You may not be familiar with some of the terms used in the criminal justice system. Definitions that refer to Juvenile Court are marked with a J. The definitions that are unmarked are part of the Common Pleas/County Court, the definitions marked with a B are both Juvenile and Common Pleas/County Court. The following definitions will hopefully assist you:
Acquit – to find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.
Affirm – the assertion of an appellate court that the judgment of the court below is correct and should stand.
Agent – a person authorized to act for another.
J – Alleged Juvenile Offender – a juvenile named in a police report or complaint who is suspected of committing a delinquent act.
Appeal – the process by which the convicted person asks for a review of a conviction by a higher court.
B – Arraignment – the initial court appearance of the accused, to inform the accused of the charges and to take a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest to the charge.
Bail – an amount of money determined by the judge and posted with the court clerk as security to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court at a specific time.
B – Charge – formal accusation of having committed a criminal offense.
Civil Action – a lawsuit to enforce private rights, to obtain compensation for a violation of those rights or to recover monetary damages. A civil action is brought directly by the person who is complaining, usually with the help of a private attorney. Civil actions are all types of actions that are not criminal proceedings
Commutation – the substitution by the governor of a lesser punishment than the original sentence imposed by the court
B – Complaint – 1. (criminal) Formal written charge alleging that a person has committed a criminal offense. 2. (civil) Initial document entered by the plaintiff that states the claims against the defendant.
B – Contempt of Court – any act that embarrasses, hinders, or obstructs the court in administering justice, or that lessens its authority or its dignity.
Costs – an allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a case in court, not including attorney fees.
B – Court – Includes a court of common pleas, juvenile court, municipal court or county court.
Criminal Proceeding – a criminal action brought by a governmental body, such as a city or state. In a criminal proceeding, the prosecutor represents the governmental body that is bringing the action against the defendant.
Custodial Agency – the agency that has custody of an offender who is incarcerated or under detention after adjudicated delinquent, or after a finding of incompetence to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity.
Defendant – the person who is being prosecuted
J – Delinquent Child – a minor who has violated criminal laws or who engages in disobedient, indecent or immoral conduct and is in need of treatment, rehabilitation or supervision.
J – Delinquency Proceeding – any proceedings in a juvenile court that relates to a case against an alleged offender.
J – Delinquent Act – an act committed by a juvenile that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult.
B – Evidence – any form of proof legally presented at a trial usually through witnesses, records or documents.
Felony – a crime of a more serious nature than a misdemeanor.
Grand Jury – a group of persons whose duty is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal cases, hear the prosecutor’s evidence and decide whether that evidence is sufficient to issue an indictment.
J – Guardian – any person, association or corporation appointed by probate court to have the care and management of the person and/or estate of an incompetent person or minor.
Habitual Sexual Offender – any person who is convicted two or more times, in separate criminal actions, of any of a list of specified sex offenses
Hearing – an in-court proceeding before a judge, generally open to the public.
Hung Jury – a jury whose members cannot agree on a verdict.
Indictment – a written accusation issued by the grand jury that a particular person has committed a certain crime.
Judgment – the official decision of the court; the final decision of the court resolving legal questions, which can involve a finding of guilt or acquittal of the accused and the severity of the sentence.
Judicial Release – process by which an eligible offender meeting certain requirements may be released from incarceration by the sentencing judge.
Jurisdiction – authority of a court to exercise judicial power.
Mental Distress – any mental illness or condition that involves some temporary substantial incapacity or mental illness or condition that would normally require psychiatric treatment. Mental distress is an element of the menacing by stalking crime.
Misdemeanor – an offense less serious than a felony with a maximum punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Mistrial – erroneous or invalid trial. Usually declared because of prejudicial error in the proceedings or when there was a hung jury. The defendant can face trial again after a mistrial.
Motion – an oral or written request made to a court or judge for the purpose of obtaining a ruling or order directing some act to be done.
Notices – information, advice; or written warning intended to apprise persons of some proceeding in which his/her interests are involved or to inform them of some fact that they have a right to know. Victims of crime in Ohio are entitled to certain notices without request. Other notices are “triggered” by the request of the victim.
Oath – written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth.
Offender – a person accused of committing a criminal or delinquent act. The offender becomes known as the defendant after official criminal charges are filed with a court. The offender becomes known as an alleged juvenile offender after delinquency charges are filed in juvenile court.
B – Offenses – criminal or delinquent acts that include felonies and misdemeanors, including violations of state law or city and village ordinances.
Pardon – an act of the governor releasing a prisoner from serving the remainder of a sentence.
Parole – a supervised release from jail or prison, after the offender actually serves part of the sentence. May also be referred to as post-conviction control.
B – Plea – a defendant’s official statement of “guilty,” “not guilty” or “no contest” to the charges. If the defendant enters a “guilty” or “no contest” plea, there will be no need for a trial.
Preliminary Hearing – a hearing sometimes held in felony cases after the arrest of the offender and before an indictment. At the hearing, the prosecutor must produce evidence that a crime probably has been committed, and that the offender probably committed it.
B – Pre-sentence Investigation – investigation of the relevant background of a convicted offender, usually conducted by a probation officer, and given to the judge for use during sentencing. An impact statement by the victim is usually incorporated into this report.
B – Pretrial – a meeting, before trial, between the prosecutor and the defense attorney to discuss the merits of the case, exchange information about witnesses, and attempt to negotiate an appropriate resolution of the case. Many cases are finalized at pre-trial.
