Return to the Self Help Services: Adult Criminal Cases home page Adult Criminal Cases - Forms Glossary of Adult Criminal Cases Terms Court System Home

Court System Home » Representing Yourself » Glossaries » Glossary of Adult Criminal Cases Terms

Glossary of Adult Criminal Cases Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W


Acquittal When the jury or judge finds the defendant not guilty after a trial.
Affirm When the appellate court agrees with the decision from the trial court.
Affirmative Defense An explanation for a crime that makes the act noncriminal, such as duress, or that changes the sentence, such as heat of passion or insanity. The defendant has the burden of proving the defense by a preponderance of the evidence.
Ankle Monitor A device that defendants under house arrest or parole are required to wear. At all times, the ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver. If an offender moves outside of an allowed range, the police will be notified. Ankle monitors are designed to be tamper-resistant and can alert authorities to removal attempts, such as cutting the band causing a circuit break.
Appeal When a person asks a higher court to review a lower court's decision. Appeals normally focus on questions of how the judge applied the law to the case, not what the judge decided were the facts.
Arraignment Usually the first court proceeding in a criminal case. The judge tells the defendant what the alleged offenses are, and what rights defendants have. The judge asks the defendant to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Arrest The legal restraint of a person to charge the person with a crime. Police also can arrest a person for investigation in some circumstances, or for violation of a court order.
Arrest Warrant A legal document issued by the court authorizing the police to arrest someone.


Return to top
Bail Set of restrictions on a person who was arrested to make sure he or she shows up in court when ordered. Bail commonly involves the arrested person giving the court cash, a bond, or property to make sure that he or she will appear in court. If the person doesn't show up, the court may keep the bail and issue a warrant for the defendant's arrest.
Bail Hearing A proceeding where a judge decides whether to release a defendant before trial or pending appeal, and under what conditions. Defendants often must deposit money with the court to to make sure they will show up in court.
Bail Bondsman An individual who arranges with the court for a defendant's release from jail. The bail bondsman promises the court to pay the full bail if the defendant does not come to court when required. The defendant pays the bondsman a fee for this service.
Bench Trial Trial by a judge without a jury.
Bench Warrant An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person - the defendant, a witness, or other participant in the judicial proceeding - who failed to appear in court as required. Judges also issue warrants for the arrest of defendants when charges or indictments are filed.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt The degree which a juror must be sure of the facts in the case before finding the defendant guilty. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt must be proof so convincing that, after consideration, you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in your important affairs.
Bond A pledge by a defendant who promises to come to court when ordered. Most times, the state requires more than just the defendant’s promise to come to court in the form of a payment to a bail bondsman. A bail bondsman is a third party who acts like an insurance provider because they put up the bond and if the defendant does not show up in court, the bail bondsman loses the money. So the bail bondsman tries to make sure the defendant shows up.
Booking A police or jail action recording an arrest, person arrested, and reasons for arrest. Officials may take fingerprints and photographs of the person at booking.
Brief A written statement of the facts and legal arguments about a case, presented from the perspective of one party.
Burden of Proof The requirement that a party prove a fact or facts in dispute in a case. For instance, in a criminal case the prosecutor must produce enough evidence to prove a defendant’s guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."


