Glossary

Appeal

Appeal Appeal Definition An appeal is when a case is taken to a higher court to attempt to reverse a previous court decision. The United States has several appeals courts that apply to different kinds of cases. What is important to remember about the appeals process is that it is far more complex and requires a specific set of legal expertise to have the best possible outcome of the case being appealed. Why Are Appeals Significant in the United States? Appeals are significant in the United States because the foundation of our court system is based on protecting justice and having justice that can be obtained through effective criminal procedures. Read More

Arrest Records

Arrest Records What Is Arrest Records? Arrest records are documented proof indicating whether an individual has any suspected criminal activity. What is important about arrests is that they do not necessarily mean a conviction of guilt. Arrests represent the suspicion of guilt for a given offense according to local, state or federal laws. Arrest records have the potential to reveal information including whether a person has been apprehended, taken into custody or detention, questioned, arrested, held for interrogation or charged with an offense. What Kinds of Arrest Records Are Shown? Arrest records typically only show if the offense is: Violent Business Related Drug and/or Alcohol Related Traffic-Related In Connection with a Theft or Robbery What Information Does an Arrest Record Include? Arrest records can typically be found by looking through the federal or state court system depending on whether the individual was accused of a state or federal crime. Read More

Arson

Arson What Is Arson? Arson refers to the burning of property with malicious intent. Arson can occur in a forest, building or another person’s property. Generally speaking, arson is illegal in all states; however, punishments and specific laws vary depending on each state. Historically speaking, Arson law used to only be able to apply to a residence per Common Law. Read More

Background Check

Background Check What Is a Background Check? Background checks are routine investigations into an individual’s prior activities that involve looking through professional licensing records along with various government databases. Many different types of background checks are utilized to investigate past crimes, employment history or educational background. Background checks can be a useful resource to find out important information about potential employees, new neighbors, and long-lost family members, among others. Read More

Bail

Bail Bail Definition Bail is money or property given to a court as a form of guarantee that an individual undergoing criminal charges will return to court when summoned if they are released from jail before their court date. If the individual fails to return to court, they have the potential to be criminally liable, and the court can hold the money or bail previously paid. How Does Bail Work? When a defendant is arrested, they are usually booked into either a city or county jail. Read More

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Bankruptcy Definition Bankruptcy is the term used to describe the federal court procedure that helps businesses and their customers eliminate debts and repay their creditors.  What Are the Different Types of Bankruptcy?  Generally, bankruptcies are categorized into either liquidations or reorganizations. The most common types of bankruptcies within those two frameworks are Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12. Read More

Bond

What Is a Bond? Bond Definition A bond is a financial guarantee given to a court that a defendant who is released will return to court for their scheduled court hearing or else incur severe criminal charges. Bonds are usually provided to defendants who do not have enough money to pay the bail assigned to them by the court.  What Is the Difference Between Bail vs. Read More

Burglary

What is Burglary? Burglary Defined The Model Penal Code defines burglary as an unauthorized breaking and entry into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. The three essential elements to prove burglary are: breaking and entering, a structure that is occupied, and having the intent to commit a crime once inside. What Elements Are Required to Prove Burglary? There are three essential elements to prove burglary. Read More

Caseload

Caseload Caseload Definition Caseload is the number of cases that a judge current has to oversee in their courtroom or the number of cases a lawyer has currently.  Why Are Caseloads Significant for Judges?  There are many legal cases heard by every judge in the United States. The courts are flooded with cases, and the legislators have made every effort to divide up the courts to hear only certain types of cases. Read More

Child Custody

Child Custody Child Custody Definition Child custody is the term used to describe how divorced parents divide up the time they spend with their children. Depending on the relationship between the former spouses, child custody can be a devastating issue that parents have to deal with until their children turn eighteen years old. Child custody not only decides a visitation schedule but also the specific holidays that children will spend with their parents. Read More

Citation

Citation  Citation Definition A citation is a piece of paper given to an individual by a law enforcement officer listing their various traffic violations. It is possible to have several different offenses listed on the same citation depending on the violations that the driver committed and what the law enforcement officer has decided to list on the citation. What Are the Different Kinds of Citations? There are several different kinds of citations that are listed below: Moving Violations Moving violations are violations that have occurred related to the driving and operation of a motor vehicle. Read More