B – Pretrial Diversion – allows the offender of certain offenses, prior to trial, to be referred to community agencies to complete certain things such as drug counseling and community service. If the offender responds successfully, the charges will usually be dismissed by the court.
B – Probable Cause – reasonable cause; having more evidence for than against; a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures and arrests.
B – Probation – a period during which the defendant’s jail time or fine is suspended. During this time, the defendant is under court supervision and must obey certain rules. If the defendant breaks any of these rules while on probation, the court can then order him or her to serve the jail time.
May also be referred to as post-conviction control.
B – Prosecution – 1. act of pursuing a lawsuit or criminal trial; 2. the government attorney who initiates and attempts to prove a criminal case in court.
B – Prosecutor – a public officer including the prosecuting attorney or assistant prosecuting attorney, village solicitor or city law director who is designated to appear for the prosecution of a given case.
B – Reasonable Doubt – an accused person is entitled to acquittal if, in the minds of the jury, guilt has not been proven beyond a “reasonable doubt;” that state of mind of the jury in which they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction as to the truth of the charge.
B – Restitution – an order by a court that requires the offender to pay for monetary loss, damage or injury.
Search Warrant – a written order, issued by a judge or magistrate, directing an officer to search a specified house or other place for evidence.
B – Sentencing – the judgment of a court concerning the offender’s punishment, ranging from death, imprisonment or fine to probation, restitution and community service.
Sexual Predator – a person who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to committing a sexually-oriented offense and is likely to engage in one or more sexually-oriented offenses in the future.
Speedy Trial – right of a defendant to have a trial within a period of time defined by law.
B – Subpoena – a written command to appear at a certain time to give testimony or produce documentary evidence. Failure to comply with a subpoena can lead to an arrest or contempt of court proceeding.
B – Summons – document or writ directing the sheriff or other officer to give notice that an action has been commenced against a person in court and that an appearance is required by a certain day, to answer the complaint.
B – Testimony – any statement made by a witness under oath in a legal proceeding.
Verdict – formal discussion made by a judge or jury.
B – Victim- a person who has suffered an injury resulting from the commission of a crime or delinquent act.
Victim Advocate- a person who provides support and assistance for a victim of crime during court proceedings.
Victim Impact Statement- a written or oral statement regarding the impact of the crime on the victim, including the financial, physical and emotional consequences.
Victim Representatives- a member of the victim’s family or another person who exercises the rights of a victim.
Adjudication – The entire process of handling a juvenile offense in Juvenile Court. Also, the juvenile equivalent of an adult “conviction.”
Arraignment – The first hearing, in which the juvenile can enter a plea of true or not true.
Bindover – Transfer of jurisdiction from juvenile court to adult court for prosecution as an adult.
Blended sentencing – Imposition of a juvenile disposition and an adult sentence when a juvenile is designated a Serious Youth Offender. The adult sentence is suspended upon condition of successful completion of the juvenile disposition. If the juvenile disposition is not successfully completed, the adult sentence may be imposed.
Delinquency – Ohio law defines a delinquent child as:
- Any child, except a juvenile traffic offender, who violates any law of this state or the United States or any ordinance of a political subdivision of the state, that would be an offense if committed by an adult;
- Any child who violates any lawful order of the court;
- Any child who purchases or attempts to purchase a firearm;
- Any child who is a habitual truant and who previously has been adjudicated an unruly child for being a habitual truant;
- Any child who is a chronic truant.
J – Disposition – The juvenile equivalent of adult “sentencing.” Maximum penalties include, but are not limited to:
Felony of the 1st or 2nd degree
1 year minimum commitment to the Ohio Department of Youth Services
Felony of the 3rd, 4th, or 5th degree
6 month minimum commitment to the Ohio Department of Youth Services
90 day commitment to the Juvenile Attention Center Community Control (also known as Probation, Community Service, Restitution to victims)
J – Felony offense – Any criminal offense which would be a felony if committed by an adult. Felonies are classified in 5 levels, Felonies of the 5th, 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st degree, 1st being the most serious.
J – Juvenile – Any individual under the age of 18.
J – Misdemeanor offense – Any criminal offense which would be a misdemeanor if omitted by an adult. Misdemeanors are classified in 5 levels, Minor Misdemeanors and Misdemeanors of the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st degree, 1st being the most serious.
J – Plea – When charged with any offense, a juvenile can enter a plea of True or Not True, the juvenile equivalent of an adult plea of “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.”
J – Pre-trial – The second hearing, in which the juvenile, his or her attorney and the prosecutor can review discovery and discuss the case and the possible disposition.
J – Restitution – Payment to victims for bodily injury or property damage.
J – Status offense – A violation of law which applies only to juveniles. Some examples include, truancy, unruliness, possession of tobacco products and curfew violations.
J – Trial – The hearing in which the prosecutor may call witnesses and present to prove the charge(s). The juvenile has the right to call witnesses, cross-examine opposing witnesses, present evidence or testify on his or her own behalf, but does not have to.
J – Unruly – Ohio Law defines an unruly child as: – Any child who does not submit to the reasonable control of the child’s parents, teachers, guardian or custodian by reason of being wayward or habitually disobedient; – Any child who is an habitual truant from school and who previously has not been adjudicated an unruly child for being an habitual truant; – Any child who behaves in a manner as to injure or endanger the child’s own health or morals or the health or morals of others; – Any child who violates a law that is applicable only to a child, other than a tobacco violation or underage purchase of a firearm.