Abstract of judgment
Summary of the court’s final decision. Can be used as a lien if you file it with the county recorder.

A person that helps someone else commit a crime, either before or after the crime.

A person that helps someone else commit a crime. Can be on purpose or not.

The person that is charged with a crime and has to go to criminal court. (See defendant)

Saying, testifying, or assuring that something is true. You can say this out loud or write it down.

When a judge or jury finds that the person on trial is not guilty.

In court, when one person sues someone else to:

  1. Defend or enforce a right,
  2. Stop something bad from happening or fix something, or
  3. Punish them for a crime.

Active status
A case that is in court but isn’t “settled” or “decided” has active status. (See disposition, pending.)

To put off a court hearing until another time or place.

When a judge hears and decides a case.

The judge’s decision in a case or action.

Admissible evidence
Evidence that can legally and properly be used in court.

Saying that certain facts are true. But not saying you are guilty. (Compare with confession.)

To warn, advise, or scold.

Admonition to jury
What the judge says to the jury about:

  1. What they must do and how they must behave,
  2. What evidence they can use to make their decision (called “admissible” evidence), and
  3. How they can use that evidence to make a decision.

A written statement that someone swears to under oath in front of someone that is legally authorized, like a judge or notary public.

To make a solemn (serious) statement.

A defense claim that the accused was somewhere else at the time a crime was committed.

A statement or claim that is made and hasn’t been proved to be true or false.

To say, declare, or charge that something is true even though it isn’t proved yet.

To add to or change a claim that has been filed in court.

When someone that loses at least part of a case asks a higher court (called an “appellate court”) to review the decision and say if it was right. This is called “to appeal” or “to take an appeal.”  The person that appeals is called the “appellant.”  The other person is called the “appellee.”

Going to court. Or a legal paper that says you will participate in the court process.

When a person that is accused of committing a crime is:

  1. Taken to court,
  2. Told about the charges, and
  3. Asked to plead “guilty” or “not guilty”

The legal capture of a person that is charged with a crime.

When someone tries or threatens to hurt you. Can include violence, but is not battery. (See battery)

Choosing someone to do something. Usually used in:

  1. Cases – when the court uses a calendar to give (or “assign”) cases to judges;
  2. Lawyers – when lawyers are chosen (or “appointed”) to represent juveniles, conservatees, or poor defendants; and
  3. Judges – when judges are sent (or “assigned”) to different courts to fill in while other judges are on vacation, sick, etc., or to help with cases in a court.


  1. Document attached to court papers to give more information;
  2. A way to collect a judgment by getting a court order that says you can take a piece of property.

Someone that is qualified to represent clients in court and to give them legal advice. (See counsel and lawyer)

Attorney of record
The lawyer whose name is listed in a case record as representing someone in the case.

All the cases that haven’t been settled or decided in the time the law says they should be.

A security deposit (usually money) given to release a defendant or witness from custody and to make sure that they go to court when they’re supposed to.

Bail bond
A legal paper that you buy from a bondsman and give to the court instead of bail. The defendant signs it and is let go. But if they don’t come to court when they’re supposed to, they must pay the amount of money on the bail bond.

Bail exoneration
When you get your bail back. Or when a bail bondsman or insurance (“surety”) company isn’t responsible for your bail anymore.

Bail forfeiture
A court order to let the court keep the bail deposit because the defendant didn’t go to court when they were supposed to.

Bail notice
A legal paper from the court that says the court will make a warrant for arrest unless the defendant goes to court or pays bail.

Bail receipt
A written statement that the court gives a defendant that says bail was paid.

Bail schedule
A list of the amount of bail that is recommended for different charges. In criminal cases, the court decides how much bail a defendant has to pay to be released.The bail schedule is reviewed each year by the judges of each county. The Schedule is then given to the jails, the Courts and the D.A. and Public Defenders. Judges have the right to raise or lower bail amounts in individual cases. If the police obtain a warrant for arrest they may request the Judge to set a higher amount than the Schedule calls for.

A person that is in charge of security in the court. Bailiffs are picked by sheriffs or marshals.

All of the lawyers qualified to practice law. For example, a state bar includes all of the lawyers qualified to practice law in that state.

Illegal beating or physical violence or control of a person without their permission.

Behavior intervention plan
Plan made by a local educational agency (LEA) as part of the individualized education program (IEP), to change the behavior of students that hurt themselves, assault others, or are destructive.