Civil Contempt

Civil Contempt Civil Contempt Definition  Civil contempt is any willful disobedience of a court order or any misconduct in the presence of a court. Civil contempt can also be any action that interferes with a judge's ability to administer justice or disrespects the prestige of the court. Civil contempt occurs both within and outside the courtroom. Read More

Claim

Claim Claim Definition A claim is a legal demand or assertion by an individual that is seeking some form of payment, compensation, reimbursement, or loss under a contract because of another's negligence.  What Is a Statement of Claim? A statement of claim is a document that lists the allegations of the plaintiff that begins with the judicial process for going to trial. Read More

Contract Dispute

Contract Dispute Contract Dispute Definition A contract dispute occurs when any party in a contractual agreement disagrees with any part of the contract's terms or definitions. In order for a contract to be valid in the United States, there must be a "mutual meeting of the minds" so that both parties are aware of the requirements of the contract. What Is the Difference Between a Material and Minor Breach? When considering possible contractual breaches, there are two types of breaches. Read More

Conviction

Conviction Conviction Definition A conviction is the outcome of a trial when a criminal defendant is determined to be guilty. In order to have a successful conviction, it must be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. If there is a jury trial, there is a certain number of jurors that are required to convict a defendant, which varies depending on the state.  Why Are Criminal Trials Strictly Protected in the United States?  In order to properly understand the criminal justice system in the United States, it is important to comprehend the purpose of the Founding Fathers when they drafted the United States Constitution. Read More

Court Case

Court Case Court Case Definition  A court case is a dispute between two or more parties that is decided in a court of law. Court cases can either be criminal or civil, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Court cases are very serious and are very difficult to appeal once a decision has been made. Read More

Criminal Record

Criminal Record Criminal Record Definition A criminal record is a public report of an individual’s entire criminal history. Criminal records can include arrests, moving traffic violations, convictions, acquitted charges, and dismissed charges. It is very important to be aware of one’s criminal record since it can have an impact on employment opportunities and professional licenses. How Are Criminal Records Tracked in the United States? At times, there is a great deal of misunderstanding about criminal records in the United States and how important they are. Read More

DUI/DWI

DUI/DWI DUI/DWI Definition A DUI is given when an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol, and a DWI is given when an individual is driving under the influence of some dangerous mind-altering substance. DUIs and DWIs have severe consequences and can even cause individuals to lose their licenses permanently if they are not careful.  What Is the Difference Between DUIs & DWIs?  Depending on the state, the definitions of DUIs and DWIs are very close. Read More

Domestic Violence

What Is Domestic Violence? Domestic Violence Definition Domestic violence is a broad term that is typically used to describe abuse offenses committed against an intimate partner, family member or other individuals residing in the attacker’s household. There is a broad spectrum of crimes that domestic violence can cover that include sexual, physical, economic, emotional or psychological attacks against a domestic partner. Read More

Driver's License

Driver’s License A driver's license is a document or card that gives the legal authority for an individual to drive in the United States. If an individual operates a vehicle and is pulled over by a law enforcement officer, they will have to show their driver's license. If they do not have one, they will have severe repercussions that could prevent them from getting a driver's license in the future, or they will be required to pay a hefty fine.  How Many Different Kinds of Driver's Licenses Are There?  Depending on the state, there are many different kinds of driver’s licenses available. Read More

Driving Record

Driving Record  Driving Record Definition A driving record is a comprehensive list of a driver's history. In a driving record, it is possible to determine whether a driver has had prior accidents, ticket violations, or even more severe violations that involve driving under the influence of an illegal substance. It is essential to make every effort to keep your driving record clean to have better car insurance rates in the long-term.  Do Driver's Licenses Have Different Types?  There are several different classes of driver's licenses. Read More

