avoiding criminals

Public Defender―a publicly-appointed attorney chosen to represent a defendant who cannot afford a lawyer

Recognizance―a defendant is released, typically without bond, with a legal obligation to the court, usually to appear at legal proceedings

Remand―to order back such as a defendant being ordered back to jail or an appellate case being sent back to the trial court

Sentence―the punishment for a crime that a person has pleaded guilty to or has been found guilty of

Surety―a person, such as a bail bondsman, obligated by a contract to pay the debt of another

Surety Bond―the legal contract requiring that obligations be met by between three parties―the principal (court), the obligee (defendant), and the surety (bail bondsman)

Warrant―a court order directing law enforcement to arrest and bring a person in front of a judge

Knowledge is power.  And having the knowledge of common legal terms in your time of need can reduce the stress of the situation and help you make smart choices for yourself and for your loved ones.  If you’ve been arrested in the New Port Richey area, call Mercy Bail Bonds today at (727)856-7775.  Our expert staff can answer any questions you may have and can start the process to get you or a loved one out of jail and back home quickly.