Legal Vocabulary Lesson: Words You Need to Know

You probably know a lot of fancy words like disestablishmentarian (a person who believes in the separation of church and state), or incomprehensibility (which is incomprehensibly long), but something that everyone except lawyers, judges, and other legally mind fold struggle with is the language of the law. You’ve likely heard a lot of legal terms before, such as Miranda warnings, or plaintiff and defendant on various law shows or in the news, but these are often glossed over until they are needed. While having the legal vocabulary of a seasoned lawyer likely won’t be very useful to you, knowing the everyday terminology can go a long way in understanding criminal law processes.

Legal Talk

Like all the English language, there are nouns (people, places, and things), verbs (actions, states, or occurrences), and adjectives (descriptive words) in the language of the law, commonly called “legalese”. When you’re in the rush of the bail bond process as a defendant (person accused of being a crime) or a family member, all these words seem to jumble together into a confusing mix of sounds that doesn’t sound anything like colloquial English. Having a baseline understanding of legal talk can save you plenty of time and stress. Some important terms include Bail, Bail Bond, Warrant, Affidavit, Collateral, Felony, Misdemeanor, Jail, Prison, and Writ. For a more comprehensive list of terms, this glossary of legal terms can be helpful!

You can remember these in groups of terms. Bail, bail bonds, and collateral are all related; bail refers to the amount of money required to be paid to release a person from jail to await their next trial. A bail bond is something a licensed bail bond company provides for a nonrefundable percent of the bail amount. Collateral is an item or monetary amount held to ensure that the person released from prison will not attempt to escape or evade their court hearings.

An affidavit is a written statement that you swear is true, and a writ is a court order. A warrant is a document from the court (a writ) that orders the arrest of someone. Finally, it is important to understand the differences between a felony and misdemeanor as well as jail and prison. A felony is a more serious crime while misdemeanors catch smaller crimes such as shoplifting of small items. Jail is a temporary holding place usually managed by the county while prison is a more permanent punitive housing facility that people spend time at depending on their charge if they are ruled guilty.  

Understanding Your Rights

If you’re in a pinch to know your legal rights or explain them to a loved one, you should be familiar with the names of the rights, or at least what they do. You’re probably familiar with the Miranda warning which is the right to remain silent. Staying silent is always in your best interest until you can see an attorney because anything you say can and may be potentially used against you in court. Additionally, you generally have a right to expedient bail, depending on the crime and the time of the year, you will usually be allowed a bail hearing within 48 hours after your arrest, this is where you, a family member, or a licensed local bail bondsman will post bail for you. You also have the right to an attorney even if you cannot afford one for yourself, so be sure to request one!

Final Thoughts

If you or a loved one happens to be arrested and sent to jail, there will be a lot of legalese spoken in the process of posting bail and the return to court for the official hearing. Having an idea of the terms that you will be hearing is important for staying on top of the proceedings so they can go as smoothly as possible. If you have questions about bail bonds, the legal process of an arrest, or if you need a responsible, experienced, licensed bail bondsman, call Mercy Bail Bonds to discuss your options.