  1. The desk where a judge sits in court;
  2. Judges in general or a specific judge.

Bench trial
Trial without a jury.  The judge decides the case.

Bench warrant
An order given by the judge (or “bench”) to arrest a person. (See warrant, writ.)

To make yourself or someone else legally responsible for something.

Bind over
A judge’s decision before a trial that says there is enough evidence for a trail.

Blood test

  1. Testing someone’s blood sample to:
  2. See how much of a certain chemical is in the blood, or
  3. See who is the parent of a child. (See genetic testing.)

Bona fide
Sincere, real, without fraud or deceit. Come from the Latin for “in good faith.”

A deed or legal paper that restrains a person or makes a person responsible for something. In court, a bond is a written statement that makes one person pay another person money.

Book (booking)
What the police do when they arrest someone.

Burden of proof
When one person in the case has the responsibility to give more evidence than the other person.

When someone unlawfully breaks into or enters a building or home, and they intend to or do commit a theft or other serious crime.

A list, in alphabetical order, of all the cases in each courtroom every day. “To calendar” something means to give a day, time, and courtroom to a case.

Capital case
A criminal case where the defendant can get the death penalty.

Capital offense
A crime that you can get the death penalty for committing.

What is written at the top of all papers (called “pleadings”) given to the court. It says things like the case name, court, and case number.

A lawsuit. Or a complaint filed in criminal, traffic, or civil court.

Case file
The folder that has the official court papers for a case.

Case load
The number of cases a judge has in a specific time.

Case number
Identification number that the court clerk’s office gives a case. This number is on all papers filed in the case. Also called “case ID”

Cause of action
The charges (or “counts”)that makeup the case or lawsuit.

A judge’s order to move a criminal case to another court in a different county.

Certified copy
An official copy of a paper from a case file that is marked as being true, complete, and a real copy of the original paper.

A judge’s office. Also usually where the judge’s clerks work.

Change of venue
When a civil or criminal case is moved from one court jurisdiction to another. (see venue)

In criminal law, each thing the defendant is accused of. (see count)

Circumstantial evidence
All evidence that is indirect. Testimony not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in dispute.

A court order or summons that tells a defendant what the charges are. Also tells the defendant to go to court and/or post bail.

When a defendant is not in custody but has signed a ticket.

Citing authority or agency
An agency related to the court, like the city police or the California Highway Patrol, that can arrest people for breaking the law.

Clerk of court
A person chosen by the judges to help manage cases, keep court records, deal with financial matters, and give other administrative support.

The law created by statutes. For example, the California Code of Civil Procedure, California Civil Code, California Vehicle Code, California Penal Code, and California Health and Safety Code.

A person chosen by the court and given the power to hear and make decisions in certain kinds of legal matters.

To do something. “To commit” a crime. To put someone in a sheriff’s custody. To use a court order to send a person to jail.

Commitment order
A court order that says a person must be kept in custody, usually in a jail or mental institution.

Common law
Laws that come from court decisions and not from statutes (“codes”) or constitutions.

Compensatory damages
Money that one person must pay another to cover the cost of a wrong or injury. (See damages)

Person that wants to start a court case against another person. In a civil case, the complainant is the plaintiff.

In civil cases, a written statement filed by the plaintiff that starts a case. Says what the plaintiff thinks the defendant did and asks the court for help. Also called the “initial pleading” or “petition.”  A complaint is also used to start a criminal case.

Required by legal process or by law.

Concurrent sentences
Sentences you can serve at the same time. For example, if you have concurrent sentences of 10 years and 5 years, you must serve a total of 10 years. (Compare with consecutive sentences.)

When someone admits, out loud or in writing, that they committed a certain crime.

Confidential record
Information in a court case that is not available to the public. (See public record, sealed record)

Conform copies
To get or file copies of an original document.

Consolidation of actions
When at least 2 cases that involve the same people are grouped together. (Compare with coordination of cases.)

When doing something or not doing (or saying) something prevents justice from being had or hurts the honor, respect, or authority of the court. This includes ignoring or disobeying a court order on purpose. Punishment can be a fine or jail.

Putting off a court case to a later date. (See adjournment; compare with recess)

Postponed, or put off to a later date.


  1. Fees and charges that a party  pays to file and present a court case or to enforce a judgment;
  2. Money won in a civil suit to pay for expenses.

One or more lawyers that represent a client. Also, legal advice. (See attorney, lawyer)

Each separate charge (or statement) in an action. (See charge)

A judge or group of judges whose job is to hear cases and carry out justice. (See bench)

Court order
A legal decision made by a court that commands or directs that something be done or not done. Can be made by a judge, commissioner, court referee, or magistrate.

