Legal Words and Phrases Defined
The legal system can be
filled with confusing phrases and terms. This list should help you
understand the system just a little bit better.
ABSTRACT OF CONVICTION
- A form sent by courts to the Michigan Department of State reporting a
person's conviction or adjudication for a traffic violation, or other
"reportable offense" (e.g., drug crimes).
- A person who knowingly and intentionally contributes to or aids in
committing a crime (before or after, but not necessarily during, the
commission of the crime). If the crime was a felony, the person could be
charged with being an "accessory-after-the-fact". The facts could also
support a charge of Conspiracy.
- A person who participates in the commission of a crime, other than
the person actually doing to principal criminal act. This person may be
charged with actual crime committed under an "aider or abettor" theory
(gave aid or encouragement to the principal defendant(s)).
When a criminal defendant is found "not guilty" of the crime. An
acquittal is not a declaration of the accused's "innocence"; it is a
verdict that a Prosecutor failed to prove the accused's guilt beyond a
ADJOURNMENT - Postponing or rescheduling a case or court session until another date or time.
Generally, a final judicial determination of a case. In juvenile
delinquency cases, it is the equivalent of a 'conviction' in adult
criminal cases, when the court formally takes jurisdiction of the minor.
A person who is no longer deemed to be a minor. For many years in
Michigan, a person became an adult for criminal cases when they turned
17. In 2021 the age was changed to 18 for criminal prosecutions. [MCL 712A.2(a)].
ADVERSARY PROCEEDING - actions contested by opposing parties.
AFFIANT - A person who makes out an affidavit.
AFFIDAVIT - A written statement of fact that is verified by oath or affirmation before a notary public.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE -
Without denying the charge, the defendant raises extenuating or
mitigating circumstances such as insanity, self-defense, or entrapment
to avoid civil or criminal responsibility. The defendant usually must
prove any affirmative defense he/she raises. Court rules may require a
defendant to notify the opponent before the trial that an affirmative
defense will be raised.
Someone authorized to act for another person (known as the
"principal"). Violation of a principal-agent relationship is the core of
ALIBI - A
"lack of presence" defense. Defendant need not prove that he was
elsewhere when the crime happened; rather, a Prosecutor must disprove a claimed alibi (i.e., Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was present).
A defendant's opportunity to make a statement to the judge at
sentencing. A defendant may make a personal statement, but is not
required to do so. His/her attorney may also make a statement.
AMICUS BRIEF - A brief filed by an amicus ("friend
of the court") in support of a party in a lawsuit or pending appeal.
The court may have to give the amicus permission to file the brief, and
may limit the issues.
AMICUS CURIAE -
"Friend of the Court" (Latin). A party who volunteers information on
some aspect of a case or law to assist the court in its deliberation.
ANSWER - A formal written statement by a defendant responding to a civil complaint and setting forth the grounds for defense.
A.P.A. - Abbreviation for Assistant Prosecuting Attorney.
Request to a supervisory court, usually composed of a panel of judges,
to change the legal ruling of a lower court. To make such a request is
"to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who appeals is called the
Appellant; the opposing party is the Appellee.
- Appeal by Application for Leave ---
An appeal where permission must be obtained from the higher court
before the appeal may be filed. A party must seek permission to appeal
when a final order has not been entered, when the appeal is not timely,
or in criminal cases when a defendant has pled guilty and is appealing
an issue other than his sentence. An Application for Leave to Appeal is
filed, which explains the legal issues that the appellant wants
reviewed, and the facts and law supporting them. The court has final
discretion to accept or reject an application.
- Appeal by Right ---
An appeal to a higher court where permission does not have to first be
obtained. The appeal must be filed within a specified time frame after
the lower court's final order has been entered.
APPEAL RECORD -
The record sent by the trial court to the appellate court of what
happened at the trial court. This includes a copy of the docket, the
case file (court documents), and transcripts of court hearings.
A document filed with the court, and provided to other parties, by an
attorney advising that the attorney is representing a specific
APPELLANT - The party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court.
APPELLATE COURT -
A court that reviews lower court decisions. Circuit Court serves as the
appellate court for District Court cases. The Michigan Court of Appeals
serves as the appellate court for Circuit Court and Probate Court
cases. The Michigan Supreme Court serves as the appellate court for
Court of Appeals decisions.
APPELLEE - The party responding to an appeal filed in a higher court.
Criminal defendant's first appearance before a judge or magistrate. The
primary purpose is to inform the defendant of what charge he is facing.
The arraigning judge or magistrate may also determine an appropriate
bail and decide on a request for court-appointed counsel.
ARREST WARRANT - An order issued by a judge or magistrate to a peace officer requiring the arrest of a named person.
ASSAULT [MCL 750.81]
- An unlawful act that places another person in reasonable apprehension
of receiving an immediate battery. The defendant must have intended to
injure the victim or make the victim reasonably fear being struck. An
assault is intentional, not an accident. Note: The victim need to be actually injured for a “simple assault,”
but injuries can be circumstantial proof of higher levels of assaults.
The type or severity of the injury may also prove the defendant’s
intent (e.g., assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than
murder, assault with intent to maim, assault with intent to murder,
A&B penalty: Misdemeanor --- 93 days &/or $500.
Aggravated Assault penalty: Misdemeanor --- 1 year &/or $1,000.
Domestic Violence penalty: Misdemeanor --- 93 days &/or $500.
Aggravated Domestic Violence penalty: Misdemeanor --- 1 year &/or $1,000.
ASSISTANT PROSECUTING ATTORNEY -
Lawyer hired by the elected Prosecuting Attorney to prosecute cases
within that county as representatives of the People of the State of
ATTORNEY - A lawyer. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.
Bond money paid to a court, by or on behalf of a criminal defendant, as
security that, when released from jail, the defendant will appear at
future hearings. If another person posts the bail money, then that third
party vouches that the defendant will appear at future court dates.
Bail can be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear or violates
A court employee who assists the judge in maintaining order in the
courthouse, and who is responsible for the custody of a jury.
BATTERY - An intentional, unwanted and forceful/violent touching of another person, or something closely connected with that person.
BENCH TRIAL - A trial held before a judge and without a jury.
BENCH WARRANT -
A court order commanding the defendant's (or a missing witness') arrest
and appearance in court after the person had previously failed to
appear for a hearing. A bench warrant could also be issued against a
defendant for violating a court order, such as conditions of release or
BIND-OVER - A
finding at a preliminary examination that sufficient evidence exists to
require a trial at the Circuit Court level on the charges made against
BOND / BAIL BOND -
A promise or contract to do or perform a specified act, or pay a
penalty for failure to perform. This is usually guaranteed by a
'surety', who promises to pay if the 'principal' defaults, or by paying a
cash bond. In criminal cases, 'bond' means the same thing as 'bail': a
financial obligation signed by the accused or a surety intended to
guarantee the defendant's future appearances in court. The amount of the
bond is set by a judge or magistrate. The bond can include conditions
of release (i.e., no contact with the victim, no alcohol consumption,
etc.) Factors influencing the amount of bond set include the seriousness
of the charge, the defendant's criminal history, and the defendant's
ties to the community. There are four types of bonds:
- Personal recognizance bonds (a.k.a.
"PR" bonds, or "signature bonds") do not require the defendant or a
third party to pay money to the court, unless the defendant later fails
- Percent bonds require
the defendant to post a percentage of the full bond (generally as low as
10%) to get out of jail, and the remaining percentage is due only if
the defendant later fails to appear.
- Cash bonds require
the full amount of the bond to be paid in cash before the defendant can
be released. If the defendant appears at all future court dates, most
of the monies are returned to the person posting the bond.
- Surety bonds are posted by a professional bondsman after being paid a non-refundable percentage of the full amount by the defendant.
As in "breaking & entering" ... using some force to enter a
building (opening a door, raising a window, taking screen off, etc.);
damage need not result; breaking can also be accomplished by 'breaking
the close,' in other words, by passing through the plane of an open door
or window to gain entry.
A written statement submitted by the lawyer for each side in a case
that explains to the judges why they should decide the case or a
particular part of a case in favor of that lawyer's client.
BURDEN OF PROOF -
The duty to establish by evidence a requisite degree of belief
concerning a fact in the mind of a trier of fact. The duty to establish
facts in an adversary proceeding. Different burdens of proof exist in
- Prima facie ~~~ evidence which is good and sufficient "on its face" to establish a given fact when unrebutted or not contradicted.
- Probable cause ~~~ facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable caution that an offense has been committed.
