Legal Terms

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A.R.S.
-Arizona Revised Statutes.

Acquittal
– Finding a criminal defendant not guilty of the charge against him/her.

Admissibility
– The ability to legally and properly introduce relevant evidence.

Affidavit
– A voluntary written sworn statement or declaration of facts. Affidavits are usually notarized by a notary public.

Allegation
– An assertion, declaration or statement made, usually in a pleading, by the state or the defense, stating the matters the party intends to prove.

Appeal of Conviction
- A defendant who had appointed counsel at the determination of guilt or at sentencing may proceed on appeal as an indigent without further authorization unless after a notice of appeal is filed the trial court finds that the defendant is able to employ counsel and pay for a certified copy of the record on appeal and the certified transcript. In a felony case, the Yuma County Public Defender will file a notice of appeal along with a motion to withdraw from the court-appointed representation within 20 days of the entry of judgment and sentence. Thereafter, the court will appoint counsel to handle the appeal. This appellate lawyer may be a Public Defender or a lawyer from outside the office. In a misdemeanor case, the defendant may elect to appeal to the Superior Court, in which case the Public Defender will file the Notice of Appeal but appellate representation will be handled by outside counsel.

Arraignment
– Criminal proceeding in which the defendant, in open court, must answer criminal charges by entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. Defendant either must be represented by a lawyer or waive his/her right to legal counsel. For in-custody defendants, arraignment must occur within 10 days of the filing of an indictment, information, or complaint. For those defendants out of custody, arraignment is set generally within 30 days. An arraignment is a proceeding in which the defendant enters a plea, usually not guilty. The court may inquire as to conditions of release, and any contested release hearing and pretrial conferences are set at that time.

Arrest
-
May be warrantless, by summons or by warrant. The summons is used if the offense charged is bailable and there is reason to believe that the defendant will respond. If by warrant, the magistrate shall determine that probable cause exists that the defendant committed the offense or find that such a determination has been made.  If a defendant fails to appear after being summoned or good cause exists to believe the defendant will fail to appear, or the summons cannot be readily served or delivered, a warrant shall issue. An officer can also arrest a defendant at the scene of the crime or in close proximity, such as when the officer would not have time to get a complaint filed before the arrest. If warrantless, a defendant must be brought before a magistrate within 24 hours after arrest, or immediately  released. A complaint must be filed with 48 hours of the initial appearance before the magistrate, or the defendant must be immediately released.

Attorney of Record
– Attorney whose name appears on the permanent records and files of a particular case. Initially, the attorney must file a Notice of Appearance with the Court. If the attorney changes, A Notice of Substitution of Counsel must be filed with the Court.

Bailiff
– A courtroom assistant to the judge who handles certain courtroom functions including files, jurors, witnesses and attorneys.

Bench Conference
– A conference between a judge and the attorneys regarding a courtroom proceeding, which may be, but sometimes is not, part of the written court record.

Bifurcated Trial
– Where the issues in a case are divided into two or more hearings or trials. The second hearing/trial does not necessarily use the same jury as the first.

Bond
-Bond is set at the initial appearance, prior to the Public Defender appointment. Depending on the charges, a public defender may be able to get the bond reduced at justice court, or later in superior court after requesting a release hearing. Bond and release conditions are based on a number of factors, such as failures to appear, prior criminal history, pending warrants/charges, ties to the community, job history, recommendations from friends, family, etc. These factors are considered by the court in a release hearing.

There are various types of bonds: Release on Recognizance, Appearance, Secured, Cash, and 3rd Party Release. The Public Defender does not arrange bond. Types of release include the following:

Own Recognizance
-The defendant's promise that he or she will return to court when required.

Supervised O.R. Release
-Supervision may include avoiding contact with an alleged victim, entering a drug program, reporting in person or by telephone to the Supervised Release Program, until disposition of the case.

Third Party Custody
-This is an own recognizance release with a third party co-signing the release order, stating that every effort will be made to see that the defendant appears. The third party is also responsible to see that if any conditions of the defendant's release are violated, the court is promptly notified.

Unsecured Appearance Bond
-Release without having to post a cash bond; however, he or she does sign an order stating he or she will execute an appearance bond, binding him or her to pay the State of Arizona a designated sum of money should he or she fail to appear.

Secured Appearance Bond
-The defendant must deposit with the court either property or cash in the amount set forth in the order before he or she will be released.

No Bond
-Under the following circumstances, a defendant can be held without bond:  Capital Offenses when the proof is evident or the presumption great. Felony offenses,committed when the person charged is already admitted to bail (or on probation) on a separate felony charge and where the proof is evident or the presumption great as to the present charge.

Brief
– Written statement, usually for appellate purposes, explaining facts of the case and laws that apply.

