Helpful Definitions

ADJOURNMENT
Postponement until a later date, at the defendant’s, judge’s, or Prosecuting Attorney’s request. Adjournments happen for many reasons: witnesses, attorneys or defendants have scheduling conflicts or are ill; an older case may be heard that day; necessary motions or legal issues have not been decided, etc.

ADVOCATE
A person who assists the victim with support, information, resources, etc.

APPEAL
The process of having a higher court review the lower court’s decisions and / or rulings.

ARRAIGNMENT
The defendant is brought before the court and read the charges against him / her. The defendant may be asked to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Bond may be set.

AUTHORIZE
The Prosecuting Attorney’s decision to issue a criminal charge.

BAIL OR BOND
The purpose of bail or bond is to insure the defendant’s appearance for future court appearances, and to enhance public safety. Bail is generally an amount of money and / or conditions of release set by the court (e.g., no contact with victim).

BENCH TRIAL
Trial before a judge, without a jury.

COMPLAINT
The written document that states the criminal charges.

DEFENDANT
The person charged with the crime.

FELONY CASE
A crime for which a person may be sent to prison for more than one year.

MISDEMEANOR CASE
A crime for which a person may be sentenced to not more than one year in jail.

MOTION
Request for a certain ruling or decision on an issue related to a case.

NO CONTEST
A type of plea is used when the defendant cannot recall his criminal actions or may be sued civilly for his / her criminal conduct. Generally the police report, rather than the defendant’s verbal admissions to the judge make up the factual basis for the plea. The defendant is treated by a sentencing judge the same as if he was convicted via a guilty plea or trial verdict.

PERJURY
A deliberate lie or untruth regarding a material fact made under oath.

PLEA
The defendant’s response to a criminal charge (guilty, not guilty or no contest).

PLEA BARGAIN
An agreement between parties for the defendant to plead guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions (reducing / dismissing charge(s), agreeing to terms of sentence, etc.), subject to the judge’s approval.

PRELIMINARY EXAM
A District Court hearing in felony cases to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime.

PRE-SENTENCE INVESTIGATION
A probation department’s review of a convicted offender’s personal and criminal background. The victim is also consulted on the impact the crime has had upon his / her life and what the victim feels the sentence should include. A report is prepared and read by the judge before sentencing.

PRETRIAL CONFERENCE
An informal meeting between the Prosecutor and defendant or his / her attorney to resolve the case.

PROBATION
A sentence where a defendant’s life activities are supervised by the court.

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
Attorney who represents the People of the State of Michigan against a criminal defendant.

RESTITUTION
An amount of money, determined by the court, to be paid to a crime victim for property loss or injuries caused by the defendant’s criminal acts. Michigan crime victims have both constitutional and statutory rights to restitution.

SUBPOENA
A court order directing a person to be present at a time and place for a court hearing.

VICTIM
A person or entity who suffers direct physical, financial and / or emotional harm, or is threatened as a result of the commission of a crime.

WAIVE
To give up a right.

WARRANT
A court’s written order commanding police to bring a person before the court.

ADJUDICATION
A juvenile court “conviction” from a plea or a trial verdict. If adjudicated on an offense, the court “takes jurisdiction” of the youth, and can enter a disposition order.

CONSENT CALENDAR
An informal probation, usually for first-time offenders. If all probation terms are completed, the court has authority to dismiss the petition; if not, the court can transfer the case to the formal calendar for a pre-trial conference, formal plea, trial, etc. In victim rights cases, the court must notify the prosecutor if consent calendar may be approved so the victim can be consulted and the prosecutor can advise the court if he approves. Consent calendar status can be granted over a prosecutor’s and / or victim’s objection.

DETENTION / TREATMENT
Facilities operated by the Family court or state where juveniles may be detained pending hearings or following disposition. Juveniles may be placed in detention after disposition for treatment services.

DISPOSITION
The juvenile court equivalent of a sentence in an adult criminal case.

DIVERSION
An informal supervision of the youth prior to the court authorizing a petition. Consent calendar is a form of diversion.

JURISDICTION
The court’s authority to enter orders affecting a delinquent youth up to their 19th birthday, and his / her parents or household.

PETITION
Charging document in a juvenile delinquency case, issued by a prosecutor. It lists the offenses the youth has allegedly committed.

REPORTABLE JUVENILE OFFENSE
Offense that requires fingerprinting — murder or attempted murder, serious assaults (assault w/ intent to murder, commit great bodily harm, maim, or rob), arson of a dwelling, B & E, home invasion 1st degree, larceny in a building, car theft, car jacking, kidnapping, CSC 1st-3rd degree, robbery, possession or delivery of 650 grams or more of a schedule 1 or 2 narcotic.

RESTITUTION
Repayment of economic losses to a victim of an adjudicated juvenile’s course of delinquent conduct. Restitution typically includes the value of lost property or the cost to repair damaged property, medical or physical therapy expenses, and work loss (including attendance at court hearings). The parent responsible for supervising the juvenile at the time of the delinquent conduct can be ordered to pay restitution if the juvenile is found to be unable to do so personally. Victim rights laws required that “full restitution” be awarded to victims.

SPECIFIED JUVENILE VIOLATION
Crime for which a youth, convicted in a designated case, could be sentenced to prison — murder; series assaults (assault w/ intent to murder, commit great bodily harm, maim, or rob); arson of a dwelling; home invasion 1st degree; car jacking; kidnapping; CSC 1st degree; armed robbery; bank / safe robbery; escape from a medium- or high-security juvenile facility; manufacture, sale, delivery or possession of 650 grams of a schedule 1 or 2 narcotic; or attempt, solicitation, conspiracy to commit the crimes.

STATUS OFFENSE
A non-delinquency violation of law giving the Family court jurisdiction over a minor. Status offenders are habitual runaways from home, truants from school, and incorrigible youths. Parents may be petitioners. Courts cannot place status offenders in detention due to the status offense conduct, but may detain youths due to willful violations of court orders where less restrictive alternates are not appropriate.

TRANSFER CASE
Petitions are issued by the prosecutor in the county where the offenses occurred, but cases may transfer to the Family Court in the county where the juvenile lives for adjudication and disposition with the consent of both counties’ courts. The county-of-residence is responsible for monitoring and rehabilitating their youths.

BINDOVER
The transfer of a felony or high misdemeanor case, from District Court to Circuit Court.

JURY TRIAL
Trial in which a jury decides the verdict.

INTAKE DEPARTMENT
Decides whether formal or informal intervention will occur with the juvenile.

MOTIONS
Help to decide many legal and evidentiary issues surrounding a case.

SENTENCE
Punishment handed down by the judge to a defendant who has been found guilty.