- Preponderance ~~~
the burden of proof in civil cases. Evidence which, as a whole, shows
that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not. Evidence
which is more credible and convincing to the mind. It is generally
visualized as that side of the dispute toward which the scales tip when
the credible evidence is weighed by the trier of fact. Something more
than 50% of the credible evidence.
- Clear and convincing ~~~
the burden of proof in selected proceedings, such as termination of
parental rights. A measure of proof which produces a firm belief as to
the allegations. It is difficult to quantify, but is more than a
"preponderance" and less than "beyond a reasonable doubt".
- Beyond a reasonable doubt ~~~
the degree of belief a criminal juror (or the judge in a bench trial)
must have regarding all factual elements of a charged crime. No doubt,
based on reason and common sense, can exist as to any fact needed to be
CAPITAL OFFENSE - A crime punishable by death. (Michigan does not have a death penalty.)
CARRYING A CONCEALED WEAPON - Crime that prohibits:
a pistol or other firearm or dangerous weapon (e.g., dagger, dirk,
razor, stiletto, or knife having a blade over 3 inches in length) with
an intent to use the same unlawfully against the person of another [MCL 750.226];
a dagger, dirk, stiletto, double-edged non-folding stabbing instrument
of any length, or any other dangerous weapon (except a hunting knife
adapted and carried as such), concealed on or about his/her person, or
whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by
the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on
other land possessed by the person [MCL 750.227];
- carrying a pistol in a place or manner inconsistent with a license or permit issued pursuant to 1927 PA 372.
Felony -- up to 5 years or $2,500 fine. Unless licensed to carry a
firearm, a person may not carry a concealed weapon for "self-defense".
Published decisions issued by appellate courts. The legal principals
announced in the decisions are binding authority for lower courts.
CASELOAD - The number of cases a judge handles in a specific time period.
CCW – See Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
CHALLENGES (Jury Selection) - A method for striking a prospective juror. The Michigan Court Rules allow two types of juror challenges: for cause (unlimited number; when the juror is shown to be biased for or against a party, is related to a trial participant, etc.) and peremptory (limited
number depending on the severity of the crime on trial). No reason need
be announced for a peremptory challenge, although a purely
racially-based challenge is not permitted.
CHAMBERS - Judge's office.
CHARGE TO THE JURY -
A judge's instructions to a jury. They contain information on the laws
relating to the case, definitions of legal terms, and explanations of
procedures relevant to the jury's duties.
CHIEF JUDGE -
In courts with two or more judges, one judge is selected as the chief
judge, who has responsibilities as a court administrator, in addition to
his/her court docket.
CHILD ABUSE [MCL 750.136b]
- conduct toward an unemancipated child under 18 years of age by the
parent, guardian or other person who cares for, has custody of or
authority over the child. There are four degrees of child abuse:
First Degree (felony
--- up to 15 years in prison) occurs when the defendant knowingly or
intentionally causes serious physical harm (i.e., substantial physical
disfigurement or impairment of a body organ or limb) or serious mental
harm to a child.
Second Degree (felony ---
up to 4 years in prison) occurs when the defendant willfully abandons
the child, fails to provide food, clothing or shelter necessary for the
child's welfare, or commits a reckless act which results in serious
Third Degree (high
court misdemeanor --- up to 2 years in prison) occurs when the defendant
knowingly or intentionally causes some physical harm to the child.
Fourth Degree (misdemeanor
--- up to 1 year in jail) occurs when the defendant abandons the child,
or willfully fails to provide food, clothing or shelter necessary for
the child's welfare, or commits a reckless act, which results in some
physical harm to the child.
NOTE: A defendant may raise a defense that his/her forceful actions were reasonable "parental discipline".
CHILD SEXUALLY ABUSIVE MATERIAL [MCL 750.145c]
- a developed or undeveloped photograph, film, slide, electronic visual
image, computer diskette, or sound recording of a child engaging in a
listed sexual act; a book, magazine, or other visual or print medium
containing such a photograph, film, slide, electronic visual image, or
sound recording; or any reproduction, copy, or print of such a
photograph, film, slide, electronic visual image, book, magazine, other
visual or print medium, or sound recording.
- A listed sexual act means
sexual intercourse, erotic fondling, sadomasochistic abuse,
masturbation, passive sexual involvement, sexual excitement, or erotic
CIRCUIT COURT -
Michigan's highest level trial court, with the broadest range of powers
(including hearing appeals from District Court). Circuit Court has
- Criminal (the trial court for all felony crimes)
- Civil (civil law suits over $25,000, or seeking injunctions or other equitable relief), and
(every aspect of family law, including divorce, child custody,
parenting time/visitation, paternity, adoption, child & spousal
support, domestic violence, PPOs, juvenile delinquency, child protection
proceedings [parental neglect or abuse], as well as emancipation of
minors, name changes, and waiver of parental consent to abortions).
The Friend of the Court office is a division of the Circuit Court.
Michigan has 57 Circuits, covering all 83 counties. Circuit Court judges are elected on a non-partisan ballot to six-year terms.
CIRCUIT COURT MISDEMEANOR
- An offense designated by the legislature as a misdemeanor, but
punishable by more than one year in jail. It is processed in circuit
court like a felony. Another name for a "high court misdemeanor."
CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE -
Indirect evidence that implies something occurred but does not directly
prove it. For example, circumstantial evidence of embezzlement includes
proof that the defendant-employee made several big-ticket purchases in
cash around the time of the alleged embezzlement. [See also direct
CIVIL CASE - A
case between private litigants concerning personal wrongs, generally
where the losing party must compensate the prevailing party with money
or other property. Examples of civil cases include divorces, personal
injury, landlord-tenant, small claims and contract or property disputes.
A civil plaintiff may be also be asking the court to tell the defendant
to stop some behavior or to do a specific thing.
CIVIL INFRACTION -
A non-criminal violation of a law prosecuted by the State or a local
government unit. A person cannot be sent to jail for a civil infraction.
The most common example is a traffic citation, like speeding. The
penalty for a civil infraction is payment of fines, costs, and fees. For
a traffic civil infraction, points may be added to the driving record. A
person can be found responsible for a civil infraction in one of four
- by failing to respond to the citation on
time; a default judgment will be entered; in most cases, the person's
driver's license will be suspended until the fines & costs + a
surcharge are paid;
- by admitting responsibility for the violation and paying the amount indicated on the ticket;
- after an informal hearing;
- after a formal hearing.
COBBS PLEA - Based on People v Cobbs,
443 Mich 276 (1993). A "Cobbs plea" allows a defendant to enter a
conditional guilty plea which can be withdrawn if a judge's eventual
sentence falls outside sentencing terms specified by the judge before
the plea was tendered.
Normally, defendants plead guilty without
any legal expectation of a specific sentence, and judges are not bound
by a sentencing agreement between the parties. But in "Cobbs
agreements", the judge is asked to advise the parties before the plea is
entered what an appropriate sentence range would be (based on case
facts and the defendant's criminal history known to the judge at that
time). The judge announces a sentencing 'preview', but the prosecutor is
not a party to the terms of this possible sentence. If the defendant is
induced to plead by this expected sentence, he may withdraw his plea if
he does not receive that sentence.
See also Killibrew Plea.
COMMON LAW -
A body of legal principles which derives its authority solely from
usages and customs of ancient times, or from the judgments and decrees
of courts recognizing, affirming, and enforcing such usages and customs;
particularly the ancient unwritten law of England. Common law is to be
distinguished from "statutory law", which is enacted by a legislative
body such as Congress or a state legislature.
The document on which criminal misdemeanors are charged in District
Court, as well as the initial charging document for felonies.
CONCURRENT SENTENCE -
Upon conviction for multiple crimes, a criminal sentence served at the
same time as another criminal sentence, rather than one after the other.
[See also consecutive sentence.]
CONCURRING OPINION -
An opinion written by an appellate judge who agrees with the decision
reached in the case, but would base the decision on different reasons
than those expressed by the majority of judges.
See also Dissenting Opinion and Majority Opinion.
CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE -
Upon conviction for multiple crimes, criminal sentences that must be
served one after the other, rather than at the same time. Consecutive
sentences may only be imposed if there is specific statutory authority
to do so. In some circumstances, consecutive sentences may be imposed
within the judge's discretion (e.g., when a person is convicted of a new
offense committed while on parole status); in other circumstances,
consecutive sentences are mandatory (e.g., convictions for felony
firearm + another offense).
See also concurrent sentence.
CONSENT, AGE OF - In Michigan, a minor has the legal capacity to consent to sexual activity at age 16. [See Criminal Sexual Conduct.]