Court reporter
Someone that writes down, word for word, what is said in court. They generally use a stenographic machine, shorthand, or a recording device. You can ask for a copy of this record.

Court trial
A trial without a jury. A judge decides the case.

Courtesy notice
A notice made by a computer that is usually sent for traffic violations to tell a defendant about a court date, bail, etc.

Someone that has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor.

Criminal case
A court case that starts because of a crime.

The testimony a witness gives when the other side’s lawyer is asking the questions at a trial, hearing, or deposition.

A court’s judgment or decree that settles a dispute. (See also decree, judgment.)

A sworn, written statement that is used as evidence in court. The statement supports or establishes a fact. The person that makes the declaration certifies or declares under penalty of perjury that the statement is true and correct. The person that makes the declaration is called the “declarant.”  The declarant must sign and date the declaration. The declarant must also say where the declaration was signed or that it was made under the laws of the State of California.

In a civil case, the person or organization sued by the plaintiff. In a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.

In a civil case, the facts or arguments presented by the defendant to show why the plaintiff doesn’t have a right to the relief asked for. In a criminal case, the reasons why a defendant should not be convicted of the charge(s).

Defense attorney
In a criminal case, the lawyer that represents the accused person. (called the “defendant”)

Written or oral testimony given under oath in front of an authorized third person like a court reporter. Depositions take place outside of court. They allow the parties to get a record of a person’s testimony, or to get testimony from a witness that lives far away. They can help the lawyers prepare their court papers called “pleadings.” (see also discovery)

When a person is temporarily locked up until the court makes a final decision.

A slang term used for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The gathering of information (facts, documents, or testimony) before a case goes to trial. Discovery is done in many ways, such as through depositions, interrogatories, or requests for admissions. It can also be done through independent investigation or by talking with the other side’s lawyer.

The final decision by the court in a dispute.

When a judge decides (usually voluntarily) not to hear a case. In most cases, this decision has to do with an outside interest of the judge’s that may influence his or her ability to decide the case in a fair and impartial way.

Instead of going to jail, a defendant goes to a rehabilitation (“rehab”) program and is supervised by a probation officer. When the defendant finishes the program, the charges are dismissed and the defendant is not sentenced. (compare electronic surveillance, home detention)

A record with the complete history of each case a court hears. It contains short chronological summaries of the court proceedings.

Due process
The regular way that the law is administered through the courts. The U.S. Constitution says that everyone has to have a day in court, has the right to be represented by a lawyer, and the right to benefit from court procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.

Electronic surveillance
Use of an electronic device to keep an eye on where a sentenced person in the community and to restrict his or her activities, instead of putting the person in jail. (See also home detention)

To take legal steps to make sure someone complies with a judgment.

To order or require; to order that something be stopped.

Et al.
In Latin, this means “and others.”  Refers to parties not included in the formal name of a court case.

Any proof legally presented a trial through witnesses, records and/or exhibits.

(1) To carry out all terms of a contract or court order (2) to sign (a document); (3) to kill.

A document or an object shown and identified in court as evidence in a case. Normally, the court assigns an identifying letter or number in alphabetical or numerical order before exhibits are offered as evidence.

To clear of blame or to relieve from responsibility.

Exonerate bail
When the court returns money or property to the defendant or bondsman.   (see also bail exoneration)

Ex parte
These Latin words mean “from one side only.” An example is a motion that is made without giving notice to the other side. In many courts, even ex parte motions require 24-hour notice to the other side except under unusual circumstances.

To strike out or erase.

Bringing a person that is in custody in one state to the authorities of another state where that person has been accused or convicted of a crime.

A specific amount of money that’s paid in exchange for a service, such as filing a court paper.

Fee waiver
Permission not to pay the court’s filing fees. People with very low income can ask the court clerk for a fee waiver form.

A serious crime that can be punished by more than one year in prison or by death (compare infraction, misdemeanor).

A person that acts for another person’s benefit, like a trustee. It can also be an adjective and mean something that is based on a trust or confidence. (See also trustee)

When a person officially gives a paper to a court clerk and that paper becomes part of the record of a case.

Filing a form
A court form is “filed” only when the court clerk stamps it “Filed.”  You can give your court forms to the clerk by mail or in person.

When a judicial officer or jury says something that is a fact.

The money a person must pay as punishment for doing something illegal or for not doing something they were supposed to do.

