A document in which an accusation of crime is set forth like an indictment, information, petition, or complaint.
A finding of not guilty by a jury or judge because the jury or judge believed the accused to be innocent of any wrong doing OR they were not convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused committed the crime(s) for which he or she was charged.
A voluntary statement reduced to writing and sworn to or affirmed before someone legally authorized to administer an oath or affirmation (notary public).
Asking a higher court to review a decision of a lower (generally, trial) court or administrative agency. The state may not appeal from a verdict of acquittal in a criminal case because to do so would violate the defendant’s constitutional right not to be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.
A defendant’s first appearance before a judge after arrest. The defendant is charged with a specific crime or crimes and is read his or her legal rights. Release on bail or personal promise to return (recognizance) is also decided.
CITATION TO APPEAR
A legal paper requiring the named person to appear in court. Failure to appear usually results in a warrant for the person’s arrest.
An agreement between the victim/survivor, defendant and state by which a criminal case is settled without prosecution. E.g., restitution is made or the defendant agrees not to enter on the victim’s premises again (in the case of a commercial establishment). Must be approved by the court.
Statutes and “case law” that define or interpret individuals’ and organizations’ private rights in their relationships and disputes that involve property, contracts, personal injury, family relationships, tax, or government rules and regulations.
Non-statutory, judge-made law. Appellate court decision that create and explain principles of law.
Money awarded to compensate victim/survivor for actual losses suffered in civil claims, or a fine to the court in criminal cases.
One who asks the court for legal redress by filing a complaint (i.e. the plaintiff in a civil suit). Also, private citizen who initiates prosecution.
Victim in a criminal case.
In criminal law, a written accusation that the named person has committed an offense other than a felony and must appear and answer the charge. In civil law, the written instrument by which the plaintiff invokes the jurisdiction of the court and sets out the reasons to support it.
Violation of or failure to comply with a court order.
The circuit court is Oregon’s trial court of general jurisdiction. This means it hears cases regardless of the subject matter, amount of money involved, or the severity of the crime alleged. The circuit court is a “court of record,” which means that an official court reporter or special audio or video recording system records every word of most cases except small claims and noncriminal offenses such as violations. The “record” is used in any appeal. Most appeals are “on the record,” which means that the appellate court does not hold a new trial but relies on the record and on oral and written arguments to decide whether the trial court’s decision was proper.
Among other powers, the circuit court has the power in civil cases to
- dissolve marriages and distribute the assets of the parties;
- award or change legal custody of children;
- determine who has title to land;
- distribute a decedent’s property and possessions;
- preside over trials;
- commit juveniles to state institutions and place dependent children in substitute care;
- approve adoptions;
- commit mentally ill persons to state hospitals; and
- issue injunctions.
In criminal cases, the circuit court:
- conducts pretrial hearings and trials;
- sentences convicted persons to Oregon’s “corrections” system (e.g., jail, prison, probation); and
- imposes the death penalty in certain “capital” murder cases.
Decisions appealed from circuit court go directly to the Court of Appeals, except for cases where the circuit court sentenced a defendant to death. Those death penalty appeals go directly to the Supreme Court.
Information of criminal activity that is prepared by police officers.
The body of laws that define a person’s basic rights in and duties to preserve a peaceful and safe society. A person who violates the duties to preserve social peace and safety may be guilty of a crime “against the people” and so face jail, prison, or some other punishment. In addition, if the lawbreaker’s act injured another (the “victim”), the victim may have a right to a private, civil law claim for damages.
Physical control of a person. In criminal law, detention of an individual by virtue of legal process or authority. In civil law, custody of a child means the control, care and maintenance of a child.
The sum of money that the law awards or imposes as monetary compensation, recompense or satisfaction for an injury done or a wrong sustained as a consequence either of a breach of a contractual obligation or a tortuous act.
A judgment of a court; a final determination of the rights of the parties in certain kinds of civil suits (e.g. decree of dissolution of marriage).
In criminal law, the accused individual. In civil law, the person being sued.
Termination of a legal action. Can be voluntary by the initiating party (including the district attorney in a criminal case) before a decision on the merits. Can be voluntary by judge either before of after a decision on the merits. When a case is dismissed, the defendant is not held responsible.