CONSENT CALENDAR -
An informal probation in some juvenile delinquency cases, usually for
1st-time misdemeanor offenders. If all probation terms are completed,
the case is dismissed; 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 can be
granted over a prosecutor's and/or victim's objection.
CONSPIRACY [MCL 750.157a]
- An agreement, express or implied, between two or more people to do an
illegal act or to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.
See Wharton’s Rule.
CONTRABAND - Goods barred by law (e.g., specific weapons, or drugs prohibited by law, etc.).
CONVICTION - A judge or jury's decision that the accused person is guilty of the crime.
CORPUS DELICTI - "Body of the crime" (Latin).
The objective proof that a crime has been committed. A confession is
not admissible if the "corpus" of the crime cannot be proven.
CORROBORATING EVIDENCE -
Supplementary evidence that supports or confirms the initial evidence. A
victim's or witness' version of events does not have to be backed up by
A government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges
sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in
"the court has read the briefs." Courts and judges are part of the
Judicial Branch of government.
COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY -
Legal counsel assigned by the court to represent an indigent criminal
defendant. A court-appointed attorney is not necessarily a "free"
attorney; the court can order that some or all of the attorney's bill be
reimbursed. If jail time will not be imposed on a misdemeanor, the
judge need not appoint an attorney.
See also Guardian ad Litem.
COURT OF APPEALS -
An "intermediate" appellate court between the Supreme Court and the
Michigan trial courts. Final decisions from a Circuit or Probate court
hearing may be appealed to the Court of Appeals. Hearings are held in
Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Marquette before a panel of three
Court of Appeals judges. At least two of the three judges must agree on
the ruling. The panels are frequently rotated so that a variety of
judicial opinions are considered. The decision of the panel is final,
except for those cases which the Supreme Court reviews.
Court of Appeals judges are elected for 6-year terms.
COURT OF CLAIMS -
A specialized court that handles only claims over $1,000 filed against
the State of Michigan or one of its departments. (Claims for less than
$1,000 should be filed with the State Administrative Board.) The Court
of Claims is part of the 30th Circuit Court in Ingham County. All trials
heard by the Court of Claims are heard by a judge, not a jury.
COURT REPORTER/RECORDER -
A person who makes a word-for-word record (either through
stenography/short-hand or audio/video recording) of what is said in
court, and can produce a transcript of the proceedings upon request.
Michigan court reporters or recorders must be trained and certified.
CRIMINAL CASE -
A charge filed by a prosecutor against a defendant concerning violation
of a criminal law. The act of violating a criminal law is an offense
against the community, not a private wrong. Examples of criminal cases
include theft, murder and OUIL.
CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT
1st Degree CSC (MCL 750.520b ---
Felony --- life or any term of years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): a sexual
act involving penetration (sexual intercourse, anal intercourse,
cunnilingus, fellatio, intrusion into any other body part or object in
genital or anal openings) and any of the following:
victim is under 13 years old
victim is 13-15 years old + is a blood affiliation to the
defendant, lives in the defendant's household, or the defendant is in an
authority position to the victim
multiple actors are involved and force/coercion was used to accomplish the sexual penetration or the victim is incapacitated (physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or mentally defective)
personal injury + force/coercion
personal injury + victim incapacitated
defendant/actor is in the process of committing another felony
2nd Degree CSC (MCL 750.520c ---
Felony --- up to 15 years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual contact with
the genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock or breast, AND any of the
circumstances listed for 1st Degree CSC.
3rd Degree CSC (MCL 750.520d --- Felony --- up to 15 years + AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual penetration and any of the following:
victim is 13-15 years old
force or coercion
4th Degree CSC (MCL 750.520e ---
High Court Misdemeanor --- up to 2 years in prison and/or $500.00 fine +
AIDS~HIV~STD testing): sexual contact and any of the following:
force or coercion
defendant works for the Department of Corrections and the victim is an inmate
Note: All persons convicted of CSC must register as a sex offender.
Note: No need for corroboration of victim's testimony or resistance by victim.
Note: A person can be charged and convicted of CSC on a spouse.
CROSS EXAMINATION - The questioning of a witness by a party other than the one who called that witness to the stand.
C.S.C. See Criminal Sexual Conduct.
DATING RELATIONSHIP -
Frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the
expectation of affectional involvement. This term does not include a
casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between two
individuals in a business or social context. If a "dating relationship"
is present, a person can get a Personal Protection Order, and an assault
can be charged as Domestic Violence.
DEFENDANT - A person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.
DELIBERATIONS - Discussions held by the jury, after all evidence has been presented, to decide the outcome of a case.
a crime committed by a minor under the age of 18. Juvenile delinquency
offenses are prosecuted in the Family Division of the Circuit Court.
DE NOVO - "Anew" or "afresh" (Latin).
A "trial de novo" is the retrial of a case. A "de novo" standard of
review permits an appellate court to substitute its judgment for that of
a trial judge, (e.g., interpretations of laws).
An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to
administer oaths. Such statements are used in civil cases to examine
potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial.
Depositions are not used in criminal cases.
DIRECT EVIDENCE -
Evidence that stands on its own to prove an alleged fact, such as
testimony by a teller that she saw the defendant pointing a gun at her
and heard him demand money during a bank robbery. [See also
DIRECT EXAMINATION - The questioning of a witness by the party who first called the witness to the stand.
DISORDERLY CONDUCT [MCL 750.167] - AKA "disorderly person" ... a compilation of socially offending conduct, including:
- refusing or neglecting to support one's family
- common prostitution
- window peeping
- public intoxication that is endangering people, or causing a public disturbance
- indecent or obscene conduct in a public place
- vagrancy, public begging, loitering in a place of illegal business, including a house of ill fame or prostitution
- jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place
Penalty: Misdemeanor --- up to 90 day and/or $100.
DISPOSITION - A Juvenile Court hearing that is the equivalent of a "sentencing" in adult courts.
DISSENTING OPINION -
An opinion written by an appellate judge explaining why he or shoe
disagrees with the decision reached by the majority of judges
considering the case.
See also Concurring Opinion and Majority Opinion.
DISTRICT COURT -
All criminal cases, for persons 18 years or older, are started in the
district court. It is the trial court for all misdemeanors for which
punishment does not exceed one year, civil infractions, civil small
claims actions (up to $6,500), civil law suits under $25,000,
garnishments, evictions, foreclosures and other proceedings. This Court
conducts initial arraignments, sets and accepts bond and conducts
preliminary examinations in felony cases. District Court procedures are
essentially like those used in Circuit Court with the exceptions that a
city/township ordinance may be prosecuted by that city's/township's
attorney ... and pre-sentence investigations are not always prepared on
There are approximately 100 district courts in
Michigan. District court judges are elected for 6-year terms on a
A process of removing some minor criminal, traffic, or juvenile cases
from the full judicial process on the condition that the accused undergo
rehabilitation or make restitution for damages. Diversion does not
involve a formal conviction/adjudication, and may not require an
admission of guilt. If the accused completes this informal probation
successfully, then the entire matter may be closed, and is expunged
(erased) from the person's record.
DOCKET / CASE DOCKET -
A written list of all important acts done in court in the conduct of an
individual case, from beginning to end. This term is also commonly, but
improperly, applied to the case calendar (a list of cases set for a
hearing by a court on a specific day).
DOCKET NUMBER - Number assigned by the court's clerk to identify each case.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE -
Domestic violence is a learned pattern of physical, verbal, sexual
and/or emotional behaviors in which one person in a relationship uses
force and intimidation to dominate or control the other person. The
partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay or lesbian;
living together, separated or dating. Domestic violence occurs in all
ages, races, genders and social classes.
The violence takes many forms and can happen all the time or once in a while. Examples of domestic violence are:
physical assault or abuse --- hitting, pushing, shoving, slapping,
choking, punching, kicking, grabbing, beating, throwing her down,
tripping, twisting arms, biting, using a weapon threatened physical harm
sexual assault or abuse --- unwanted, forced sexual activity,
making her do sexual things against her will, physically attacking the
sexual parts of her body, etc.
emotional abuse --- mind games, name-calling, put-downs, making the victim feel bad about herself
jealousy --- a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust
controlling behavior and forced isolation (from family or friends)
--- controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees or talks to,
where the victim goes, relocating to a remote area, etc.
economic abuse --- preventing the victim from getting or holding a job,
and controlling the purse-strings by withholding money, taking her
earned money, giving her an allowance, making her ask for money, etc.