Fix-it ticket
A common name for a traffic ticket given for a malfunction on a vehicle, like a broken taillight. After fixing the problem, the vehicle owner has to get a police officer to sign the ticket to show the problem is taken care of.

When the jury first meets to decide a case, they vote to pick one member of the jury as their foreperson. The foreperson is in charge of making sure that discussions take place in an orderly way, that the case and issues are fully and freely discussed and that every juror has a chance to participate in the discussion. When the jury finishes deciding the case the foreperson counts the votes and completes and signs the verdict form.

When a person must give up money or property because they didn’t meet a legal obligation. (See also bail forfeiture)

Deceiving someone on purpose in a way that financially hurts others.

A person suspected of doing something wrong that runs away or tries to escape the law.

Good Cause
A good reason. For example, a party must have good cause (better than not having a car or a baby sitter) for not coming to a court hearing.

A court decision that a defendant committed a crime. Or when a defendant admits he or she committed a crime.

Guilty plea
When a person admits in court that he or she is guilty of the crime charged in a criminal complaint, information, or indictment.

Habeas corpus
The name of a writ used to bring a person before a court or judge to decide whether that person is being unlawfully denied his or her freedom. The term comes from Latin.

A formal court proceeding with the judge and opposing sides present, but not jury.

Statements by a witness that did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. Hearsay usually can’t be used as evidence in court.

Held to answer
A judge’s decision at the end of a preliminary hearing in a trial court saying there is enough evidence against the defendant to have a trial. (See also bind over)

Holding cell
A cell inside a courthouse where prisoners are held in custody before and after their court appearance.

Home detention
When an electronic device is put on a prisoner’s body to keep track of where the prisoner goes in the community and what the prisoner does. Used instead of a jail sentence. (See also electronic surveillance)

When one person kills another directly, or has someone else kill that person, or the person is killed by the omission of another (that is, by their failure to act when the law requires them to act). It is not always a crime. Homicide can be:

  1. excusable – the result of a lawful act when no hurt was intended or from an act of self-defense;
  2. criminal – the result of any wrongful act without any excuse or justification in law; or
  3. Justifiable – the result of an intentional but lawful act such as the execution of a death sentence by an agent of the law (can also apply to self-defense). (See also manslaughter, murder)

Honor camp
A rehabilitation (“rehab”) program run by the probation department that accepts people that are low risk or that are non habitual offenders.

A right to be excepted from duty or penalty. (See also privilege)


  1. The process of calling a witness’s testimony into question. For example, if an attorney can show that a witness may have made up parts of his or her testimony, the witness is said to be “impeached.”
  2. The constitutional process used by the U.S. House of Representatives to “impeach” (or accuse of misconduct) high-ranking officers of the federal government, who are then tried by the Senate.

To seize and hold in the custody of the law; generally used to refer to objects or animals not people.

Inactive case
A pending case that has been filed, but for some reason can’t be processed by the court.

In camera
A hearing held in the judge’s chambers or in a court with all spectators (including the jury) excluded. From the Latin for “in chamber.”

To put in jail.

To hold yourself or another person responsible for criminal actions.

The formal charge issued by a grand jury saying there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial. Used primarily for felonies. (See also information)

This term usually refers to a person that is poor, needy, and has no one to look to for support.

A written accusation charging the person with a crime. It is presented in court by a prosecuting officer under oath and does not come from a grand jury. (See indictment)

A minor violation of a law, contract, or right that is not a misdemeanor or a felony and can’t be punished by time in prison. (Compare felony, misdemeanor)

Found by a court to be not guilty of criminal charges; acquitted. (See also acquittal.)

In Propria persons (in pro per)
When a person represents himself or herself without a lawyer. This comes from the Latin for “in one’s own proper person.” (See also pro per, pro se)

A legal inquiry (investigation) in a court or before court officers authorized to hold inquiries, usually to figure out the cause and circumstances of a death.

Installment payments
Weekly, monthly, or other periodic payments on a debt.

The explanation of constitutional rights given by a judge to a defendant.

Instruction to jury
Instructions given by a judge to a jury immediately before they decide a case, telling the jury what laws apply to that case. (See also admonition to jury, jury instructions.)

A person that is  certified as being able to translate, orally or in writing, spoken or sign language into the common language of the court.

Risk to a defendant of possible conviction and punishment. In a criminal case the defendant is usually said to be “in jeopardy” after the preliminary hearing has taken place and the jury has been sworn in.

