court words and phrases
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What Are Some Common Court Words And Phrases?

| January 23, 2024

Do you know the court words and phrases said by the judge when people are able to freely talk?

Well, the allure of courtroom drama, whether in real life or on screen, captivates many. These stories open windows into complex, fundamental aspects of human life. Moreover, the clash of right and wrong, innocence versus guilt, victim and criminal, interest many of us. 

Occasionally we compare the past against the present to understand how laws evolve.

Whether you’re engrossed in shows like “The Good Wife,” a fan of Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler, or episodes of the “Court Junkie” podcast, you’re familiar with courtroom jargon. 

While you might grasp common terms like testimony, cross-examination, objection, plea bargain, and circumstantial evidence, you might sometimes find yourself puzzled. The legal language used in these shows is quite complex. It’s common to realize that you don’t fully understand some of these courtroom terms you keep hearing.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of commonly used courtroom terms. If you hold an interest in the legal system, you should be familiar with it. 

Be it deposition objections or any legal jobs, they will be of much help. So, let us begin to go through important court words and phrases without any delay!

Pre-Trial Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge

Pre-Trial Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge

Do you ever wonder, “court words and phrases do I have a right to know what they mean?” Well, of course you do. In the world of legal proceedings, the pre-trial phase is a vital groundwork before the main courtroom showdown. These are the terms you should know.

Arraignment

When a defendant appears in court, hears the charges, and enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Bench warrant

A judge-issued order for someone to appear in court due to non-compliance with a court directive.

Cause of action

The grounds on which a plaintiff files a complaint or lawsuit.

Deposition

Witness testimony given outside court, often before an authorized officer.

Discovery

Procedures to gather evidence before the trial.

Extradition

Surrendering an accused person from one state to another for an offense committed outside the former’s territory.

Grand jury

Citizens who decide if there’s enough evidence for a trial based on prosecutors’ evidence.

Malfeasance

Intentional wrongful conduct, legally or morally.

Some More! 

The mental state indicating criminal intent is Mens rea.

Pretrial hearing

A session after arraignment where the judge schedules trial dates and addresses important pretrial matters.

Recusal

A judge or prosecutor voluntarily stepping down due to bias or conflicts of interest to maintain impartiality.

Subpoena vs. Summons

A subpoena requires testimony or evidence, while a summons orders a person to court in response to a complaint. Moreover, sometimes, you may receive both, ensuring the court gets necessary information.

Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge During Trial

Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge During Trial

Legal jargon during trials can be puzzling. Here is a mix of court words and phrases

you might encounter during the trial procedures.

Affidavit

It’s a written statement made under oath.

Bench Trial Vs. Jury Trial

Jury trials have a panel deciding, while in bench trials, the judge decides. Most U.S. criminal cases opt for jury trials due to constitutional rights.

Burden Of Proof

The standard to prove allegations; it’s higher in criminal trials, demanding proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Case Law

Refers to laws established in past court decisions, often cited as legal precedent.

Civil Case Vs. Criminal Case

Criminal cases are offenses against the state, while civil cases resolve disputes between individuals.

Some More!

Making a false statement under oath about a relevant matter during a proceeding is perjury. Additionally, a false statement on an irrelevant matter might not be perjury.

Probate

The handling of a deceased person’s estate and related court processes.

Quash

Asking the judge to annul or set aside a particular action, like invalidating an incorrect summons.

Redirect

When a lawyer further questions their own witness after cross-examination.

Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge Post Trial

Court Words And Phrases Said By The Judge Post Trial

Legal court words and phrases related to sentencing and post-sentencing are important in understanding what happens after a trial. Let us find out more about these court words and phrases.

Acquittal

A ruling that someone is not guilty, or the evidence is insufficient for a conviction.

Actual innocence

When evidence casts doubt on a guilty verdict, indicating the accused’s innocence.

Alford plea

Not admitting guilt but acknowledging enough evidence for a potential conviction.

Appeal

Requesting a higher court to review a decision made in a trial.

Assault vs. Battery

Assault involves the fear of harm, while battery requires physical contact.

Clemency

Granting pardons or reducing sentences by executive authority.

Consecutive Vs. Concurrent

Serving prison terms one after another or simultaneously.

Exoneration

Removing blame or duty that the law imposes.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor

Serious crimes punishable by jail for over a year vs. less severe offenses.

First-Degree Murder Vs. Second-Degree Murder

Premeditated vs. unintentional or reckless killing.

Habeas Corpus

Ordering law authorities to produce a prisoner and justify their imprisonment.

Hung jury

When a jury can’t reach a decision, it leads to a retrial.

Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel

When any party claims poor legal representation that affected the trial’s outcome.

Murder vs. Manslaughter

Intent to kill and cause harm vs. unintentional killing due to negligence.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Violating court rules or ethical standards by prosecutors.

Punitive Damages

The Court Awards this to punish defendants beyond compensatory damages.

Restitution

Defendant’s payment or service to compensate victims for their losses.

Robbery vs. Burglary

Forceful property taking vs. unauthorized entry with intent to commit a crime.

Statute Of Limitations

Time frame within which a lawsuit or prosecution must start.

Time Served

Credit for the time a defendant spent in jail awaiting trial or bail.

To Conclude Our Article On Court Words And Phrases

Thus, we reach the end of our article on court words and phrases. After diving into these courtroom terms, you might find yourself more comfortable with the legal world altogether.

If you have found yourself wondering about life within the legal system, you’re not alone. Therefore, contemplating the reality behind the scenes of courtroom dramas or considering a career in law can spark a genuine curiosity.

Exploring what it’s truly like to work in the legal field could satisfy that curiosity. Hence, stay tuned to our blog for more exciting legal knowledge!

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Debkanya Bhattacharya
Debkanya Bhattacharya

Debkanya is a lawyer turned writer. With an experience of 3 years, she is your go-to source for all things law. She has a soft corner for the US and international section. When the weekend arrives, you'll find her reading up on politics, Austen, or travel blogs over a cup of coffee.

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