An important step to help yourself or someone you know prevent or
stop violence is recognizing the warning signs listed on the Violence
DOUBLE JEOPARDY -
being tried twice for the same offense. Jeopardy 'attaches' (begins) in
a jury trial when the selected jury is sworn, and attaches in a bench
trial when the first witness is sworn.
DRUNK DRIVING See “OWI”"
EMANCIPATION [MCL 722.1 et seq] - Termination of the rights of the parents to the custody, control, services and earnings of a minor.
Rights & Responsibilities of Emancipated Minors: to
enter enforceable contracts; to sue or be sued; to earn a living and
retain earnings; to authorize medical, dental or medical care; to marry;
to act autonomously in all business relationships; to apply for a
driver's license and other state licenses; to apply for welfare; to make
decisions and give authority in caring for a minor child; to make a
Emancipation "by operation of law": occurs
when the minor (a) turns 18 years old, (b) is validly married, or (c)
is on active military duty or is in police custody and the parent's
consent is not available.
Emancipation "by order of the court": A
minor who is 16 or 17 years old can petition the Circuit Court's Family
Division to seek emancipation, but must demonstrate that he/she can
manage his/her financial and social affairs (including but not limited
to proof of employment or other means of support, and housing), and
attach affidavits from a physician, psychologist, therapist, nurse,
clergy, school administrator, school counselor, teacher, law enforcement
officer, duly regulated child care provider, or certified social worker
with personal knowledge of the minor's circumstances, and a belief that
emancipation is in the minor's best interests. Receipt of General
Assistance or ADC-F is not considered qualified "other means of
support", and cannot be offered as proof of self-support by the minor.
The minor must also prove that the parent/guardian either does not
object to emancipation, or is not supporting the minor. The court must
hold a hearing on the petition and determine (by a preponderance of the
evidence) that the minor has met all of the legal requirements for
emancipation, understands the rights and responsibilities of
emancipation, and has shown that emancipation is in his/her best
An emancipation obtained by fraud is voidable. Voiding
such an order does not affect an obligation, responsibility, right, or
interest that arose during the period of time the order was in effect.
minor or a parent or guardian of the minor may appeal to the Court of
Appeals the Family Court's grant or denial of an emancipation petition.
Approved SCAO forms for emancipation cases (including the petition) can be downloaded at courts.michigan.gov/scao/courtforms/emancipation/emindex.htm.
The Prosecuting Attorney has no official role in an emancipation petition hearing.
EMBEZZLEMENT [MCL 750.174]
- The core of this crime is a violation of trust: the agent (e.g.,
employee) was entrusted with the principal's (e.g., employer) property,
acquired the principal's property through that relationship of trust,
and dishonestly disposed of/took/hid/converted the property to his own
- Embezzlement under $200 --- Misdemeanor --- up to 93 days and/or $500, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
- Embezzlement of at least $200 but less than $1,000 (or repeat offender of above) --- Misdemeanor --- up to 1 year and/or $2,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
- Embezzlement of at least $1,000 but less than $20,000 (or repeat offender of above) --- Felony --- up to 5 years and/or $10,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
- Embezzlement of $20,000 or more (or repeat offender of above) --- Felony --- up to 10 years and/or $15,000, or 3 times amount embezzled, whichever is greater
EN BANC -
"In the bench" or "full bench." Refers to appellate court sessions with
the entire membership of a court participating rather than the usual
quorum. The Michigan Court of Appeals usually sit in panels of three
judges, but may expand to a larger number in certain cases. They are
then said to be sitting en banc (pronounced "on bonk").
Entrapment occurs when police engage in impermissible conduct that
would induce an otherwise law-abiding person to commit a crime in
similar circumstances, or when police engage in conduct so reprehensible
that it cannot be tolerated by the court. Entrapment does not occur if
the defendant has the propensity to commit the crime, and the police
conduct only gives the defendant the opportunity to commit the crime.
ETHNIC INTIMIDATION [MCL 750.147b]
- Malicious and intentional intimidation or harassment of another
person because of that person's race, color, religion, gender, or
national origin. This conduct must also (a) cause physical contact with
another person, (b) damage, destroy, or deface real or personal
property, or (c) threaten to do an act described in (a) or (b) if there
is reasonable cause to believe that such an act will occur.
Penalty: Felony --- up to 2 years &/or fines up to $5,000.
Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a
person who suffers injury to his/her person or damage to his/her
property as a result of ethnic intimidation may sue the person who
committed the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including
damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief. A
plaintiff may recover treble damages or $2,000.00, whichever is greater.
Information presented in testimony or documents that is used to
persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case for one side
or the other. [See also direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.]
EXCLUSIONARY RULE -
A court-made rule preventing illegally-obtained evidence from being
used by the government in its case-in-chief against a criminal
defendant. The rule is derived from the 4th and 5th Amendments to the US
Latin that means "by or for one party." Refers to situations in which
only one party (and not the adversary) appears before a judge. Such
meetings are often forbidden.
EX-PARTE ORDER -
An order entered without giving the party affected by the order an
opportunity to be heard in court before the order is issued. An
emergency order used when one party could be irreparably harmed by
waiting for a hearing date. The orders are generally short-term, and
hearings are scheduled soon after the order is entered to give the other
party a chance to be heard.
EXPUNGMENT [ADULTS: MCL 780.621, et. seq.; JUVENILES: MCL 712A.18e] - a process where a conviction may be set aside.
EXTRADITE / EXTRADITION [1937 PA 144;
MCL 780.1 et seq] - The formal process of delivering a person found in
one state to authorities in another state where that person has been
accused or convicted of a crime.
See the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act.
FAMILY COURT -
Michigan Circuit Courts operate a "Family Court" division (in addition
to Civil and Criminal divisions). The Family Division handles divorce,
child custody, parenting time, paternity, adoption, child & spousal
support, domestic violence (PPOs), juvenile delinquency, neglect and
abuse, as well as emancipation of minors, parental consent waivers
(abortion), and name changes. The family court also has ancillary
jurisdiction over cases involving guardians and conservators, and
mentally ill or developmentally disabled persons (typically when the
affected person's family is already subject to the jurisdiction of the
The theory behind the Family Courts system is that there be one judge for one family.
To the extent possible, all new cases involving a family are be
automatically assigned to the judge hearing a previous case involving
that family. Judges from both Probate and Circuit Courts staff the
Family Division. If two or more pending matters within the Family
Court's jurisdiction involve the same family, they will be assigned to
the same judge whenever practical.
Within certain broad
guidelines, each circuit decides how its Family Court will operate.
There is no mandated number or percentage of the total Circuit and
Probate bench that must be assigned to the Family Division; the number
of judges assigned "shall reasonably reflect the caseload of that Family
FELONY - A crime carrying more than one year possible incarceration.
FELONY FIREARM [MCL 750.227b]
- A crime committed when carrying or having in his possession a firearm
at the time a felony is committed or attempted to be committed.
Felony --- mandatory 2 years (or 5 years for second offense)
imprisonment consecutive to served before the term of imprisonment
imposed for the felony or attempted felony conviction
FRIEND OF THE COURT -
The Friend of the Court is a division of the Circuit Court; there is at
least one office for each County. The Friend of the Court is NOT a
division of the Prosecuting Attorney's office. The Friend of the Court
Act (1982 PA 294) makes
the office responsible for: investigating, reporting and making
recommendations to the Circuit Court on custody, parenting time
("visitation") and the amount of child support providing mediation
sessions to resolve child custody and parenting time disagreements
collecting, recording and sending out all support payments ordered by
the Court initiating enforcement of all custody, support and parenting
time ("visitation") orders entered by the Court.
Real or personal property to which a person loses his right of
possession due to the commission of a crime or by way of an assessed
penalty. A forfeiture may be either administrative or judicial.
FORMAL HEARING -
A hearing in which a civil infraction is contested before a District
Judge (similar to a bench trial). The defendant may be represented by an
attorney. The People are represented by the Prosecuting Attorney or an
attorney for the local municipality. [See also Informal Hearing.]
404(b) - Michigan Rule of Evidence 404(b):
RULE 404. CHARACTER EVIDENCE NOT ADMISSIBLE TO PROVE CONDUCT; EXCEPTIONS; OTHER CRIMES (a) Character Evidence Generally. ... (b) Other Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts.
