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Commonly Used Terms & Definitions

Sometimes the terms used in court are confusing and have different meanings than people are used to.  Below is an alphabetical list of commonly used terms and their definitions.  Let us know if there are some we should add.

Adjudication through Diversion

Adjudication Hearing – A trial in juvenile court is called an Adjudication hearing. There is no jury, the case is decided by the judge.

Affidavit - A written statement made under oath before a notary public or other authorized official, these can be filled out in the County Attorney’s office. For example, when a parent is aware of a juvenile breaking the rules set by the judge, that parent will fill out an affidavit in the County Attorney’s Office describing the actions of the juvenile.

Appeal – If a defendant believes that the court made an error in trial he can appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court.

Appellant – The person who makes an appeal.

Arraignment – Usually the first court appearance of a person accused of a crime, at the arraignment the judge will tell the defendant what he is charged with and the defendant will say he is guilty or not guilty.

Bailiff – The uniformed officer from the sheriff's department who protects the safety of all participants in the case and keeps the court in order.

Circuit Court- A court of general jurisdiction, it is considered a higher court than District court and it hears appeals from Juvenile court. Juveniles can also be transferred to Circuit Court to be tried as adults.

Closing argument - At the end of a hearing or trial an attorney from each side will give a summary of evidence presented to the court.

Complaint - A statement made by someone to the CDW charging a juvenile with a criminal violation.

Concurrent Sentences - Sentences for multiple crimes that are served at the same time, for instance if a defendant is given 10 days of detention time to be served concurrently with the 10 days he is already serving, that defendant will only serve a total of 10 days.

Consecutive Sentences - Sentences for multiple crimes that are served back to back; for instance if a defendant is given 10 days of detention time to be served consecutively with the 10 days he is already serving, that defendant would serve a total of 20 days.

Contempt of Court - When the judge orders a juvenile or parent to do something and they disobey, they can be charged with contempt of court. Or if a person does not follow the rules of court, while in the courtroom they can be charged with contempt of court. Contempt of court is a separate offense from the original offense.

Conviction - When a judge decides the juvenile is guilty of committing a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, that is called a conviction. If a defendant pleads guilty he will also receive a conviction for the crime to which he pleads.

Cross Examination - Questioning of a witness by opposing counsel. For example, when the defense attorney questions the victim.

Defendant - The person who is charged with a crime.

Defense Attorney - The attorney hired or appointed to represent the defendant.

District Court - The court that has jurisdiction over juvenile cases.

Diversion - An agreement the defendant enters into with the CDW where he agrees to follow certain rules and conditions and if he does all that is asked and has no new problems, he original charges will be dismissed.


Evidence through Witness

Evidence - Proof  given to the judge by a witness, records, documents, etc.

Exhibit - Papers, documents, or other objects given to the court by a prosecutor or defense attorney as evidence during a trial or hearing.

Judge - An elected or appointed official with the authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law.

Jury - People selected to decide if a defendant is guilty or not guilty. There are no juries in juvenile cases in Kentucky.

Oath - A a promise to speak the truth, a judge will place someone under oath before that person testifies.

Opening Statement - An outline of proof that will be presented in the case. The prosecutor and defense attorney will both make an opening statement.

Parties - The people who are a part of the case.

Perjury - If a witness provides untrue or misleading testimony while under oath that person has committed perjury.

Pre-Trial Conference - A court appearance where a defendant can admit to the charges, ask for more time to work on the case, motions can be made, or the case can be set for an Adjudicatory Hearing (trial)

Probable Cause - A reasonable belief that a crime has been or being committed; the basis for lawful searches. Probable cause means that something most likely happened.

Prosecution - The act of pursuing a lawsuit or criminal trial; the prosecution in a criminal case is the state.

Prosecutor - The public official, a County attorney or assistant County Attorney, who works for the state.

Public offense - Public offenses are crimes that are against the law if they are committed by anyone, adult or juvenile, including felonies and misdemeanors.

Sentence - The punishment given to the defendant after he has been found guilty or admitted to the charges.

Status Offense - Non-criminal forms of misbehavior, such as running away from home, skipping school, or being beyond the control of parents or teachers.

Subpoena - A legal notice requiring a person to appear in court to provide testimony as a witness.

Testimony - When someone speaks in court under oath they are giving testimony.

Victim’s Advocate - A member of the prosecutor’s staff who keeps in contact with the victims of crimes.

Underlying Crime - The crime the defendant was originally charged with committing, this term is usually used when talking about a contempt. The contempt is a new charge and the original charge is called the underlying crime.

Witness - A person testifying under oath in court, with factual knowledge about a case.


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