However, a case can be dismissed without prejudice-which allows the initiating party to file the case again. If it is dismissed with prejudice, the case cannot be refilled.
Power to exercise judgment, establish policy within general rules and principles of law. May not be exercised arbitrarily. (E.g. prosecutor has discretion to decide which cases to prosecute. Judge has discretion to decide what legal instructions to give jury. Will not be overturned by higher court absent abuse.)
DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
Divorce. Legal action ending marriage.
DISTRICT ATTORNEY see “Prosecutor.”
A disposition of a criminal defendant, either before or after adjudication of guilt, in which the court directs the defendant to participate in a work or educational program. Literally, defendant is diverted from the criminal justice system. If s/he does not complete the diversion program, s/he is subject to prosecution or sentencing.
EX PARTE ORDER
An order made by the court upon request of one of the parties to a legal action without notice to the other.
FAPA (FAMILY ABUSE PROTECTION ACT) ORDER
A FAPA Restraining Order is a protective order issued by a Court to prohibit an abuser from intimidating, molesting, or menacing Petitioner (the protected person) and any children in Petitioner’s custody. A FAPA order requires that the petitioner and the respondent (the person against whom the order applies) are “family or household members.” This definition includes current or former spouses and current or former intimate partners. This definition does not cover sexual assaults committed by a person who is not a spouse or intimate partner.
Crime of a more serious nature than that designated as a misdemeanor and with graver penalties.
Body of citizens whose duty consists in determining whether probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and whether a particular person should be indicted for it. It is an accusatory body; its function does not include a determination of guilt.
A formal proceeding in court before a judge. Can be civil or criminal. Opportunity to present (and dispute) issues of law or fact to a judge for a decision. (Proceedings before legislative and administrative bodies are also called hearings).
In civil law, whereby a person cannot be sued for civil wrongs. (E.g. a judge is “immune” from suit for any decision she or he makes in his or her judicial capacity.) In criminal law, because the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits a person from being compelled to testify against him- or herself, the prosecution may require a witness to testify, but to do so, must first confer immunity upon the witness. Such immunity will shelter the person from some degree of criminal liability.
In the judge’s chambers; in private; out of the hearing of the jury and spectators.
A written accusation that one or more persons have committed a crime, presented upon oath, by a grand jury. Applies to felony cases only.
A written accusation charging a named person with the commission of an offense punishable as a felony. The district attorney can file an information in lieu of a grand jury indictment, where a preliminary hearing is held (this practice is uncommon in Oregon).
A court order to refrain from or to do a particular act.
Decision of a court. Final determination by the court of the rights of the parties upon matters submitted to it.
Authority of court to exercise power. If a court has not been granted jurisdiction by statute or constitution, it is without authority to act and any action taken by the court is void.
JURY (PETIT JURY)
Body of persons temporarily selected from the citizens of a particular district and vested with power to decide factual issues in a civil or criminal case.
Acting improperly (generally referring to public officials, employees and agents).
“We command.” A writ (order) issued by a higher court to a judge or public official, commanding her/him to perform a duty mandated by law, where the judge or official has refused or failed to carry out the mandatory duty.
Offenses less serious than felonies. Convictions can generally result in sentences for individuals of up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both.
A change in an existing court order. Only a judge can modify an order made by another judge and only for reasons set forth in law. For example, a court order establishing custody of or support for a child can only be modified where circumstances have significantly changed since the initial order.
A lack of due care that causes injury (not an intentional act).
NOLO CONTENDERE (NO CONTEST)
Plea in criminal case that means guilt is neither admitted nor denied. Has similar legal effect to plea of guilty, except it may not be used against defendant in civil action based upon same acts. Requires court consent.
Failure to act (generally by public official).
The judgment or conclusion of a court on any motion or proceeding by which relief is granted or denied.
Generally, a law enacted by a city or county.
When a person is released from prison conditionally he or she is on parole. The person must adhere to certain conditions and report to an assigned parole officer. If the person violates any of the stated conditions, he or she could be returned to prison without a new trial.