Capital Offense
– A felony punishable by death.

Case Management Conference
- Referred to as a CMC, this is a status check by the court as to where the case stands. Depending on the case and investigation and disclosure, CMCs may be continued to accommodate defense or state or both.

Chambers
– Private office suite of the judge and his/her staff.

Complaint
-A written statement of facts constituting a public offense, made on oath before a magistrate. The complaint may be made by a person with knowledge of the criminal offense, by a police officer, or prosecutor.

Conviction
– Finding by a judge or jury that a person charged with a criminal offense is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of committing the crime charged.

Court Commissioner
– Commissioners are frequently full time judicial officers appointed by the presiding judge and authorized to perform limited judicial functions.

Court Clerk
– A person in charge of keeping the court records and exhibits. The clerk generates a Minute Entry after each proceeding.

Court Reporter
– A person who transcribes by shorthand or records stenographically the testimony during court proceedings. Transcripts are not automatically prepared. They are generated when requested and upon payment of the court reporter's fee.

Criminal Violation
-Generally, a commission of an offense the law recognizes as a criminal violation. The offense may be classified as a Class 1, 2 or 3 misdemeanor, or a felony ranging from the most serious (First Degree Murder, a Class 1), to the lowest classification, a Class 6.

Discovery
– The pretrial process by which one party discovers the evidence that will be relied upon at trial by the opposing party. In Arizona, the state and the defense are required to disclose to each other the evidence they intend to elicit at trial.

Due Process
– The regular course of administration of justice through the courts, under the protection of the law, the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions, enabling every person to have a fair and impartial trial or hearing.

Empanel
– The act of making up a list of jurors who have been selected for the trial of a particular case.

Evidence
– Proof presented in court through the testimony of a witness, exhibits, records, objects or written documents to persuade the judge or jury as to an alleged fact or position.

Felony
– A six-level classification for offenses punishable by incarceration in the Department of Corrections. A Class 1 felony is the most serious offense, with a Class 6 being the least serious.

For Cause
– Based upon some good reason.

Grand Jury (County)
– Group of 16 citizens drawn from Yuma County to secretly investigate criminal matters pertaining to Yuma County when asked to do so by the County Attorney. Evidence is presented by a prosecutor through witness(es). County Grand Juries typically hear cases involving drugs, murder, rape, burglaries, and aggravated assaults. In order to indict a person, at least nine Grand Jurors must find there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and that the defendant committed it. A Grand Jury proceeding negates the need for a Preliminary Hearing.

In Camera
– A Latin term meaning "in chambers." Traditionally, the term meant a proceeding closed to the public.

Indictment
– A written statement charging the commission of a public offense, following a grand jury investigation, presented to the court by a grand jury, endorsed a “true bill” and signed by the foreman.

-Indigent
 A person without means to hire a defense attorney. All defendants are entitled to representation by counsel, unless the criminal violation is a petty offense for which no jail time is sought or imposed after a judgment of guilty. The Supreme Court of Arizona provides eligibility (financial) guidelines for those defendants who require, but cannot afford, representation.

Information
– A written statement charging the commission of a public offense, following a preliminary hearing, signed and presented to the court by the prosecutor.

Initial Appearance (IA)
– First appearance in court by defendant in a criminal case. Under Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, an arrested person must appear before a judicial officer to be advised of charges and rights, including the right to have an attorney within 24 hours of arrest. At this time, a public defender would be appointed if the defendant cannot afford to hire counsel. Bail may be set. Depending on the case, a person might have his/her first appearance in a justice of the peace court in Yuma County.

Judge pro tem
– "Pro tem" is an abbreviation of the Latin term pro tempore, meaning ''for the time being".  Arizona is one of the few states that allows an attorney to be appointed a judge with full powers for the length of a case or series of proceedings. In Yuma County, pro tem judges are employed to keep backlogs down and cover for vacation schedules.

Jurisdiction
– The legal authority of the court to hear and decide cases; the exercise of judicial power within certain geographic boundaries and over individuals.

Jury
– A jury, of 8 persons if the maximum punishment that can be imposed is less than thirty years and of 12 persons if the maximum punishment that can be imposed is thirty years or more, impaneled to hear a criminal trial.

Justice of the Peace
– A county court of limited jurisdiction inferior to the Superior Court. A Justice (JP) court hears misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases occurring outside the city limits. JP courts can also hear civil cases up to $10,000, small claims cases (without attorneys) and evictions. JP courts also conduct preliminary hearings in felony cases.

Magistrate
– Often used to refer to a Municipal Court judge, but A.R.S. §1-215 provides a broad definition which includes all those judicial officers having power to issue a warrant for arrest, i.e., a Supreme Court justice, Superior Court judges, justice of the peace courts, and municipal courts.