(1) Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to
prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity
therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as
proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or
system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or
accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs,
or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct
at issue in the case. (2) The prosecution in a criminal case shall
provide reasonable notice in advance of trial ... of the general nature
of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial and the rationale,
whether or not mentioned in subparagraph (b)(1), for admitting the
evidence. If necessary for a determination of the admissibility of the
evidence under this rule, the defendant shall be required to state the
theory or theories of defense, limited only by the defendant's privilege
Permits some "prior bad acts" evidence to be admitted at trial.
GINTHER HEARING - Based on People v Ginther, 390 Mich 436 (1973), an evidentiary hearing on a defendant's motion for new trial claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.
GOOD TIME -
Reduction in time served in county jails as reward for good behavior.
“Truth in Sentencing” laws have eliminated good-time reduction of prison
sentences for felonies.
GRAND JURY -
A group of citizens convened in a criminal case to consider the
prosecutor's evidence and determine whether probable cause exists to
prosecute a suspect for a felony. Grand juries are rarely used in
Michigan state courts, but are used by Federal courts.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM -
A person appointed by the court to protect the legal interests of an
infant or an incompetent adult, or a missing person who is involved in a
court case. The court will appoint a guardian ad litem in cases of
juvenile abuse or neglect. The "GAL" may be an attorney.
HABEAS CORPUS -
A writ (order) to bring a person before a court. In its most common
usage, the writ directs a warden or jailer to bring a prisoner or person
detained so that the court may determine whether such person is
A statement made outside of court (i.e., not from the witness stand at
the present proceeding) that is offered into evidence not merely to
prove that the statement was made but to prove that it was true.
Dozens of long-established exceptions exist to the general rule that
hearsay statements are inadmissible in court; the exceptions are based
on circumstances where the out-of-court statements carry a likelihood of
trustworthiness (e.g., deathbed statements, self-incriminating
statements, statements made to doctors about medical conditions, etc.).
HIGH BAC - A person operating while intoxicated (see OWI)
with a blood or breath alcohol content over .17. A person convicted of
a High BAC drunk driving is subject to a sentence of up to 6 months in
HIGH COURT MISDEMEANOR – See Circuit Court Misdemeanor.
HUNG JURY - A criminal jury that cannot reach a unanimous verdict.
H.Y.T.A. (Holmes Youthful Trainee Act) [ MCL 762.11, MCL 762.12, MCL 762.13, MCL 762.14]
– An act that provides for discretionary sentence where person who
pleads guilty to a crime committed between his/her 18th & 26th
birthdays may, with the youth's consent and without entering an
adjudication of guilt, be assigned the status of a youthful trainee. The
person may be placed on probation, or committed to jail or prison. Upon
successful completion of all terms set by the judge, the court will
dismiss the charge. If the person fails to successfully complete the
terms of probation, the judge may terminate YTA status, enter an
adjudication of guilt and sentence the defendant. YTA is not permitted
for life, major controlled substance or traffic offenses. YTA status is
not a conviction for a crime. Unless the court enters a judgment of
conviction against the individual for the criminal offense, all
proceedings regarding the disposition of the criminal charge and the
individual's assignment as youthful trainee are closed to public
inspection, but are be open to the courts, the department of
corrections, the department of social services, and law enforcement
personnel for use only in the performance of their duties.
IN CAMERA -
In chambers; in private. A hearing or inspection of documents that
takes place outside the presence of the jury and public, usually in a
A court-approved agreement by a prosecutor to not prosecute a person,
in return for providing criminal evidence against another person or
IMPAIRED DRIVING [MCL 257.625] - a lesser-included offense to OWI. A person driving a vehicle while visibly affected by alcohol. Penalty: Misdemeanor
--- jail up to 90 days (1st offense) or 1 year (2nd offense), fines up
to $300 (1st offense) or $1,000 (2nd offense), community service, 4
points assessed on the driver's record, and a mandatory license
suspension of at least 3 months (1st offense).
The process of calling something into question, as in "impeaching the
testimony of a witness." Impeachment generally challenges a witness'
credibility with evidence of bias, prior inconsistent statements, etc.
INDICTMENT - A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.
INFORMAL HEARING -
A hearing in which a civil infraction is contested before a District
Court magistrate. Generally, the police officer and person ticketed
testify under oath, each explaining what happened. Attorneys are not
allowed at informal hearings, but witnesses may attend and testify, and
the defendant may ask questions of the police officer and witnesses. An
adverse decision can be appealed by demanding a formal hearing and
posting an appeal bond worth at least the amount of fines & costs
for the charge.
INFORMATION - The document on which criminal felony charges are filed in Circuit Court after a Preliminary Examination bind-over or waiver.
INJUNCTION - An order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.
INTERLOCUTORY - Provisional, temporary, non-final orders and decrees of a court.
JOYRIDING (Unlawful Use of an Automobile) [MCL 750.414]
- Taking or using an automobile without authority, without the intent
to steal (or being a party to such unauthorized taking or using). Penalty: High Court Misdemeanor --- up to 2 years or $1,000.
JUDGE - Government official with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts.
The power of the court to decide a case before it, which depends on the
type of case and how closely connected the parties are to the county
where the court is located. [See also venue.]
JURY - Persons selected according to law and sworn to inquire into and declare a verdict on matters of fact.
JUVENILE - A youth under the age of 18.
JUVENILE COURT – See Family Division of the Circuit Court.
KIDNAPPING [MCL 750.349] - The unlawfully taking and carrying away or confinement of a person by force and against his/her will. Penalty: Felony --- up to Life or any term of years.
KIDNAPPING (Parental) -
occurs when a natural or adoptive parent takes or retains a child for
more than 24 hours with intent to detain or conceal the child from the
parent who has legal custody or visitation rights at the time, the
person who adopted the child, or the person who had lawful charge of the
NOTE: The defendant may raise an
affirmative defense that he/she took the child to protect the child from
an immediate and actual threat of physical or mental harm, abuse or
Penalty: Felony --- up to 366 days incarceration and/or $2,000 fine
KILLEBREW PLEA - Based on People v Killebrew,
416 Mich 189 (1992). A "Killebrew plea" allows a defendant to enter a
conditional guilty which can be withdrawn if the judge's eventual
sentence falls outside sentencing terms negotiated by the prosecutor and
Normally, defendants plead guilty without any legal
expectation of a specific sentence, and judges are not bound by a
sentencing agreement between the parties. But in "Killebrew agreements",
the judge is advised before the plea of the sentencing terms approved
by both sides and has allowed the defendant to enter this rare,
conditional plea. The judge is not a party to the plea agreement and may
later impose any lawful sentence. But, because the defendant was
induced to plead guilty by an expected sentence, he may withdraw his
plea if he does not receive that sentence.
See also Cobbs Plea.
Stealing. The unlawful taking and carrying away of property of another
with the intent to keep it from the owner. This crime requires an intent
to deprive someone else of their property, and so cannot occur
accidentally. The crime is completed when the defendant actually or
constructively possesses or controls the property, moves or hides it,
and specifically intends to permanently deprive the owner of it.
LAWYER - An attorney. A person authorized to practice law in a state to represent the legal interests of another person.
LEADING QUESTION -
A question that instructs a witness how to answer, or suggests which
answer is desired. These questions are usually prohibited on direct
L.E.I.N. - The
Law Enforcement Information Network. A computer network accessed by
police. L.E.I.N. (pronounced "lean") maintains a database that includes
active arrest warrants, active PPOs, felony and high misdemeanor
Used generally, this title means a judge. In Michigan, it is a
quasi-judicial officer in a District Court who has the authority to
issue arrest and search warrants, conduct arraignments, set bail, accept
bonds, conduct informal hearings on civil infractions, accept guilty
pleas and impose sentences for traffic violations, and perform marriage
MAJORITY OPINION -
A written decision of the majority of appellate judges considering the
case announcing the court's ruling, and the legal basis for the
See also Concurring Opinion and Dissenting Opinion.
MALICE - Intent to commit a wrongful act without just cause or excuse. Evil intent, motive or purpose.
Can be a lesser-included offense to murder if the defendant acted out
of passion or anger brought about by adequate cause and before the
defendant had a reasonable time to calm down.
Voluntary Manslaughter: (felony
--- 15 years and/or $7,500 fine) --- defendant caused a death +
intended to kill or knowingly created a very high risk of death or great
bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely result.
Involuntary Manslaughter: (felony --- 15 years and/or $7,500 fine) --- defendant caused a death + acted in a grossly negligent manner or intended to injure or commit an assault/battery. "Intent to kill" is not an element.
MARIHUANA / MARIJUANA - a Schedule 1 controlled substance which was legalized for recreational use in Michigan.