Return to top
Change of Plea When the defendant changes a plea, usually from not guilty to no contest or guilty. This means there will be no trial and the defendant will be sentenced.
Charge An accusation describing the crime or crimes the suspect allegedly committed. The police or prosecutor spell out the charges in an indictment, information, or complaint.
Citation An order issued by police requiring a person to appear in court at a later date. Citations are commonly used for traffic violations.
Civil A civil case happens when one person, business, or agency sues another one because of a dispute between them, often involving money. If someone loses a civil case, they may be ordered to pay the other side money or to give up property, but they will not go to jail just for losing the case. This is different than a criminal case which is filed by the government on behalf of the citizens against a defendant who is accused of committing a crime. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she may go to jail or pay a fine or restitution.
Class A misdemeanor The most serious classification of a misdemeanor crime and is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $25,000. An example of a class A misdemeanor is when someone steals another’s property with a value between $250 and $749.99 (theft in the third degree).
Class C felony Crimes that involve conduct serious enough to deserve felony classification but are less serious than class A or B felonies and are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. An example of a class C felony is when someone steals another’s property with a value between $750 and $24,999.99 (theft in the second degree).
Closing Argument At the end of the trial, the prosecutor and defense lawyer each presents arguments that sum up their case. Usually, the prosecution makes the first closing argument then the defense attorney. The defense’s closing argument is the last chance to remind the jury of the prosecution’s high burden of proof and to persuade the jury that there is reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt.
Complaint A written statement of the essential facts about the offense charged; usually filed at the beginning of the case.
Community Work Service As part of a sentence, a judge may order a defendant to do a certain number of hours of volunteer work for a community or government organization.
Conditions of Release Requirements the judge sets for a defendant to be released from jail or after being arrested. The conditions depend the charges, the circumstances, the defendant‘s criminal history and a number of other factors the court will consider. They may include no contact with the victim, no possession or consumption of drugs or alcohol, no possession of guns or weapons, no travel outside the area or state, and no violations of other laws. Violations of conditions of release may result in arrest and jail.
Contempt of Court An act taken that disrespects or insults the court’s authority. If someone is charged with criminal contempt, that is a separate charge form the original criminal charge.
Conviction When a defendant is found guilty of a crime by a jury or judge, or when the defendant pleads guilty or no contest.
Crime Any act that the Alaska Legislature has decided to punish by imprisonment or fine and to prosecute in a criminal proceeding.
Criminal Justice System The combination of police, courts and corrections that operates to prevent crime, enforce the criminal law, and punish, supervise, and rehabilitate offenders.
Cross-Examination The questioning by a party or lawyer of the other side’s witness, after the direct examination.
Custody When someone is arrested and cannot leave or is in jail. The court may release the defendant into "third party custody" which means another person is responsible to be with the defendant before trial and make sure he or she shows up in court.


Return to top
Defendant The person charged with a crime; also called the accused.
Discovery Pre-trial procedures where the parties exchange information about evidence.
District Attorney Prosecutor
Double Jeopardy A constitutional protection that keeps the government from prosecuting a person twice for the same charges.
Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Government agency that has authority over the administrative process when someone has been arrested for DUI and can revoke their driver’s license.
Driving under the influence (DUI) Crime of operating a vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, inhalant, or controlled substance.


Return to top
Electronic monitoring device A device that keeps track of a person’s location and typically is attached to a person’s ankle to be worn at all times. They are designed to be tamper-resistant so cannot be removed easily. The device uses a radio frequency signal to communicate back to a monitoring station. Electronic monitoring is an alternative to incarceration. Defendants have to pay the installation and daily monitoring costs. It is commonly called an “ankle monitor.”
Evidence Information provided to the court or jury during the course of a case to help with the decision-making process. This can include testimony, documents, and physical objects. There are special Rules of Evidence that control how and what information can be provided in trials.
Evidentiary Hearing Court proceeding that involves witnesses giving testimony under oath before a judge and in some cases, presenting written, video or other evidence.


Return to top
Felon Person who has been convicted of a felony crime.
Felony In Alaska any criminal offense that carries a possible sentence of one year or more in jail.
Fine A sum of money paid as a form of punishment.
First Appearance The first time the defendant in a felony case goes to court and a judge reads the charges and advises the defendant of his or her rights. This happens within 24 hours after the arrest. There will be an arraignment at a later date.
Furloughs Release of a prisoner into the community for education, employment, training, or treatment. Low-risk offenders and offenders transitioning from prison back to the community can receive furloughs.


Return to top
Good Time Days credited to the offender’s sentence for good behavior in prison. If the offender does not lose good time through misbehavior, he or she can be released after serving two-thirds of the sentence. Good time gives offenders a reason to follow prison rules.
Grand Jury A body of citizens that hears evidence presented by the prosecutor against a person suspected of committing a crime and decides if there is probable cause to charge the suspect formally. In Alaska, the grand jury also can conduct its own investigations and issue reports. The judge is not present at the grand jury. If the grand jury decides there is enough evidence to charge the defendant, it issues an indictment.
Guilty A plea accepting guilt, or a verdict from a judge or jury that the prosecution has met its burden of proof.


Return to top
Halfway House Also called a community residential center (CRC). A housing facility for offenders on furlough, probation or parole. Offenders can leave the building by themselves to find or keep a job, go to school, or go to treatment programs. An offender must get permission to leave, and must be back by a set time.
Hung Jury A jury unable to agree one hundred percent on whether to convict or acquit a defendant.


