Glossary

ACCOMPLICE
Someone who voluntarily helps another person commit a crime.

ACCUSATORY PLEADING
The document in which a person is accused of a crime and on which the government tries such person.

ADJUDICATION HEARING
The procedure used to determine the facts in a juvenile case; similar to an adult trial, but generally closed to the public.

ADOPTION
The judicial act creating a legal parental relationship when no biological relationship exists.

AGE OF MAJORITY
The age (usually 18) at which a person becomes an adult, as specified by state law, and acquires both the rights and the responsibilities of adulthood.

ARREST
To take a person suspected of a crime into custody.

ASSAULT
To attempt to hurt someone (physically) in a way that makes the victim feel immediately threatened. There is no need for physical contact.

ATTORNEY
A person who has a law degree and is licensed by the state to advise and represent persons in legal matters

BAILIFF
A court attendant assigned by a sheriff, marshal, or constable to provide security to the court.

BENCH WARRANT
Process issued by the court itself, or “from the bench,” for the attachment or arrest of a person.

BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
This is the standard courts use when deciding issues involving custody and visitation rights, or whether to approve adoptions and guardianships. This standard requires the courts to consider many factors such as the health of the parent or guardian; the child’s preference; and the ability of the parent or guardian to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing and medical care before arriving at what they believe is in an individual child’s best interest.

BURDEN OF PROOF
The necessity or duty of proving a fact or facts in dispute raised between the parties in a cause. The obligation of a party to establish the required degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of the trier of the fact.


BURGLARY
Breaking and entering a building with the intention to commit a felony.

CALIFORNIA YOUTH AUTHORITY
A group of people who control prison-like facilities for repeat offenders or youthful offenders who have committed serious crimes.

CAPITAL OFFENSE
An offense that may be punishable by death or life imprisonment.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
The death penalty.

CASE NUMBER
The number assigned to a case upon its filing in court.

CHARGE
The formal accusation of a crime

CHILD ABUSE
The neglect or mistreatment of children.

CIVIL CASE
An action brought by a person or party to recover property, to force someone to honor a contract, or to protect one's civil rights.

CLERK OF THE COURT
An officer appointed by the judges of the court to assist in managing the flow of cases through the court, maintain court records, handle financial matters, and provide other administrative support.

COMPLAINTANT
Person who seeks to initiate court proceedings against another person. In a civil case the complainant is the plaintiff; in a criminal case the complainant is the state.

COMPLAINT
A written statement filed by the plaintiff that initiates a civil case, stating the wrongs allegedly committed by the defendant and requesting relief from the court. Sometimes called the initial pleading or petition.

CONSPIRACY
An agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime, along with an act done to begin the crime.

CONTEMPT OF COURT
To defy a court’s authority. If one is found or held in contempt of court, he or she may be fined, placed in jail, or both.

CONTRIBUTING TO THE DELINQUENCY OF A MINOR
The act of aiding or encouraging improper conduct of a minor.

CONVICT
(1) A person who has been found guilty of a crime and is now in prison; (2) To find a person guilty of a crime or wrongdoing.

COURT
A judge or body of judges whose task is to hear cases and administer justice.

COURT ORDER
A legally binding edict issued by a court of law. Can be issued by a magistrate, judge, or properly empowered administrative officer.

COURT REPORTER
A person who makes a word-for-word record of what is said in court, generally by using a stenographic machine, shorthand, or an audio recording device, and then produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.

COURT TRIAL
A trial without a jury in which a judicial officer determines both the issues of fact and the law in the case.

CRIME
An act or failure to act that violates a law for which a penalty (usually a fine, jail, or probation) is set by the state.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
The system by which government enforces criminal law. It includes everything from the arrest of an individual to the individual’s release from control by the state.

DAMAGES
Money awarded by the court to be paid by a person who has wronged another in a civil law action.

DEATH PENALTY
A sentence to death for the commission of a serious crime, such as murder.

DEFENDANT
A person against whom a claim is made, in a civil suit, the defendant is the person being sued; in a criminal case, the defendant is the person charged with committing a crime.


DE FACTO PARENT
A person who has been found by the court to have assumed, on a day-to-day basis, the role of parent, fulfilling both the child’s physical and psychological needs for care and affection, and who has assumed that role for a substantial period.

DELINQUENT CHILD - 601 & 602 W&I
An individual of not more than 18 years of age who has violated criminal laws or engaged in disobedient, indecent or immoral conduct, and is in need of treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision.

DEPENDENT CHILD - 300 W&I
An individual of not more than 18 years of age who derives his or her main support from another and who has reasonable expectations that such support will continue.

DETAINED
Temporary custody such as being held at the police station or in Juvenile Hall.

DISPOSITION
The sentencing or other final settlement of a juvenile case.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY
An attorney who tries to show that an accused person is guilty. In the Juvenile Court, this deputy decides whether or not to bring the juvenile to court and also recommends a disposition.

DUE PROCESS
The regular course of administration of law through the courts. A constitutional guarantee of due process requires that every person have the protection of a day in court, representation by an attorney, and the benefit of procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.

EMANCIPATION (OF A MINOR)
The entire surrender of rights by parents to the care, custody and earnings of their child. An emancipated minor is a person who is under 18 years of age who is totally self-supporting.

EMBEZZLEMENT
The taking of money or property by a person who has been entrusted with it, for example a bank teller or a company accountant.