Judicial Council
The Judicial Council of California is the constitutionally mandated body responsible for improving the administration of justice in the state. The council is made up of judges, court executives, attorneys, and legislators. It was established to standardize court administration, practice, and procedure by adopting and enforcing court rules.

Judicial district
The state is divided into judicial districts that define the geographical area of each court’s authority.

Judicial officer
Judges, referees, and commissioners that make court decisions as a judge.

The study of law and the structure of the legal system.

A person selected to be on a jury.

A group of citizens picked according to law and authorized to decide a case. Can be:

  1. grand, that is, a body of citizens that determines whether probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and whether an indictment should be issued;
  2. hung, that is, a jury that can’t agree on a verdict after a suitable period of deliberation;
  3. petit (or “trial”), that is, an ordinary jury for the trial of a criminal or civil action; or
  4. Special, that is, a jury ordered by the court, on the motion of either side, in cases that are unusually important or complicated. (See also grand jury, petit jury)

Jury instructions
The guidelines given by the judge at the beginning and end of a trial that explain what the law in the case is and how the jurors should evaluate the evidence (See also admonition to jury, Instructions to jury)

A person qualified to represent clients in a court of law and to advise then on legal matters. (See also attorney, counsel)

False and malicious material that is written or published that is defamatory and hurts a person’s reputation. (Compare slander)

License hold
The action taken to prevent someone from renewing their driver’s license until a legal matter is settled.

A judicial officer with the power to issue arrest warrants and find probable cause at preliminary hearings.

To cripple or mutilate in any way; to injure a person in a way that deprives him or her of the use of any limb or other part of his or her body, to seriously wound, disfigure, or disable. (See also)

Performance of an act that should not have been done at all. (Compare with misfeasance, nonfeasance.)

Required, ordered.

The unlawful, but unintended killing of a person,  Can be voluntary, like when someone is killed unlawfully under circumstances that don’t include a premeditated intent to kill. Or involuntarily, like when someone is killed unintentionally as a result of someone else performing another unlawful act or negligently performing a lawful act. (Compare with murder; see also homicide)

Unlawfully and violently depriving a person of a part of his or her body or disabling, disfiguring, or making it useless (includes injury to eyes, tongue, nose, ears, etc.).

Minute order
The courtroom clerk’s written minutes of court proceedings. Copies of the minute orders are usually kept in the case files and the court clerk’s office.

The official (permanent) record of a court proceeding that tells things like what witnesses appeared, what motions were made, and what findings were reached. (See also transcript)

A crime that can be punished by up to one year in jail. (See also felony)

A trial that has been ended and declared void (of no legal effect) due to prejudicial error in the proceedings or other extraordinary circumstances.

A change or alteration, like modification of a sentence (where the terms of punishment for a defendant are changed) or of a probation order (where a new probation order is issued changing the terms of the original order (where a new probation order is issued changing the terms of the original order).

The unlawful killing of a person by another with premeditated malice either expressed (said) or implied (suggested). (See also homicide; compare with manslaughter)

Nolo contendere
No contest; from the Latin for “I do not wish to contend.”  A plea of nolo contendere ha the sane effect on a criminal sentence as a plea of guilty, but may not be taken as an admission of guilt for any other purpose. For example, a person might plead nolo contendere and pay a fine or serve jail time as if guilty, but if he or she were sued in a civil case afterward, the other side would still have to prove that the person was guilty.

A written announcement or warning. For example, a notice to the other side that on a certain date a particular motion will be made in court.

A formal protest made by a party over testimony or evidence that the other side tries to introduce.

Law or duty that requires parties to follow their agreement. An obligation or debt may be created by a judgment or contract, like child support.

An act that violates (breaks) the law. (See also crime, public offense)

A judge’s written explanation of the decision of the court in appellate cases. Because a case may be heard by; 3 or more judges in the appellate court, the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges completely agree on the result, one judge will write the opinion for all. If all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based on the majority view and one member of the majority will write the opinion. The judges that do not agree with the majority may write their own dissenting or concurring opinions to state their views. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law the majority used to decide the case. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the majority opinion but offers comment or clarification or a completely different reason for reaching the same result. Only the majority opinion can be used as binding precedent in future cases. (See also precedent)

Oral argument
The part of a trial when lawyers summarize their position in court and also answer the judge’s questions.

Own recognizance (OR)
When a person is released from custody and not required to pay bail because of his or her promise to come to court to answer a criminal charge. If the defendant does not return to court when promised, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor.