Minute Entry
– Usually a one or two page summary which briefly summarizes what went on during a court proceeding--everyone who appeared in court, names of witnesses who testified, what kind of proceeding took place, when the next court date is, and any orders of the court that were issued. Minute entries are public documents and are kept in the court files.

Misdemeanor
– A classification for offenses which are less serious than felonies and are punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Motion
– A written filing, sometimes called a “pleading”, from an attorney to the Court, asking for a ruling or order.

Motion in limine
– A pretrial motion where a party requests a ruling from the court that prohibits the opposing party from raising a particular prejudicial issue, or from raising it in a legally objectionable manner, at trial.

Petition
– Written application made to court asking for legal intervention.

Plea
– Response of a defendant to criminal charges.

Pleading
– Written documents stating the allegations and claims of the opposing parties in a legal dispute.

Post-Conviction Relief (Rule 32)
-A collateral form of post-conviction review available to a defendant who has pleaded guilty and been sentenced or who has appealed and lost. A Notice of Post-Conviction Relief starts the process. A Notice of Post-Conviction Relief must be filed within ninety days after the entry of judgment and sentence or within thirty days after the issuance of the final order or mandate of the appellate court. The Rule 32 proceeding is not a substitute for an appeal and any issue that could have been raised on appeal and was not is deemed waived, subject to certain exceptions. In a capital case, the Supreme Court or if authorized by the Supreme Court, the presiding judge of the county from which the case originated shall appoint counsel for the defendant. In a Rule 32 of-right and non-capital case, the presiding judge shall appoint counsel if requested and if the defendant is determined to be indigent.

Preliminary Hearing
– Court proceeding which determines whether a crime has been committed and the criminal defendant should be held for trial. This is called a “probable cause” determination. The Preliminary Hearing in Yuma County is usually vacated and replaced by a Grand Jury proceeding.

Probation
– A conditional suspension of imposition or execution of a sentence. If terms of probation are completed successfully, sentence is not imposed. If terms of probation are violated, probation may be revoked and the sentence imposed.

Pro se (pro per)
– a person who represents him/herself.

Quash
– To vacate an order of the Court; for example, to cancel an arrest warrant.

Remand
– To send back. For example, the Court of Appeals may remand a case back to Superior Court for retrial, reconsideration or other action; the Superior Court may remand a case back to the Grand Jury.

Subpoena
– Legal document issued by the courts to order a person to appear as specified and give testimony and/or bring evidence.

Summons
– Legal document issued by the court to notify defendant that a complaint has been filed and that he/she is required to appear and answer the complaint on or before the time and date specified. A summons is a notice to appear for a defendant who does not need to be arrested.

Superior Court
– A court of general jurisdiction with the power to hear criminal and civil cases occurring within Yuma County. The Superior Court hears primarily felony, rather than misdemeanor offenses, but may hear misdemeanor offenses as it has concurrent (or shared) jurisdiction with Justice and City Courts. Superior Court judges can also hear appeals of criminal and civil cases heard in inferior courts (Justice and City Courts). Civil matters heard by the Superior Court include: lawsuits, domestic relations cases (child support enforcement, divorce, paternity matters and domestic violence restraining orders), probate (wills), guardianship (usually of minors), conservatorship (estate manager), and mental health matters.

Supervening Indictment
– An indictment has been returned by the Grand Jury. The scheduled Preliminary Hearing is vacated and the case proceeds to an arraignment.

Trial by Jury
-
A trial in which members of the community, rather than a judge, determine guilt. The Arizona Constitution guarantees the jury trial “[i]n criminal prosecutions” but only for serious crimes, as opposed to petty crimes. In a criminal case in which a sentence of death or imprisonment of thirty years or more is possible, the number of jurors is twelve, and the concurrence of all shall be necessary to render a verdict. A jury for trial in any court of record of any other criminal case shall consist of eight persons, and the concurrence of all shall be necessary to render a verdict.  In a court not of record, the jury for trial of any case shall consist of six persons. The concurrence of all in a criminal case shall be necessary to render a verdict.

Waiver of Trial by Jury: The defendant may waive the right to trial by jury with consent of the prosecution and the court.

Waiver of Appearance
-If agreement is reached by both defense and State, particularly when a Case Management Conference will be continued based on further discovery requests, a defendant’s appearance may be waived.

Warrant
– A warrant notifies law enforcement that a person should be arrested when found.

With Prejudice
– The dismissal of a case with finality, meaning the case cannot be reopened or refiled.

Without Prejudice
– The dismissal of a case without restriction on the ability to reopen or refile if circumstances change.

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