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Legal Terminology

Arraignment: Formal hearing in which the accused enters a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Bench Trial: A trial in which the Judge is the finder of fact, not a jury.

Bind Over: When the case is transferred from a District Court to the Grand Jury.

Bond: The mechanism that allows a defendant out of jail pending his/her trial.

Bond Revocation: If the defendant is accused of violating any conditions placed on the bond order that allows the defendant out of jail, a hearing takes place to determine the consequences (usually jail time).

Contempt of Court: When a person violates a civil order of the court.

District Attorney’s Office: The office that prosecutes all felony cases and some misdemeanors on behalf of the State of Alabama.

Defendant: The person who is accused of a criminal act.

Defense Attorney: The attorney for the accused.

Discovery: Term to describe the official procedure for a defendant/attorney to obtain legal information about the State’s case.

Diversion Program: Programs for defendants who are first time offenders for certain crimes. Successful completion would likely result in the dismissal of criminal charges.

Grand Jury: A jury of 18 people hear evidence presented by the District Attorney’s Office regarding felony charges. The charges are drawn on a document called an indictment. Felonies such as rape, murder and armed robbery are always presented to the Grand Jury.

Habitual Offender: A person who has a recidivist record will be identified as habitual offender and may face enhanced punishment.

Indictment: A formal charging document that is produced by the District Attorney’s Office through the Grand Jury and is submitted to the Clerk as the official charge(s) against a defendant. These are the charges that the State is required to prove in a trial.

Jury Trial: A trial in which a jury of peers is the finder of fact.

Motions: Procedures in which the prosecutor and defense attorney argue in front of a Judge about what specifically is and is not allowed in a pending trial.

No Bill: The term is used when a Grand Jury does not find sufficient evidence to proceed with charges against a defendant.

Nolle Prosequi: The procedure in which the prosecutor may dismiss a case after the charges have been filed with the Court.

Preliminary Hearing: A hearing in front of a District Court Judge to gain more information from the parties involved as it relates to probable cause.

Probable Cause: The measure of standard required before a District Court Judge can bind a case over to Grand Jury or issue a warrant.

Probation: An alternative to jail that often includes various conditions that the defendant must comply. Often times involving counseling and/or treatment.

Probation Revocation: A hearing to determine if the defendant has violated conditions of his/her probation and subsequent consequences.

Prosecutor: The attorney for the State of Alabama.

Reasonable Doubt: The level of proof required by the State to prove the charges at trial.

Restitution: The amount of money the Judge orders the defendant to pay at sentencing to reimburse a victim for out of pocket expenses.

True Bill: The term is used when a Grand Jury finds sufficient evidence to proceed with charges against a defendant.

Victim Compensation: A State of Alabama program which provides financial support for victims of crime for out of pocket expenses related to a crime. Types of expenses can include: medical, funeral, mental health, lost wages, and loss of support.