Common Courtroom Terminology


  • Appeal: Review of your trial by a higher court to see if any mistakes were made that had an effect on the verdict.
  • Arraignment: You first visit to the court in your case. The purpose of the arraignment is for you to tell the court whether you want to fight the charges against you at trial, or you don’t want to fight the charges against you. You appear before a judge and enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.



  • Bailiff: The Judge’s assistant in the courtroom who takes care of the paperwork and security.
  • Bench trial: Trial without a jury. The judge hears the case and passes judgment.



  • Closing Argument: The last opportunity you have to address the court in your case. You need to argue the strengths of your case and the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case.
  • Cross-Examination: The opportunity for you and the prosecutor to ask questions of each other’s witnesses.



  • Defendant: The person charged with the crime(s). In this case, it is you.
  • Direct Examination: The opportunity to ask questions of your witness. You may not ask leading questions.



  • Hearsay: That you or someone else said not made during the trial. Hearsay statements are not allowed to be used in court, however there are some exceptions.



  • Jury selection: The first part of the jury trial in which the prosecutor and defendant choose six people from a large group to serve as jurors for the trial.
  • Jury trial: A trial in which a group of six jurors decide whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. The judge decides the sentence.



  • Leading Questions: Questions that either have the answer in the question or suggest the answer in the question. Asking leading questions during direct examination is not allowed.



  • Objection: A way to keep the other side from asking improper questions and giving improper answers.
  • Opening Statement: Your first opportunity to speak to the court. You should tell the jury or the Judge what you think the case is about.



  • Pretrial Hearing: The step between the Arraignment and the Trial. You may change your plea to "guilty" or have your case set for Trial.
  • Prosecutor: The lawyer who works for the Prosecutor’s Office as the representative for the State. Her job in criminal cases is to use evidence and witness testimony to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that you, the defendant, committed the crime(s) you are charged with committing.



  • Rebuttal Evidence: Evidence that the prosecutor may introduce after you have finished presenting your case.
  • Redirect Examination ("redirect"): Further questioning that takes place after the cross-examination of a witness. You may only ask questions about subjects brought up during cross-examination.



  • Sentence: Your punishment if you are found to be guilty of the charges. In City Court, sentences usually include a fine. Other punishments are jail time, probation, community service and counseling.
  • Subpoena: Court document that orders a witness show up to court on the date of your trial. If a witness is subpoenaed but does not show up, the witness is subject to criminal charges.



  • Testimony: What the witnesses say when answer questions under oath.



  • Verdict: The guilty or not guilty judgment passed by the judge (or the jury in jury trial) after all of the evidence in the case has been presented.


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