- Possession of Marijuana Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $2,000 fine, license sanctions.
- Use of Marijuana Misdemeanor: 90 days and/or $100 fine, license sanctions
MENS REA -
The state of mind of the defendant that the prosecution must prove in
order to establish criminal responsibility. Criminal intent. Some crimes
require proof of a "specific intent" (i.e., in larcenies, the
prosecutor must prove the defendant's specific intent to steal). Other
"general intent" crimes require no proof of intent.
MICHIGAN COMPILED LAWS (MCL) -
Volumes of books containing the official version of Michigan statutes
enacted by the state Legislature. MCLs are published by the Legislative
MICHIGAN COURT RULES (MCR) - Rules adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court to govern procedures in all courts.
MICHIGAN RULES OF EVIDENCE (MRE) - Rules adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court to govern admissibility of evidence in all courts.
A youth under a law's age of majority. Procedurally, a youth is
considered a minor regarding criminal offenses until his or her 18th
birthday, and are handled in Juvenile Court; offenses committed after
his or her 18th birthday are handled in District Court and Circuit
Court. Some crimes have substantive age limits: alcohol offenses have an
age of majority of 21, tobacco offenses have an age of majority of 18,
MIRANDA WARNING - A
warning given by police before custodial interrogation. It advises the
person that he does not have to talk to police, and his silence will not
be held against him, and his right to legal counsel before talking to
Refers to a US Supreme Court decision: Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 (1966).
MISDEMEANOR - A crime carrying maximum jail time of one year or less.
"high court" misdemeanor (e.g., Fourth Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct)
can carry up to 2 years in prison, but is not labeled a "felony".
High-court misdemeanors are handled procedurally like a felony.
A trial declared by a judge to be defective and void, generally due to
prejudicial error in the proceedings or a "hung jury" (a jury that could
not agree upon a verdict).
[CJI2d 4.9] - Whether the defendant had a reason to commit the alleged
crime ... but a reason to commit the crime, by itself, is not enough to
find a person guilty of a crime. Motive is not an element of a crime
that a prosecutor must prove.
MURDER - In Michigan, all murder is either in the first or second degree.
First degree murder: (felony
--- mandatory life; no parole) --- "felony murder" (murder committed in
the course of another felony), murdering a peace officer in the line of
duty, or "premeditated murder". Murder cannot occur accidentally, the
defendant must have intended to kill. Premeditation means that the
defendant had time to consider the pros and cons of the killing
Second degree murder: (felony
--- life or any term of years) --- causing death + intending to kill or
do great bodily harm or knowingly creating a very high risk of death or
great bodily harm knowing that death or such harm would be the likely
result of his/her actions.
Open Murder: ---
Michigan law does not require a prosecutor to choose between First
Degree or Second Degree Murder when issuing a complaint, or even at
trial. A prosecutor may charge "Open Murder", which is a combination of
First and Second Degree Murder, and the jury may determine the
appropriate degree based on the proofs.
NEGLIGENCE - Slight negligence: doing something that isn't dangerous, that only an extremely careful person would have thought could cause injury.
Ordinary negligence: carelessness
... not taking reasonable care under circumstances as they were at the
time ... something that a sensible person would know could hurt someone.
Gross negligence: more
than carelessness ... failure to use even the slightest amount of care
in a way that shows recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of
others due to an act or failure to act ... defendant must have known of
the danger to another (i.e., knew of a situation requiring ordinary care
to avoid injuring another) and could have avoided injury by using ordinary care andfailed
to use ordinary care to prevent injuring another when a reasonable
person would have seen that serious injury would likely result.
NO CONTEST PLEA - Also known as a nolo contendere plea.
A plea in which the facts supporting the crime's elements come from a
source other than the defendant's own words in court (generally, from
police investigation reports, witnesses statements, photographs, etc.). A
"nolo" plea is used when the defendant cannot recall his criminal
actions (sometimes due to intoxication), or his verbal plea from a
traditional guilty plea would be used in a potential civil law suit.
Regardless, the defendant is treated by a sentencing judge the same as
if he was convicted via a guilty plea or trial verdict.
NOLLE PROSEQUI -
A form filed by a prosecutor to dismiss the prosecution of a particular
defendant. A "nol pros" usually means the end of the matter, but can be
filed "without prejudice" so that the prosecutor may reopen the case
against the defendant at a later date. This device may not be used to
deny the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.
NOLO CONTENDERE - Latin term meaning "I will not contest it.". See No Contest Plea.
OBJECTION - Taking exception to a statement or procedure in trial. Used to call the court's attention to improper evidence or procedure.
- Objection Overruled - a judge's rejection of an objection as invalid.
- Objection Sustained - support or agree with an objection. Used by the judge to indicate agreement with a motion or request.
180 Day Rule - A rule that allows people who are in county jails awaiting
trial on felony charges for 180 days to be released on their own
recognizance if the delay has not been caused by the accused or the
accused's attorney. A rule that requires all pending charges against a state prisoninmate be brought to trial in 180 days, or be dismissed with prejudice.
ORDER - a decision of a court made in writing.
A local law or regulation enacted by the governing body of a
municipality or county. It has no effect outside that village, city,
township or county.
OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) [MCL 257.625] - commonly called "drunk driving". A person driving a vehicle while significantly or substantially affected by alcohol. Penalty:Misdemeanor (1st & 2nd offenses --- up to 90 days jail (1st offense) or 1 year (2nd offense); fines; community service; 6 points assessed on driving record; mandatory license suspension of at least 6 months (1st offense) or 1 year revocation (2nd offense). Penalty: Felony (3rd conviction for OWI) --- 1-5 years prison; fines; license revocation.
A judge's decision to not allow an objection to prevail. Also, a
decision by a higher court that a lower court's decision was in error.
See also sustain.
The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. PAAM is a voluntary
association of Michigan's 83 elected prosecutors and their staffs,
comprising over 700 prosecutors throughout Michigan. PAAM's mission is
to provide services to the state's prosecuting attorneys in order to
make local law enforcement of state laws more uniform and efficient
statewide. PAAM works with the legislature to enact, revise and improve
criminal laws and criminal procedure --- including such issues as
truth-in-sentencing, juvenile justice, domestic violence, child
protection, and victim's rights.
PARENTING TIME - Formerly called "visitation". The time a child spends with a non-custodial parent.
- The conditional release from prison of a convict before the
expiration of a felony sentence. The parolee (the released person) need
not serve the remainder of his sentence, unless he violates terms of his
release. The parolee is under the supervision of a state parole officer
during the parole period.
PATERNITY - Establishing legal "fatherhood".
PERJURY - Knowingly making a material false statement while under oath to tell the truth.
PERSONAL PROTECTION ORDER [MCL 600.2950 - MCL 600.2950] - An injunctive order to prevent reoccurrences of acts or threats of assault and harassment.
In juvenile delinquency or child protective proceedings before the
Family Division of Circuit Court, a petition is the document in which
the charged offenses or allegations are set forth.
PETITIONER - The person signing or filing a petition.
PLAINTIFF - The person who originally filed a court action.
PLEA - The defendant's response to a criminal charge (guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere).
PLEA AGREEMENT / BARGAIN -
An agreement between the Prosecutor and the defendant for the defendant
to plead guilty or no-contest under certain terms and conditions. The
agreement could include the defendant pleading to all pending charges
with a sentence agreement, or pleading to less than all of his pending
charges, or pleading to a less serious charge, or pleading guilty to one
or more pending charges in exchange for dismissal of other unrelated
charges. All plea agreements must be approved by the judge. Plea
agreements are a means of arriving at a reasonable disposition without
the necessity of a trial.
POLLING THE JURY - Asking jurors individually, after their verdict has been announced, whether they agree with verdict.
P.P.O. - See Personal Protection Order.
a court decision in an earlier case with facts and law similar to a
dispute currently before a court. Precedent will ordinarily govern the
decision of a later similar case, unless a party can show that it was
wrongly decided or that it differed in some significant way.
PREJUDICIAL ERROR - Reversible error. Error committed during a trial serious enough to require an appellate court to reverse the judgment.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION -
A District Court evidentiary hearing for felonies where the Prosecutor
must present evidence amounting to at least probable cause that the
charged felony crime(s) in fact occurred and that the defendant
committed it (them). Generally, the Prosecutor presents just a fraction
of his total evidence and witnesses. The defendant (or his attorney) can
cross-examine the People's witnesses, and present his own proofs to
refute the People's evidence. If the Prosecutor meets his burden of
proof, the case is "bound over" to Circuit Court for arraignment on an
information, and possible trial.