When the chief executive of a state or country releases a convicted person from the punishment given him or her by a court sentence.

A conditional release from prison that allows the person being release to serve the rest of the sentence out of prison if all conditions of release are met.

Punishment for breaking a law.

Preemptory challenge
A challenge to a potential juror in a case by either the defense attorney or the prosecuting attorney, that usually results in that person’s disqualification from service on the jury and does not require either attorney to say; why the challenge is made. The law limits the number of preemptory challenges allowed. (compare challenge for cause)

A false statement made on purpose while under oath in a court proceeding.

In a criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges. (See also nolo contendere)

Plea Bargain
Negotiation between the prosecuting attorney and the person accused of a crime or that person’s lawyer to exchange a guilty plea for conviction of a lesser charge, if the court approves.

Written statement filed with the court that describes a party’s legal or factual claims about the case and what the party wants from the court.

Points and Authorities
Also called “P’s and A’s.”  “Points and authorities” refers to the written legal argument given to support a motion. It includes references to past cases, statutes (Codes), and other statements of law that emphasize the legality of the motion requested.

Polling of jury
A practice in which jurors are asked individually whether they agree with the final verdict in the case they; just decided.

A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally “follow precedent,” meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases dealing with similar fact and legal issues. A judge will overlook precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was decided incorrectly or that it differed in some significant way from the current case.

Introductory, preparatory, preceding, or leading up to the main matter of business. For example, a preliminary injunction comes before a permanent injunction.

Preliminary examination/hearing
A proceeding before a judicial officer in which evidence is presented so that the court can determine whether there is probable (sufficient) cause to hold the accused for trial on a felony charge.

Presentence report
A report prepared by the probation department for the judge when sentencing a defendant. Describes defendant’s background; financial, job, and family status; community ties; criminal history; and facts of the current offense. A presentence report must be done in felony cases and may be requested in misdemeanor cases.

Presiding judge/justice
In a court with more than one judicial officer, the judge/justice that acts as administrator of the court’s business.

Pretrial conference
A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan a trial, discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, review proposed evidence and witnesses, and set a trial schedule. Typically, the judge and the lawyers also discuss the possibility of settling the case.

Pretrial services
Services provided by a local agency to investigate a criminal defendant’s background so a judge can decide whether or not to release the defendant from custody before trial.

Prima facie
Not requiring further support to establish existence, credibility, or validity; from the Latin for “from first view.”  A prima facie case is sufficient on its face, because it is supported by the necessary minimum evidence and free from obvious defects. Prima facie evidence is sufficient to support a certain conclusion unless contradictory evidence is presented.

A term generally used to refer to a previous conviction.

Probable cause
A reasonable basis for assuming that a charge or fact is well founded.


  1. A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases a convicted defendant under supervision of a probation officer that makes certain that the defendant follows certain rules, for example, gets a job, gets drug counseling;
  2. A department of the court that prepares a presentence report.

Probation officer
Officers of the probation department of a court. A probation officer’s duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.

Pro bono
Legal work done for free; from the Latin meaning “for the good.”

Pronouncement of judgment
When the judge formally issues a judgment in a case.

Evidence that tends to establish the existence or truth of a fact at issue in a case.

Pro per
A short form of “in propria persona.”  Refers to persons  that present their own cases in court without lawyers; from the Latin for “in one’s own proper person” (See also pro se)

To charge someone with a crime and then try then for it in court. A prosecutor (also called “prosecuting attorney”) tries a criminal case on behalf of the government.

Prosecuting attorney
A public officer that prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of the state; sometimes referred to as “district attorney.”

Pro tem judge
A lawyer that volunteers his or her time to hear and decide cases. Also called a “temporary judge.”

Pro tempore

A referee or commissioner that temporarily replaces a judge; same as pro tem judge; from the Latin for “for the time being” or “temporarily.”

Public defender
A lawyer appointed by the court, usually to represent a defendant in a criminal case that can’t afford to hire a lawyer.

Public offense
A crime. Compare to private or civil wrongs that violate “private laws,” for example, a contract between two parties. The difference between civil/private and criminal/public wrongs is that public offenses focus on the behavior of the offender while the law of civil wrongs focuses on making an injured person whole. (See also crime)

Public record
A court record made available for inspection by the general public. (Compare confidential record, sealed record)

Rap sheet
A written summary of a person’s criminal history.

Evidence presented at trial by one party in order to overcome evidence introduced by another party.