Embezzlement

Embezzlement Embezzlement Definition Embezzlement is a kind of theft that can occur when the property that was stolen was in the legal custody of the thief. One of the most common instances of embezzlement is between an employer and their employees. In order to successfully be charged for embezzlement there are four elements that must be met: Property: when considering what kind of property, embezzlement can be applied to both intangible property (access to funds) or personal property (cash in hand). Ownership: an important factor for embezzlement is that one cannot embezzle their own property. Read More

Eviction

What Is Eviction? Eviction Definition Eviction is a process used by a landlord to remove a tenant from possession of a rented property. Many times, evictions occur when a tenant has breached a fundamental term of the lease or rental agreement by staying too long or failing to pay rent. Depending on the state, there are different rules about how much time a landlord needs to give a tenant notice that they are being evicted. Read More

Expungement

Expungement Expungement Definition  Expungement is the process of sealing any arrest or conviction records. Depending on the state, there are ways that individuals are able to expunge arrests or convictions from their records. Each state has its own precise definitions of how expungement can occur, and it is essential to be aware of the state's laws to have realistic expectations of when criminal records will be removed.  Who Is Eligible for Expungement?  Expungement is a privilege because it can offer a fresh start for those willing to take advantage of the new opportunity. Read More

FCRA

FCRA FCRA Definition The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was designed to protect American consumers from having fraudulent information reported on their credit scores that would make them ineligible for financial credit. The law was initially passed in 1970 and has been amended twice since it was passed. The law primarily targets the three leading credit agencies in the United States, which are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Read More

Felony

Felony Felony Definition A felony is a designation used for serious crimes. Felonies are considered the most serious kinds of offenses in the United States. Criminals who have a felony on their record can have many restrictions related to employment opportunities, rights to have a firearm, permission to adopt children or even the inability to run for public office. What Crimes Are Considered a Felony? There are two different classifications for felony-related offenses, which include violent felonies and non-violent felonies. Violent Felonies Violent felonies include offenses such as: Manslaughter Rape Robbery Murder Sexual Assault Domestic Violence False Imprisonment Kidnapping Non-violent Felonies Non-violent felonies include offenses such as: Espionage Grand Theft Fraud Racketeering Treason Do Felony Charges Have Different Degrees? Given that there are so many different types of felony charges, some of them do have varying degrees of severity that will change depending on each defendant's particular case and the state where the crime occurred. Read More

Forgery

Forgery Forgery Definition Forgery is the act of criminally altering or creating a written instrument for the purpose of deceit or fraud. A typical example of forgery is signing another person’s name to a check. Another way that forgery occurs is when a piece of artwork is copied, represented to the buyer as authentic, and sold at the same value as the original. What Elements Are Required to Prove Forgery? Making Altering Use or Possessing One of the most frequently missed requirements to prove forgery is an individual must alter, use, make or possess a false writing or piece of artwork. Read More

Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking Human Trafficking Definition Human Trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery that requires the use of force, coercion, or fraud to force an individual to engage in either non-consensual commercial sexual acts and/or forced labor. Human trafficking can be very difficult to find because many times, the crime rings involved with human trafficking make it very difficult for their victims to have contact with the outside world. Important Information About Human Trafficking Unfortunately, each year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries all over the world. Read More

Kidnapping

Kidnapping Kidnapping Definition Kidnapping is defined as the taking of a person from one place to another against their will. Kidnapping also occurs when a person is confined to a particular controlled space. Each state has its own statutes regarding kidnapping, and many times, cases can get more complicated when the kidnapping has occurred in several different jurisdictions. Read More

Larceny

Larceny Larceny Definition Larceny is the unlawful taking of another person’s property with the intention of depriving them of that property permanently. Larceny typically does not involve any violence; it consists of mere theft. Larceny is usually a misdemeanor charge unless there are other offenses committed. Elements Required to Prove Larceny The elements required to prove larceny are an unlawful taking of someone else’s property without their consent, and with the intent to permanently deprive them of that property. Unlawful Taking The unlawful taking of another’s property means that an individual has taken the property from someone else and prevents the owner from using it. Read More

License Plate

License Plate License Plate Definition A license plate is a series of letters, numbers, or a combination of both that is a registration of a vehicle's identity. Usually, a license plate is on a rectangular metal plate and is required to be both on the front and back of the vehicle. On the license plate, it is also essential to have smog stickers in the United States to avoid citations from law enforcement officers. Read More