PRELIMINARY HEARING -
The first stage in a juvenile delinquency or child protective
proceeding when the child is in custody. An informal proceeding in the
Family Division of Circuit Court in which the juvenile &/or parents
and attorney are informed about the allegations in the petition.
Testimony by the petitioner may be required to determine if the juvenile
should not be placed with his parents pending further action on the
PRELIMINARY INQUIRY - The first stage in a juvenile delinquency or child protective proceeding when the child is not in
custody. An informal proceeding in the Family Division of Circuit Court
in which the juvenile &/or parents and attorney are informed about
the allegations in the petition.
PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCE -
A scheduled meeting between the Prosecutor and defendant (or
defendant's attorney), generally weeks before the trial date, to discuss
plea bargains, trial issues, etc. The judge does not actively
participate in misdemeanor pretrial conferences in district court,
unless the meeting results in a plea. A circuit court judge may
participate in a felony pretrial conference.
PRIMA FACIE -
Evidence that are sufficient to prove a fact, or facts sufficient to
establish a party's right to legal relief, if no evidence to the
contrary if offered.
PRIOR BAD ACT - See MRE 404(b).
PROBABLE CAUSE -
Facts and circumstance sufficient to convince a person of reasonable
caution that an offense has been committed; mere suspicion or belief,
unsupported by facts or circumstances, is insufficient. A search warrant
may be authorized, or a warrant-less arrest may be made, upon probable
PROBATE COURT -
Has primary jurisdiction for cases involving wills, guardians and
conservators, and mentally ill or developmentally disabled persons.
After January 1, 1998, Probate Court judges may also be assigned to
handle other cases assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court,
such as juvenile delinquency offenses, parental abuse/neglect actions,
termination of parental rights, adoptions and name changes.
There are 79 probate courts in Michigan; probate judges are elected for 6-year terms.
A discretionary sentencing option for most misdemeanor and felony
convictions where the defendant avoids some/all incarceration, and is
released back into the community under the supervision of a probation
officer for a specific time period, with many rules to follow. Some
rules are standard (i.e., to not violate any more laws), while others
are specific to the defendant or crime (i.e., alcohol counseling when
convicted of OWI). If the defendant violates any term of probation, the
assigned probation officer (or the Prosecutor) can ask the sentencing
judge to impose additional penalties.
PROBATION ORDER -
An official written directive from the court ordering that a defendant
in a criminal case is sentenced to a term of probation. This document is
signed by both the judge and the defendant, and includes all legal
conditions (both standard condition and special conditions) with which
the defendant must comply during probation, fines, costs, restitution,
PRO BONO - Legal services provided to a client free of charge.
PRO PER / PRO SE - A person who represents himself/herself in court without an attorney. The term comes from the Latin phrase in propria persona.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY - The term Michigan uses for a Prosecutor.
An elected or appointed official vested with authority by a
constitution, statute or ordinance to represent the public interest and
take legal action against persons violating state or local criminal
laws. Michigan's prosecutors are known as "Prosecuting Attorneys". In
other states they are called District Attorneys, State's Attorneys,
County Attorneys, Commonwealth's Attorneys, or other titles.
QUASH - To nullify, void or declare invalid.
R&C See Receiving & Concealing Stolen Property.
RAPE - See Criminal Sexual Conduct.
REASONABLE DOUBT -
A fair, honest doubt based on the evidence produced at trial (or
missing from the proofs). A reasonable doubt must be based on reason and
common sense, not on conjecture, speculation, possibilities or
RECEIVING & CONCEALING STOLEN PROPERTY [MCL 750.535]
- Buying, receiving, possessing, concealing or aiding in the
concealment of stolen, embezzled or converted money, goods or property,
knowing that it was stolen, embezzled or converted.
Michigan defines 3 levels of R&C:
- $20,000 or more: Felony -- up to 10 years and/or $15,000 fine (or 3x property's value)
- $1,000 or more but less than $20,000: Felony -- up to 5 years and/or $10,000 fine (or 3x property's value)
- $200 or more but less than $1,000: Misdemeanor -- up to 1 year and/or $2,000 fine (or 3x property's value)
- Under $200: Misdemeanor -- up to 93 days and/or $500 fine (or 3x property's value)
A prosecutor may charge one higher level of R&C if the defendant has been previously convicted of (Attempted) R&C.
values of property purchased, received, possessed, or concealed in
separate incidents pursuant to a scheme or course of conduct within any
12-month period may be aggregated to determine the total value.
dealer in or collector of merchandise or personal property (or that
person's agent, employee, or representative) who fails to reasonably
inquire whether the person selling or delivering the stolen, embezzled,
or converted property to the dealer or collector has a legal right to do
so, or who buys or receives stolen, embezzled, or converted property
that has a registration, serial, or other identifying number altered or
obliterated on an external surface of the property, is presumed to have
bought or received the property knowing the property is stolen,
embezzled, or converted. This presumption is rebuttable.
Evidence having any tendency to make the existence of a fact that is of
consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable
than it would be without the evidence. MRE 401.
REMAND - When an appellate court sends a case back to a lower court for further proceedings.
REPORTABLE JUVENILE OFFENSE -
Juvenile delinquency offenses that requires fingerprinting --- murder
or attempted murder, serious assaults (assault with intent to murder, to
commit great bodily harm, to main, or to rob), arson of a dwelling,
B&E, home invasion 1st degree, larceny in a building, car theft,
carjacking, kidnapping, CSC 1st-3rd degree, robbery, possession or
delivery of 650 grams or more of a schedule 1 or 2 narcotic.
RESISTING / OBSTRUCTING A POLICE OFFICER -
Knowingly and intentionally obstructing, resisting, opposing,
assaulting, beating or wounding a law enforcement officer who is engaged
in his lawful acts or attempting to maintain the peace. The defendant's
acts must have actually interfered with the officer in carrying out
Penalty: Felony punishable by up to 2 years incarceration or a $1,000 fine.
The juvenile court or family court equivalent of a defendant in a
criminal case. The juvenile charged in a delinquency case, or the
at-fault parents in a child protection proceeding, are respondents.
Payments ordered by the judge to repay victims for economic losses
incurred as the result of the crime (property loss or injuries). Does
not include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress or
other non-economic damages that can result in compensation through a
civil law suit.
RETAIL FRAUD [MCL 750.356c & MCL 750.356d]
- Stealing merchandise (items offered for sale to the public) from a
store while the store is open for business. Retail Fraud also occurs
when a defendant "price switches" or tries to get a fraudulent refund.
Retail fraud is a theft crime requiring proof that the item was taken
intentionally (not accidentally), with the intent to steal.
- 3rd Degree (under $200 stolen): --- Misdemeanor --- up to 93 days and/or $500 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)
- 2nd Degree ($200 - under $1,000 stolen; or 3rd Degree with prior conviction): --- Misdemeanor --- up to 1 year and/or $2,000 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)
- 1st Degree ($1,000 or more stolen; or 2nd Degree with prior conviction): --- Felony --- up to 5 years and/or $10,000 fine (or 3x merchandise's value)
SEARCH WARRANT -
A court order that a specific location may be searched for items which,
if found, can be seized by the government for possible use in court as
SELF DEFENSE -
A legally-justified use of force to protect one's self, another person,
or property against some injury attempted by another person ... the
right to repel force with force ... the defendant (i) must have honestly
and reasonably believed that he had to use force for protection, (ii)
may use only the type and degree of force that seems necessary for
protection at the time based on the circumstances known to him, (iii)
must not have acted wrongfully and brought on the assault (i.e.,
provoked the attack) ... In Michigan, a Prosecutor has the burden of disproving a defendant's self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt.
SENTENCE - The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.
SENTENCING GUIDELINES -
Criteria adopted by the Legislature that determine an appropriate range
a judge may impose for the minimum sentence on felonies and high court
misdemeanors (i.e., the "60" in a "60 to 120 month" sentence). "Prior
Record Variables" (PRVs) and "Offense Variables" (OVs) are calculated
and applied to a Sentencing Range Grid. A judge may "depart" from the
sentening guideline range (on either the high- or low-side) only where
there are "substantial and compelling" reasons to do so.
SEQUESTER/SEQUESTRATION - A
procedure to shelter a trial participant from outside influences. The
term most frequently applies to witnesses, and prevents them from
watching court proceedings and testimony (or talking outside the
courtroom to other witnesses) before they actually testify. In very rare
cases, a jury can be sequestered during part or all of a trial.