EVIDENCE
Proof presented at the trial of an issue, by the parties, in the form of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury.

EXHIBIT
An item of physical/tangible evidence which is to be or has been offered to the court for inspection.

EXTORTION
Taking property illegally by force or threats of harm.

FELONY
A serious criminal offense punishable by a prison sentence of more than one year.



FRAUD
An intentional deception that financially injures another person(s) in any way.

FOSTER HOME
The residence or home, other than that of a child’s parents’, that a child is placed in temporarily by a court or welfare department.

FUGITIVE
A person who runs away or tries to escape custody.

GOOD CAUSE
A good reason. For example, a party must have good cause (better than not having a car or not being able to find a baby-sitter) for not attending a court hearing.

GRAFFITI
Any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on real or personal property.

GUARDIAN
One who legally has responsibility for the care and management of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child during its minority.

HOME DETENTION
Use of an electronic device to monitor the whereabouts and restrict the activities of a sentenced party instead of having the party serve time in jail.

HOMICIDE
The killing of another person. Homicide can be criminal, non-criminal, or negligent.


JAIL
A place of short-term confinement for persons convicted of misdemeanors or awaiting trial.

JUDGE
An official of the judicial branch with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. Used generically, the term "judge" may also refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices.

JUDICIAL OFFICERS
Judges, referees, and commissioners who make decisions as a judge.

JUDICIAL REVIEW
The power of a court to judge the constitutionality of the laws of a government or the acts of a government official.

JURY TRIAL
Trial of matter or cause before a jury as opposed to a court trial before a judge.


JUVENILE
A person not yet considered an adult for the purposes of determining either criminal or civil liability; a minor.

JUVENILE COURT
Courts established by a state to hear matters involving youngsters under the age of 18 who have either been abused or neglected by their parents, found to be outside the control of their parents, or have committed a crime.

JUVENILE HALL
A locked facility where minors are placed prior to a court hearing.

LARCENY
The unlawful taking of another’s property with the intent to steal it. Grand larceny, a felony, is the theft of anything above a certain value; petty larceny, a misdemeanor, is the theft of anything below a certain value.

MEDIATION
A process in which a neutral person or persons facilitate communication between disputants to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement.

MINOR
A person who is under age of legal competence. In most states, a person is no longer a minor after reaching the age of 18.

MISDEMEANOR
An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less.

MORAL TURPITUDE
Act or behavior that gravely violates moral sentiment or accepted moral standards of community. Dishonesty or vileness of a high degree.

NEGLECTED CHILD
A child is ‘neglected’ when his or her parent or custodian fails to provide necessary physical, emotional, medical, or institutional care.

NOTICE
A paper to be filed with the court accompanied by proof of service upon each party required to be served.

OFFENSE
A violation of law for which penalty is prescribed. An act clearly prohibited by the lawful authority of the state, providing notice through published laws.




ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE (OSC)
An order to a person, on motion of the opposing party, to appear in court and explain why the court should not take a proposed action. If the person fails to appear or to give sufficient reasons why the court should take no action, the court will take the action.

PETITION
The first written application to a court requesting that judicial action be taken on a particular matter. In almost all jurisdictions, the initial pleading is a complaint.

OVERRULE
To supersede; reverse; reject by subsequent action or decision.

PARTIES
The people concerned with or taking part in a pending legal action or lawsuit.

PETITION
A formal written request for something to be done

PLAINTIFF
A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil case.

PLEA
The answer of the accused to a charge.

PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE
The degree of proof which is more probable than not. Generally, the “weight” of the evidence presented by one side “outweighs” the evidence presented by the other.


PROBABLE CAUSE
A reasonable belief, known personally or through reliable sources, that a person has committed a crime.

PROBATION
A period of time when a minor is under the supervision of a probation officer to make sure court orders against the minor are followed.


PROBATION OFFICER (PO)
Officers of the court and social workers who work with minors having problems; duties vary from intake to supervision of minors on probation.

PROSECUTION
The process of suing person in a civil case or of bringing a person to trial on criminal charges.

PROSECUTOR
The government’s attorney in a criminal case.

REFEREE/COMMISSIONER
Appointed by the juvenile court judge, has the same power as the judge.

REHABILITATION
The process through which a convicted person is changed or reformed, so as not to commit another criminal act.

RESTITUTION

Money paid to victims by the offender to make up for harm or damage done to victims by the offender.

ROBBERY
The unlawful taking of property from a person’s immediate possession by force or threat of force.

SHOPLIFTING
A form of larceny in which items are taken from a store without payment or the intention to pay.

STAY
The act of stopping a proceeding by a court order. To stay execution is to prevent it from being carried out.

STIPULATION
A voluntary agreement between opposing parties and/or their attorneys.

SUSTAIN
To affirm, uphold or approve. To grant or agree with.

TRUANT
A pupil who has stayed away from school without permission for a certain period of time.

VANDALISM
Maliciously defacing, damaging, or destroying someone’s real or personal property.



VICTIM
Someone who has suffered as the result of some act of another person; for example, in a hold-up a victim is the person who is robbed.

WAIVER
The intentional or voluntary relinquishment of a known right.

WARD
A person, especially a child, placed by the court under the care and supervision of a guardian or conservator.

WARRANT
A written order issued and signed by a judicial officer directing a peace officer to do something.

WITNESS
A person who has knowledge of facts having to do with a case being tried and who gives testimony.