Legal Vocabulary

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There are two different types of Courts. The first is a Civil Court, and the second is a Criminal Court, so the Civil Court is where they hold disputes like for custody when two parents are getting divorced and they need to know who gets the child, they will go to a Civil Court, or, for example, if you go bankrupt and your house goes into foreclosure meaning that you can’t pay for your house, then you would go to Civil Court.

But if you stab somebody, or if you rob somebody and commit a serious crime, that would go to Criminal Court, anything that hurts, hurt somebody in a serious way that will go to criminal court.

All of the facts and all the statements that took place about the event or the crime that happened is all put in a case. So that’s what is called a case and that case goes to trial. Trial is synonymous for hearing as well, so if you have a hearing in the United States, you have a trial meaning that you take a case with all the facts about what happened and you go to a Court house. In the Court house, you sit in front of a judge and a jury, so the judge is the person who decides whether or not that person is guilty and the jury are people from the public that are there to help the judge to decide.

But what about the other people in the court? There is a lot of other roles but here is mentioned of the few most important ones. For example, the plaintiff is the person that brought the lawsuit to Court, so they say you did something wrong, we’re going to court, that is the plaintiff. Then you have the offender, and this is somebody who is blamed for whatever went wrong. So the offender is the person who is bad, possibly they’re being accused of a crime that doesn’t mean they committed a crime. It just means that somebody said they did a crime. So when someone accuses you something, it just means that they said that you did it doesn’t mean that you actually did it.  

Whenever somebody does a crime we say commit a crime. If you’re in a Criminal Court, then actually the person being accused of a crime is called the defendant because they are there with their attorney or their lawyer to defend themselves so each party gets an attorney. One is a defense attorney, and one is a plaintiff’s attorney and if you’ve ever seen law and order, then that you must have seen a witness take the stand. So what does that mean when someone takes a stand, they go and they sit next to the judge and they talk to the people, they talk to, the lawyers, the audience and the jury on the side and what they do is they answer the questions that the attorney is asking them? So they witnessed the crime, or maybe they’re talking about a person’s character, so maybe they didn’t see the crime but they are acting as a witness of that person’s character of their morals. So maybe they are really good person and they want to say No, the defendant couldn’t be guilty because I was with him on that day and he’s such a good person. I grew up with him, he would never do that.

When the defendant goes into court, they have an innocent or guilty plea. A plea is an official statement saying whether or not you’ve done something, if you think that you’re innocent and you didn’t commit the crime, you play innocent. If you plead guilty, then you’re saying I did it and you’re actually refusing certain rights like a right to a normal trial.

If I accuse you of doing something, you may have done it or not, but if you charge someone with something that means that you think that they did it and now they’re going to be punished for it. For example, if M murdered someone, M would go to criminal court and they would accuse M of murder and then M would give his testimony which is his speech saying whether or not, he has done it, answering questions things like this and then at the end, the judge will decide to charge me with that murder and that’s the case where he says, yes, you’ve done this, and now you have to go to jail to pay the consequence of it. So this charge is called the judge’s ruling or the verdict. Whenever you make a decision as a judge, that is your ruling or your verdict of whether or not that person is innocent.