SEX OFFENDER [MCL 28.721 - 28.732]
- Person convicted as an adult or adjudicated as a juvenile of CSC,
Indecent Exposure, Gross Indecency, or other similar enumerated crimes.
The person must register with the Michigan State Police (and verify
their home address quarterly) for a minimum of 25 years.
SHOPLIFTING - See Retail Fraud.
SHOW CAUSE HEARING - A court hearing held so a person can explain why (s)he should not be considered in violation of a specific court order.
SIDEBAR - A conference between the judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
SMALL CLAIMS COURT - A division of the District Court in which civil lawsuits seeking a maximum $6,500 damages is heard. Like television's Judge Judy,
the parties represent themselves without attorneys. Jury trials are not
allowed. The judge's or magistrate's decision cannot be appealed. If
either party objects to these conditions, the case will be transferred
to the Civil Division of the District Court.
SPECIFIED JUVENILE VIOLATION -
Crime for which a youth, convicted in a designated case, could be
sentenced to prison --- murder or attempted murder; serious assaults
(assault with intent to murder, commit great bodily harm, main, or rob);
arson of a dwelling; home invasion 1st degree; carjacking; kidnapping;
CSC 1st degree; armed robbery; bank or 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 or conspiracy to commit these crimes.
STALKING [MCL 750.411h & MCL 750.411i] - Stalking is
(a) two or more willful acts of (b) continuing harassment or
un-consented contact (c) that would cause a reasonable individual to
suffer emotional distress, (d) that actually cause the victim to suffer
emotional distress, (e) that would also cause a reasonable person to
feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or
molested, and (f) that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized,
frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested. Note: ALL of these elements must be present for "stalking" to be proven. Penalty: Misdemeanor --- 1 year and/or $1,000 fine, up to 5 years probation
Aggravated Stalking is
(i) violation of a restraining order of which the suspect has actual
notice; or (ii) in violation of a condition of bond, probation or
parole; or (iii) credible threats against the victim, a member of the
victim's family or household; or (iv) by a person previously convicted
of Stalking. Penalty: Felony --- 5 years and/or $10,000 fine; probation of at least five years.
Definitions of key terms:
Continuing harassment means
repeated instances of un-consented conduct that would cause a
reasonable person emotional distress, and that actually causes emotional
Emotional distress means
significant suffering or distress that may result in, but does not
necessarily require, medical or other professional treatment or
Un-consented contact means
contact that you do not want or contact that you expressed that you
wanted to avoid. This includes, but is not limited to, someone following
you, confronting you at your workplace, phoning you, sending you mail,
or placing objects on your property.
NOTE: Stalking a minor is now a 5-year felony. Aggravated stalking of a minor is now a 10-year felony (eff. April 1, 1998).
STANDING - A party's right to make a legal claim, or to seek judicial enforcement of a right or duty.
STARE DECISIS -
The doctrine that once a principle of law has been determined to be
applicable to certain facts, that principle will be followed in future
cases involving substantially identical facts. This body of "case law"
--- along with Common Law and statutes --- becomes the Laws of the Land.
STATE BAR OF MICHIGAN -
An association for attorneys licensed to practice law in Michigan. All
attorneys, including prosecutors, must be a member of the State Bar in
order to practice law in Michigan. Visit their web site at www.michbar.org.
STATUS OFFENSE -
An act declared to be a delinquency offense which can only be committed
by a juvenile --- e.g., habitual truancy, running away from home,
STATUTE - A law passed by a legislature.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS -
Deadlines set by statute for filing criminal charges or civil lawsuits
within a certain time after events occur that are the source of the
charge or claim. The time limit on the right to seek relief in court.
An agreement between opposing parties on any matter relating to the
case, including case facts. Courts must approve stipulations to take
SUBPOENA - A
court order requiring a person to appear in court and give testimony as
a witness, and/or to produce documents. An employer cannot act upon or
threaten to discharge or discipline a witness for missing work to
testify in court when subpoenaed.
SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM - A court order to produce documents. (Pronounced DOO-suhz TEE-kum.)
SUMMONS - A court order to appear in court for a specified purpose.
SUPPRESS - Legal bar to admitting evidence at a trial or other court proceeding.
SUPREME COURT -
The highest appeals court in Michigan. An appellant files an
application for "leave to appeal" in the Supreme Court, which the Court
can grant (accept) or deny (reject) at its discretion. If an application
is granted, the Supreme Court will hear the case; if denied, the
decision made by the lower court remains unchanged. The Supreme Court
usually selects cases involving important constitutional issues and
questions of public policy. The Supreme Court also has administrative
duties --- general administrative supervision of all courts in the
state, establishing rules for practice and procedure in all Michigan
The Supreme Court consists of seven justices: the
chief justice and six associate justices. The justices are elected to
serve 8-year terms. Every two years the justices vote to elect the chief
SUSTAIN - A judge's decision to allow an objection or motion to prevail.
See also overrule.
TESTIMONY - Evidence presented orally and under oath by witnesses during trials or other court proceedings.
TRANSCRIPT - The official record of the testimony adduced in a trial or hearing.
Petitions are issued by the prosecutor in the county where the offenses
occurred. But a case may be transferred 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 youth.
TRUTH IN SENTENCING -
Legislation requiring offenders to serve their entire minimum sentence
without reduction for good behavior. These prisoners may also have their
minimum sentence extended for "bad behavior" while in prison. These
prisoners are not eligible for placement in a corrections center or on
electronic monitoring ("tether"). The law went into effect 12/15/1998.
TURNER HEARING - Based on People v Turner,
390 Mich 7 (1973), a hearing to determine whether a defendant was
entrapped by law enforcement officials into committing an offense.
UDAA (Unlawfully Driving Away an Automobile) [MCL 750.413]
- Car theft. Wilfully and without authority, taking possession of and
driving or taking away (or assisting in or being a party to such taking
possession, driving or taking away) of any motor vehicle belonging to
another. Penalty: Felony --- up to 5 years.
VACATE - To set aside. Example: a court may vacate an earlier order.
The geographic location (e.g., city or county) where an event occurred.
A "change of venue" happens when a case is moved to a court in another
county or to a court having other jurisdictional powers ... generally
because the case should have been filed there originally, or for the
convenience of the parties/witnesses, or because a fair trial cannot be
had in the original court's location.
VERDICT - Decision of a jury or a judge on the issues submitted to the court for determination.
A person or entity who suffers direct or threatened physical,
financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime.
VOIR DIRE -
The process of jury selection, generally involving the judge and
attorneys asking potential jurors about their experiences and beliefs.
The purpose is to determine if the jurors are appropriate for sitting on
the case at hand. This French term (pronounced "vwore dear") means "to
speak the truth".
WADE HEARING - Based on US v Wade, 388 US 218 (1967),
a pre-trial hearing to test the fairness of a line-up. The issue is
whether to admit or suppress an identification of an accused that
resulted from the line-up.
WAIVER - Intentionally giving up a right. Example: a defendant waiving his right to remain silent to be interviewed by police.
WALKER HEARING - Based on People v Walker,
374 Mich 331 (1965), an evidentiary hearing on a defendant's motion to
suppress his incriminating statement to the police. The hearing focuses
on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the statement,
including whether it was voluntarily and intelligently made, whether
police advised the defendant of his Miranda rights and the defendant waived the rights, etc.
WARRANT - a court order authorizing an arrest or a search.
WHARTON'S RULE -
A substantive limitation on the scope of the crime of conspiracy. This
rule provides that an agreement by two persons to commit a crime cannot
be prosecuted as a conspiracy when the target crime requires the
participation of the same two persons (for example dueling, bigamy or
incest). The applicability of the rule focuses on the elements of the
target crime, rather than on the factual circumstances of the particular
case. So, if the offense could logically be accomplished by a single
person, or the number of alleged conspirators exceeds the minimum number
logically necessary to complete the substantive offense, Wharton's Rule
does not apply.
WITH PREJUDICE -
A dismissal "with prejudice" forever bars the same charge arising from
the same incident from being brought against the same defendant again.
WITHOUT PREJUDICE -
A dismissal "without prejudice" allows a prosecutor to re-file the same
charge arising from the same incident against the same defendant again.
WITNESS - Person who comes to court (sometimes by subpoena) and swears under oath to give truthful evidence.
WORK RELEASE -
A probation program where the defendant is permitted to maintain
employment while residing in jail. The defendant leaves jail on work
days only for his work hours, plus limited travel time.
Y.T.A. - See Holmes Youthful Trainee Act.