A short break in a trial ordered by the judge.  (See also adjournment; compare continuance)

A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, exhibits, and judgment submitted during the case.

Record sealing
A request for a court order to “seal” the record of a misdemeanor conviction. To be eligible for sealing, the crime must have been before a defendant’s 18th birthday and the judge must have already granted a “release of penalties” order. A conviction, charge, and arrest records. If a judge grants an order to seal the record, in the eyes of the law, the misdemeanor is considered to never have happened.

Reinstated bail
When bail that had been forfeited, exonerated, or reduced is reestablished in its original amount. (See also bail exoneration, bail forfeiture.)


  1. When an appellate court sends a case to a lower court for further proceedings;
  2. To return a prisoner to custody.

Report and sentence
The proceeding that happens after a conviction in a criminal case in which the judge reviews the probation report and sentences the defendant.

A court official that records the proceedings in trials, including the questions asked of, and answer made by witnesses.

The act of restoring or giving the equivalent value to compensate for an injury, damage, or loss.


  1. To concur, confirm, or ratify.
  2. A penalty or punishment intended to make someone obey the law.

Payment of a judgment amount by the losing party.

Sealed record
A record closed by a court to further inspection by anyone unless there is a court order to permit it. (Compare with confidential record public record)

When a person turns him or herself in voluntarily to the jail, police, or the court.

A judge’s formal pronouncement of the punishment to be given to a person convicted of a crime.

Statute of Limitations
A law that sets the deadline for parties to file suit to enforce their rights. For example, if a state has a four year statute of limitations for breach of a written contract, and “John” breached a contract with “Susan” on January 1, 1996, Susan must file her lawsuit by January 1, 2000. If the deadline passes, the “statute of limitations has run” (or the claim is “time-barred”) and “Susan” may not be allowed to sue. There are very few conditions that allow a statute to be extended or “tolled” (kept from running).

An agreement relating to a pending court proceeding between parties or their attorneys.

Superior court
The trial court in each county of the State of California. This court hears all adoption, family law, juvenile, criminal, civil, small claims, and probate cases.

Surety bond
An insurance policy taken out by a defendant with a national insurance company in which the insurer agrees to pay the court the amount of bail required for the defendant’s release if the defendant fails to come to court when he or she is supposed to.

Suspended sentence
In criminal law, this means the defendant doesn’t have to serve the sentence at the time the sentence is imposed.

A citation, usually for a traffic violation.

Time waiver
When you give up the right to have a certain phase of the legal process take place within the normally specified amount of time.

A court process in which the issues of fact and law are heard and decided according to legal procedures so a judicial officer or jury can make a decision in the case. Can be either (1) a bench trial—a trial that is heard and decided by a judge, or (2) a jury trial—a trial that is heard and decided by a jury,.

Urine test
A medical test of a urine sample to see if it contains evidence of alcohol or some other drug.

The particular court in which an action may be brought.

The final decision about the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant made by a judge or jury. In a civil case, can be:

  1. general; a jury verdict in a civil case in favor of the plaintiff or in favor of the defendant;
  2. special/directed; a judge’s verdict in a civil case after considering applicable law and after the jury states its conclusions on specific factual issues.

A breach of a right, duty, or law.

Voir dire
The process by which judges and lawyers select member so the jury by questioning them to make sure they; can fairly decide the case.

To give up a legal right voluntarily, intentionally, and with full knowledge of the consequences.

Waiver of rights form
A form signed by a defendant and the judge recording which, if any, legal rights are waived (or given up) by the defendant.

A written order issued and signed by a judge or judicial officer directing a peace officer to take specific action. Can be:

  1. an arrest warrant—orders a peace officer to arrest and bring to the court the person accused of a crime to begin legal action;
  2. a bench warrant—a judge’s order to arrest and bring a person to court because the person has failed to appear in court when they were supposed to;
  3. a recall warrant—an order to remove from Department of Justice and state police computers information about canceled warrants to avoid mistaken arrests; or
  4. a search warrant—an order based on a finding of probable cause directing law enforcement officers to conduct a search of specific premises for specific persons or things and to bring them to the court.

Without prejudice
A term used when rights or privileges are not waved or lost.

What Does a Bail Bond Cost? Bail Bond Rates

The rate for your bail bond at Penny Bail Bonds is 10% of the bail amount, with a discount for attorney referred or union-referred bail bond clients. This discount also applies to veterans and students within California.

