While the law can be complex, understanding some of the basic concepts can take some of the confusion out of trying to resolve your particular legal situation. We have provided a basic description of some commonly used legal terms below. For a free consultation regarding these or any legal issues that you may have questions about, please feel free to call or email our office with your questions.
1. BENCH TRIAL – trial before a judge (no jury present) whereby the judge is the ultimate fact finder and decides all questions of both fact and law.
2. BOND – money or some other type of collateral that is put up on behalf of a Defendant in a criminal case to ensure their presence in the jurisdiction after being indicted but before trial has commenced. There are different bond options available to the judiciary. Here are the most common types of release utilized by judges:
- Release on Recognizance – requires only the signature of the defendant and a promise to appear in court as scheduled.
- Cash bond – requires full cash amount to be posted plus fees. If you choose to post this bond on behalf of another, and the person does not show up for court appearances or does not abide by conditions that may be imposed by the Court, you will be subject to have this cash forfeited by the Court. If no violations of the conditions of the bond occur, then the full amount will be refunded upon disposition of the case.
- Property bond – requires property owners to have equity in their property that is equal to twice the face amount of the bond in order to qualify. A lien will be placed on this property to secure the bond. Once again, if the person does not show up for court appearances or does not abide by conditions that may be imposed by the Court, you will be subject to forfeiture by the Court. There are also fees for processing this type of bond. The lien on the property will be released upon disposition of the case.
- Partially Secured – requires a percentage of the cash amount set as bond (usually 10%, but can vary). If a bond has been set at $500 you would be required to post $50 (if the partially secured bond was set at 10 %?). There is a processing fee for this type of bond, so you would receive 90% of the $50 you posted once the case is disposed. If the person does not show up for court appearances or does not abide by conditions that may be imposed by the Court, you may be subject to pay $500 as forfeiture by the Court.
- Surety Bond – requires a third party to sign with the defendant. The party signing will usually be required to own property but a lien will not necessarily be placed upon the property. These types of bonds are subject to approval on a local basis. If the person does not show up for court appearances or does not abide by conditions that may be imposed by the Court, you may be subject to forfeiture by the Court. The amount of the forfeiture would be the amount set as bond.
- Unsecured Bond – requires that the defendant sign and promise to appear. There is a money amount attached to this type of bond and a failure to appear in court or a failure to abide by conditions imposed by the court by the person could lead to a forfeiture of the bond that the defendant would be required to pay.
3. DAUBERT CHALLENGE a challenge made to the certain admissibility of expert testimony in a court of law. Stemming from the Supreme Court case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. Before an expert’s testimony is admissible, a trial court must make a decision as to whether the expert’s methodology is scientifically valid, and whether it applies to the facts of the case at hand. This can apply to a wide variety of expert testimony and expert evidence.
4. HEARSAY – an out-of-court statement that is used to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay is inadmissible in a court of law unless an exception applies.
5. JURY TRIAL – A panel of peers weighs and decides on questions of fact based on the evidence presented. A jury trial can range from one day to months and puts the fate of the parties in the hands of a panel of citizens.
6. MIRANDA RIGHTS – the Miranda Rule was developed in the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Miranda v. Arizona. The rule was designed to protect an individual’s 5th Amendment Right to protect himself against self-incrimination. The warning typically reads, “You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you desire an attorney and cannot afford one, an attorney will be obtained for you before police questioning.” If the Miranda warning is not given before a law enforcement official begins to question a suspect, or if during questioning the suspect demands his right to an attorney, any and all statements made by the suspect are inadmissible at trial.
7. MOTION TO SUPPRESS – formal request by a party to a court proceeding asking the judge to exclude certain evidence from being introduced at trial.
8. “NO CONTEST” PLEA – occurs when a defendant neither admits (pleads guilty) nor denies (pleads not guilty) the charges against him, but rather pleads “no contest.” In Kentucky commonly referred to as an “Alford Plea”.’
9. PLEA AGREEMENT – an agreement between the defense counsel, on behalf of the defendant, and the prosecutor whereby the prosecutor usually allows the defendant to plead guilty to some lesser charge. This is usually beneficial to both parties, as the defendant will be found guilty of a lesser offense and the prosecution need not prepare for a criminal trial.
10. PLEADING THE FIFTH – the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects an individual suspected of having committed a crime, the right to remain silent so as to not incriminate oneself.
11. PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE – all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
12. RIGHT TO COUNSEL /ATTORNEY– the 6th Amendment to the Constitution grants all criminal defendants the right to be assisted by counsel in all criminal prosecutions.
13. RIGHT AGAINST SELF-INCRIMINATION – stemming from the Fifth Amendment, the U.S. Constitution protects an individual suspected of having committed a crime, the right to remain silent so as to not incriminate oneself.
14. SEARCH WARRANT – a document issued by a judge (or magistrate) granting a law enforcement officer the right to search a stated area. Search warrants must be supported by probable cause, and they must describe with particularity the places to be searched and the items expected to be seized.
15. SUPPRESSION OF EVIDENCE – usually done in either a Motion for Suppression or a Motion in Limine, evidence that was gathered in violation of an individual’s constitutional right may be suppressed by a court of law, and once suppressed the evidence is inadmissible.
16. UNLAWFUL SEARCH AND SEIZURE – the Constitution provides that all citizens have a right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. This requires that law enforcement officers must have a valid warrant before they can enter your home/search your car. If an officer does not have a warrant, and there is no exception to the warrant requirement that applies, anything obtained in the warrantless search is inadmissible in court.