A written request filed in court, such as a petition for a temporary restraining order under the Family Abuse Prevention Act.
The one who files a petition initiating action asking the court to do something.
Person who initiates lawsuit in a civil action. In criminal cases, the plaintiff is the state or city.
A defendant’s answer to the crime charged. A defendant can plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). The plea is made to a judge in court.
Process whereby accused and prosecutor in criminal case work out mutually satisfactory disposition of case subject to court approval. Usually involves defendant pleading guilty to a lesser offense or to only some of the counts of a multi-count indictment in return for lighter sentence than possible for the more serious charge.
Hearing before a judge given to a person accused of a crime to determine whether there is evidence to establish cause to believe that a crime has been committed by the defendant named (an alternative procedure to indictment by a grand jury). If there is sufficient evidence, the defendant is bound over.
A meeting between the judge and legal counsel for both parties, prior to the trial at which time the district attorney informs the defendant of all the evidence against him or her. Defendant can decide to plead guilty at the time and he or she will not go to trial. If the defendant still pleads not guilty, a trial will be set. Procedure is applicable to both felony and misdemeanor cases.
Reasonable cause. Having more evidence for than against. Required to make arrest, initiate prosecution.
A kind of sentence where a judge decides to monitor a person either directly (bench probation) or through a probation officer (formal probation). Conditions of probation can include serving jail time, paying a fine, doing community service, alcohol and drug or other counseling programs, staying away from certain people and places, etc. Violation of the terms of probation can result in time in custody.
In criminal cases, the district attorney (representing the state or city) who brings action against the defendant for violation of the law.
Money awarded as punishment for outrageous conduct and to deter future transgressions. The state cannot be made to pay punitive damages. (Civil suit only).
Defendant’s “promise to appear;” conditional release from jail until case is terminated. Frequently used in lieu of a defendant posting bail to ensure his or her return to court, and referred to as, “Released on own recognizance, pending further court proceedings with the promise to appear.”
Person named in a petition to the court as the one who should be required to answer why, if at all, the petition should not be granted. Similar to a defendant.
Full, partial, or nominal payment of certain damages, such as the money equivalent of property taken, destroyed, broken or otherwise harmed, and losses such as medical expenses and costs of psychological treatment or counseling.
An order, signed by a judge, that says that a person cannot do something (e.g. harass, hit, yell at, bother another person, or must leave or stay away from a certain person and/or place). The order must be given to the person before it is enforceable. If a person disobeys it, she or he can be arrested. (See FAPA ORDER, above.)
The penalty the judge gives to a defendant after she or he pleads guilty, no contest or is found guilty at trial. A sentence can include time in jail or prison, a fine, or probation with certain conditions. The maximum length of jail time and amount of fine possible are set by law.
SERVICE (SERVICE OF PROCESS)
Delivery of legal papers to a person named in them and required to answer them. Service requirements vary from personal service (preferred) to notice by posting in public place and publication in newspaper.
Law enacted by state legislature. Act of legislature declaring, commanding or prohibiting something.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Law establishing time within which a legal action must be initiated. Time varies for different crimes or wrongs and whether potential liability is civil or criminal.
THIRD PARTY LITIGATION
Civil suit brought against a person or entity only indirectly responsible for injury or loss, where another individual has direct responsibility. E.g. suit against landlord for injury caused by intruder who gained entry because of inadequate security.
An examination and determination in court of issues between parties. May be civil or criminal. Judge or jury may decide the facts. Judge always decides the issues of law.
An injury or wrong committed against the person or property of another for which the injured can sue for money damages and other relief.
Formal decision made by jury on issues submitted to it.
An offense is a violation if it is so designated in the statute defining the offense is punishable only by a fine, forfeiture, fine and forfeiture or other civil penalty. Conviction does not give rise to any disability or legal disadvantage based on conviction of a crime (such as the inability to vote or possess a handgun, for instance). An example of a violation is a speeding ticket.
Written order from the court directing an officer to arrest a person.
WRIT OF ASSISTANCE
A court order directing a sheriff or police officer to provide assistance in enforcing another court order (e.g., picking up children and returning them to their lawful custodian, or removing a batterer from a residence).