License Suspension

License Suspension License Suspension Definition License suspensions occur when a driver has either violated traffic laws several times or is pulled over with a DUI. Licenses can be suspended for months or even years. The timeframe of the suspension will depend on the individual's prior driving record and the severity of the violations that they already have on their driving record.  What are the Driving-Related Grounds for Suspension?  There are many driving-related grounds for suspending a driver's license. Read More

Manslaughter

Manslaughter Manslaughter Definition Manslaughter is when an unlawful killing occurs that does not involve malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is the intent to kill with a reckless or extreme disregard for life. When malice aforethought is not present, then the charge is usually dropped to a manslaughter charge. Manslaughter generally has a less severe punishment than murder. What Is the Difference Between Voluntary & Involuntary Manslaughter? There are two kinds of manslaughter including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Voluntary Manslaughter Voluntary manslaughter is often described as a “heat of passion” crime or offense. Read More

Misdemeanor

Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Definition A misdemeanor is a crime that is committed that is not as serious as a felony, but not as minor as an infraction. A misdemeanor will have a different punishment sentence depending on the state where the crime occurred. In many U.S. states, the punishment is being incarcerated for one year or less when a misdemeanor is committed. What Are Some Examples of Misdemeanors? Misdemeanor offenses are defined by each state’s criminal statutes. Read More

Moving Violation

Moving Violation  Moving Violation Definition Moving violations occur when a driver violates vehicle laws while they are driving. Each state has its own regulations on what constitutes a moving violation. Within each state, different cities and counties also have different rules. One of the most common examples of a rule that changes by county is the speed limit a driver is allowed to drive their vehicle. Read More

Mugshot

Mugshot Mugshot Definition A mugshot is a photograph taken when an individual is initially arrested. Typically, a mugshot photo is taken from the front and a profile view to have an accurate identification of the criminal's features on record. Behind the criminal, there is a height measurement to show how tall they are for suspect profiling in future cases. Read More

Murder

Murder Murder Definition Murder is defined as the malicious and unlawful killing of a human being. Murder must involve malice aforethought, which is a conscious intent to cause death or bodily harm. The Model Penal Code outlines different murder charges including first-degree and second-degree murder. How Many Different Degrees of Murder Are There? Murder charges are usually divided into two categories consisting of first-degree murder and second-degree murder. First-Degree Murder First-degree murder occurs when the unlawful killing was premeditated. Read More

Narrative

Narrative  Narrative Definition Narrative is a method that can be used to force a witness to explain the events leading up to a crime. Narrative is used by attorneys to try to get witnesses or defendants to share many facts versus one answer to a single question while they are on the stand. What narration does is that it makes the other attorney not able to object directly to questions that are not necessarily following the proper protocols in court. Read More

Parole

Parole Parole Definition Parole is a privilege that allows criminals to avoid prison or to be released from prison after only serving a portion of their sentences. One of the objectives of parole is to enable offenders the opportunity to rehabilitate their lives and reintegrate themselves into society. The psychology behind parole is that offenders will learn from their mistakes and be less likely to commit new offenses in the future. What Is Parole Exactly? Parole is different from probation in that it is not an alternative sentence, but a privilege some prisoners become eligible for as a result of good behavior. Read More

Probation

Probation Probation Definition Probation is an option that allows an individual being formally accused of a crime to remain outside of jail, provided they meet specific criteria. One of the critical requirements of probation is to prove that the individual will not be a danger to society. Other requirements can involve certain duties that the individual must complete to remain out of jail. Read More

Provisional Remedy

Provisional Remedy Provisional Remedy Definition A provisional remedy occurs when it is necessary to preserve the status quo or enact swift protection for a victim until a final legal solution can occur for both parties. Many times, court cases can take months. When there is a matter that needs an instant decision that is not final, a provisional remedy is an ideal solution to provide clarity to the parties and in many cases, protect victims from further harm. How Can the Constitutionality of a Provisional Remedy Be Established? The constitutionality of a provisional remedy is something important to prove before a provisional remedy can be issued. Read More

Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving  Reckless Driving Definition  Reckless driving is when an individual, drives with willful or wanton disregard for the safety or operation of the vehicle and its consequences on people or property. When an individual is cited with a traffic offense, it is traditionally classified as merely showing a disregard for the rules of the road. Read More

Robbery

Robbery Robbery Definition Robbery occurs when an individual takes with the intent to steal property from another or in their presence against their will by violence or the threat of force. Robbery is often confused with traditional theft; however, it is distinguished by the more violent nature of the crime. Typical weapons that are used in robberies are firearms, knives, other dangerous weapons or physical force. How to Know Whether a Robbery Has Occurred? One of the most important aspects of knowing whether a robbery has occurred is differentiating robbery from traditional types of theft such as larceny or burglary. Read More

Stalking

Stalking Stalking Definition Stalking occurs when an individual engages in an unwanted pursuit of another person. Many behaviors can be designated as stalking. Some of the most common stalking offenses are showing up at a person’s home or business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or vandalizing another person’s property. One of the most important elements of stalking is that it is not a one-time offense. Read More

Statute

Statute Statute Defined A statute is a law that is established by an act initiated by a legislature. In the United States, statutes are considered a primary source of law. Legislatures create statutes, and then the courts interpret the cases through case law decisions. How Are Statutes Typically Organized? State statutes are generally organized by subject matter and published into books called codes. Read More

Theft

Theft Theft Definition Theft is defined as the unauthorized taking of property from another with the objective of permanently depriving them of that property. What Elements Are Required to Prove a Theft Has Occurred? In order to prove that a theft has occurred, two key elements need to be present. The first is that someone else’s property has to be taken and the second is there has to be the intent to deprive the victim of their property permanently. Read More

Traffic Violation

Traffic Violation Traffic Violation Definition Traffic violations occur when drivers violate traffic laws while controlling their vehicle on streets or highways. Traffic violations are quite common in the United States. In fact, 90% of Americans that are over 16 years of age that have a driver’s license end up with more than one traffic violation.  What Are the Most Common Types of Traffic Violations & How Much Do They Cost?  The most common types of traffic violations are running red lights, speeding, reckless driving, and DUIs. Read More

U.S. Constitution

U.S. Constitution U.S. Constitution Definition The U.S. Constitution is a legal document written by the Founding Fathers of the United States that establishes the fundamental structure of the United States. The U.S. Constitution was created in 1787 to define the laws of the United States and protect freedoms that colonists had suffered in Europe under monarchs previously. Read More

Vandalism

Vandalism Vandalism Definition Vandalism occurs when an individual decides to destroy or deface another's property. Graffiti is the most common kind of vandalism and occurs when an individual, paints, writes or draws on a building or other structure. Graffiti is a crime that is commonly associated with gang affiliations or organized crime networks. Different Kinds of Vandalism Behaviors Car vandalism. Spray painting the side of a building or tagging a sign. Carving initials into a picnic table at a park or a wooden bench in a public place. Breaking windows in a building. Drawing or carving letters or shapes into a mailbox. Egging a car or house. Throwing toilet paper on a house. Damaging or defacing street signs. How is Auto Vandalism Different? Auto vandalism includes different behaviors such as keying the paint, breaking the car's windows, or slashing the tires. Read More

Vehicular Assault

Vehicular Assault Vehicular Assault Definition Vehicular assault is a form of assault that occurs when a vehicle is used to harm or threaten to harm another person. Vehicular assault is quite commonly paired with other traffic offenses. An example of how vehicular assault can be combined with other offenses is if an individual is speeding and hits a pedestrian or another driver in the process. Read More

Wobbler

Wobbler Wobbler Definition A statute is a wobbler when it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Many statutes in the United States enable either the court or the district attorney to decide how to apply the statute pursuant to the unique facts of each case. What Factors Are Used to Decide How to Charge a Wobbler Statute? To determine whether a felony or misdemeanor charge will be applied, both the court and the district attorney consider factors such as: How many crimes were committed in the particular case? If a defendant commits more than one crime, then a court or district attorney is likely going to enforce the maximum punishment. Read More