Bail Bond Financing
We have 0% financing and client-friendly payment plan options to help you with this premium.

Call us at 1-866-736-6977 anytime for details.

What Type Of Bail Are There?

If arrested, what are the available release options?

There are five release options available: cash bond, surety bond, property bond, own recognizance (O.R.), and citation release.

  • Cash Bail Bond: To be released on cash bail, someone must post with the court the total amount of the bail, in cash. The purpose of this is to secure his or her return to court on an appointed date, and thereafter until the case is concluded. If the defendant shows up for his/her scheduled court appearances, the cash is returned to him/her. If s/he fails to appear, the cash bond is forfeited to the court.
  • Surety Bail Bond: An alternative to cash bail is the posting of a surety bond. This process involves a contractual undertaking guaranteed by an admitted insurance company having adequate assets to satisfy the face value of the bond. The bail agent guarantees to the court that they will pay the bond forfeiture if a defendant fails to appear for their scheduled court appearances. The bail agent’s guarantee is made through a surety company and/or by the pledge of property owned by the agent.
  • Property Bail Bond: In rare cases an individual may obtain release from custody by means of posting a property bond with the court. Here the court records a lien on property, to secure the bail amount. If the arrestee subsequently fails to appear at the scheduled court date, the court may institute foreclosure proceedings against the property to obtain the forfeited bail amount.
  • Own Recognizance (O.R.): Another method of release pending trial is through a county or law enforcement administered pre-trial release program. Usually, the staff members of these programs interview individuals in custody and make recommendations to the court regarding release of these individuals on their own recognizance (i.e., without any financial security to insure the interviewee’s return).
  • Citation Release: This procedure, known as the “Cite Out”, involves the issuance of a citation by the arresting officer to the arrestee, informing the arrestee that he or she must appear at an appointed court date. The Cite Out usually occurs immediately after an individual is arrested. Such an arrestee’s appearance in court depends exclusively upon the integrity of the arrestee and his or her voluntarily returning to court.

How Does Bail Work?

The Criminal Case Process

Generally, when a person is arrested, the police officer submits an arrest report to the district attorney for review. If arrested, you should take the following steps: “Six Steps to Follow if Arrested: A Survival Guide”. The DA will review the case and if he or she feels that the officer has sufficient proof of the crime, charges will be filed and the case will be ready for prosecution.

At this point, the defendant has five release options. Once released, he will have to appear in court for an arraignment (usually 2- 4 weeks from the date of release). If the defendant remains in custody, he will be transported to court by the county or city facility in which he is detained.

The Arraignment

In criminal cases the first appearance is the arraignment. The defendant will be asked to acknowledge his identity. The defendant may have private counsel present or the court may appoint a public defender. The defendant may be told his possible punishment.


  • If charged with a misdemeanor the defendant is required to reply to the written charges with a plea of either guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). The judge will set the defendant’s tentative appearance schedule. Bail is established according to the county’s bail schedule. The defendant has a right to argue for a bail reduction. If the defendant pleads guilty at the arraignment, the judge may sentence him or her at that time.
  • If the defendant does not plead guilty at the arraignment, a pre-trial conference will probably be scheduled at which time plea negotiations are discussed along with witnesses and strengths/weaknesses of the case.
  • The next step is the trial (by judge or jury) at which pretrial motions and issues of fact are decided.
  • If the defendant is found guilty the court will then impose a sentence on the defendant that could range form a fine, community service, counseling, jail time, a diversion program, substance abuse treatment, or a combination of these.

Felony Cases

  • If charged with a felony, the defendant may or may not be required to reply with a plea at the initial arraignment. (The policy of presenting a plea at felony arraignment is different state-by-state).
  • As a next step, the judge may set the defendant’s preliminary hearing. (Not all states have preliminary hearings, some convene a grand jury to find probably cause.)
  • As with misdemeanors, bail is established according to the county bail schedule. The defendant has a right to argue to bail reduction.
  • At the preliminary hearing, the D.A. will show the court that there was probably cause to believe that a crime was committed and that eh defendant was the person who committed the crime. If the judge feels that there is enough preliminary evidence to proceed, then the defendant will be arraigned again and there will be a pre-trial conference at which time plea negotiations and discussions of the issues, witnesses and strengths and weaknesses.
  • As with misdemeanors, the next step is trial by judge or jury where all of the pretrial motions and issues of fact are decided. If the defendant is found guilty at the end of trial, then the judge would impose a sentence, usually much more severe than with a misdemeanor offense.