Glossary of the Most Common Legal Terms - Stewart Law Offices
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Glossary of Most Common Legal Terms

Legal talk is often complex, and to the untrained ear it can sound like a completely different language. Luckily for you, the attorneys at Stewart Law Offices are here to provide simple, easy-to-understand definitions for some of the most common legal terms which you might have heard.

  • Acquittal: A verdict from a judge or jury that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.
  • Admissible: Evidence is considered “admissible” if it meets all of the standards required to present it in a court of law.
  • Affidavit: A statement (written or printed) made under oath.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): A way to settle a dispute outside of the courtroom. Most ADRs involve the help of a neutral third party, such as a mediator or arbitrator.
  • Appeal: A request made after a trial by the losing party to have the case reviewed by a higher court.
  • Bench Trial: A trial where the judge acts as the decision-maker instead of a jury.
  • Class Action Lawsuit: A lawsuit in which an individual or small group sues an entity on the behalf of a much larger group. i.e.: Thousands of customers suing a company for damages caused by a faulty product.
  • Community Service: A verdict in which the court requires an individual to work without pay for a nonprofit organization.
  • Conviction: A guilty verdict against a criminal defendant.
  • Defendant: The individual or business against whom a lawsuit is filed.
  • Evidence: Facts or items presented in the court of law with the intention to persuade the judge or jury.
  • Felony: A serious crime, usually punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.
  • Hearsay: Information presented by a witness who did not see the incident in question, but rather heard about it from someone else.
  • Judge: An official of the United States Judicial branch with the authority to decide lawsuits brought before a court.
  • Jury: A group of people selected to hear the evidence in a trial and make a verdict.
  • Litigation: Another word for a court case, or lawsuit.
  • Misdemeanor: A less-serious crime, punishable by a maximum of one year imprisonment.
  • Mistrial: An invalid trial which leads to the restarting of the same case with a new jury.
  • Plaintiff: A person or business who files the lawsuit with a court.
  • Plea Bargain: An agreement made between the plaintiff and defendant where the defendant agrees to plead guilty in order to receive a lesser punishment. Also known as a plea deal.
  • Settlement: Parties resolve their dispute without trial. This usually involves the payment of the defendant to at least the partial satisfaction of the plaintiff.
  • Testimony: Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials.
  • Verdict: The determination of guilt or innocence made by the judge or jury.
  • Witness: A person called upon during a trial to give a testimony before the court.

To learn more about the most common legal terms and their definitions, check out this expanded glossary from the United States Court System that covers many common law terms you should know.

The personal injury attorneys at Stewart Law Offices are well-versed in the court of law and are prepared to defend you at your next trial. If you live in North Carolina or South Carolina, and have been injured as the result of someone else’s negligence, don’t wait. Pick up the phone and call us for a free consultation at (866) 783-9278.

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