Return to top
Ignition interlock device piece of equipment attached to the car’s ignition that requires a driver to breathe into it before the car starts. IIDs are usually required when someone commits a DUI crime to get their license back. The amount of time that the IID needs to be on a person's car depends on how many times an individual has been convicted of a DUI. Read about ignition interlock devices. Learn where to get an ignition interlock device installed.
Implied consent When someone consents to something by their actions instead of their express statements. When someone gets a driver’s license there is implied consent that he or she will submit to a test to determine if driving under the influence.
Incarcerated Jailed, imprisoned.
Indictment A document prepared by a grand jury charging a person with a crime. Also called a true bill.
Information A written criminal charge filed by the prosecutor without the involvement of the grand jury when the defendant waives an indictment.
Infraction Violation of a municipal ordinance (or law) which usually results in a fine and is less serious than a misdemeanor.
Investigate/Investigation An official effort usually by police to find out information about a crime. The goal is to identify the suspect who committed a crime. There are many ways to conduct investigations including talking to people who were present and using scientific techniques such as fingerprint and ballistics analysis, or DNA testing.


Return to top
Jail A facility to confine those convicted of a crime or those charged with a crime and waiting for trial.
Judge A public official appointed to hear and decide cases in a court of law.
Judgment The official decision of a court.
Jurisdiction The authority of a court over the defendant or the subject matter of the dispute.
Jury A group of people sworn to make a verdict (decision about the outcome) in a court case based on evidence submitted to them during a trial. Juries usually consist of 6 or 12 individuals, depending on the kind of trial.
Jury Instructions Instructions that the judge gives to the jury. Jury instructions explain the principles of law that the jury should apply to the facts of the case to reach a verdict.


Return to top


Return to top
Magistrate Judges Magistrate judges have less authority than a district court or superior court judge. Unlike other types of judges, non-lawyers can serve as magistrate judges.
Miranda rights or Miranda warning A police officer who arrests someone must give a warning that:
  • you have the right to remain silent;
  • anything you say can be used against you in court;
  • you have the right to talk to a lawyer and have the lawyer there to help you when police question you; and
  • if you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you at public expense.
Misdemeanor A crime with a jail sentence of up to one year.
Mistrial A trial that the judge ends before its normal conclusion because of some unusual circumstance or some important error that can’t be solved by instructions to the jury.
Motion A request by a party in a case that the court make a certain decision.


Return to top
No Contest / Nolo Contendere A plea in a criminal offense that the defendant neither admits nor denies the charges, but does not dispute the facts of the case. The criminal case proceeds as if the defendant pled guilty. The court cannot use a no contest plea against the defendant to decide liability in a separate civil case.
Not Guilty A plea by a defendant denying guilt. Also, a verdict indicating that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof, also known as an acquittal.


Return to top
Offender A person convicted of a crime.
Omnibus hearing A pre-trial hearing that happens after the arraignment in felony cases when the defendant has entered a not guilty plea. At the omnibus hearing, the court would hear arguments from the lawyers about any motions filed, including what evidence should be excluded from jury’s consideration during the trial. The court also discusses the likelihood of trial, the expected length of trial, and any anticipated scheduling difficulties. The court may set an omnibus hearing in a misdemeanor case.
Opening Statement The prosecutor and defense lawyer each get to make a statement at the beginning of the trial in front of the jury and judge. It provides a roadmap of what the evidence will show and what the jury will be asked to decide.
Oral Argument When a lawyer makes an oral presentation to the judge about a request to the court for a decision. In an appeal, the lawyers present the reasons they think the trial court decision should be affirmed or overturned.
Ordinance A law passed by a local government like a city or town, but not the state of Alaska.
Overturn Reversed. When an appellate court decides the trial court judge made a mistake, the trial court’s decision will be overturned.
Own Recognizance (OR) The defendant's release from custody based on the defendant's promise to appear in court, without giving money or security for bail. Sometimes the court imposes special conditions such as remaining in the custody of another person, following a curfew, or keeping a job.


Return to top
Parole The release of a prisoner before the completion of a sentence who is then subject to continued monitoring as well as compliance with certain terms and conditions for a specified period.
Parole, Discretionary The release of an inmate from prison by the parole board, before serving the whole sentence, on conditions of supervision. A parole officer supervises the parolee until the term of the parole ends. Parole can reduce the costs of imprisonment and increase the chance of rehabilitation.
Parole, Mandatory The release of an inmate from prison after serving at least a two-year prison term minus good time. The Department of Corrections must release an inmate who has earned good time, but the parole board can set conditions of supervision if the sentence was over two years.
Parole Board The governor appoints five citizens to the parole board. Eligible offenders apply to the board for release from incarceration. The members use written guidelines to help them make their decisions. They balance the need for protection of the community, the victim’s needs, and the interests of the offender. Parole board members look for evidence of rehabilitation of the offender, ability to function in the community, and low risk to the public.
Penalties Punishments in a criminal case. After a person has been convicted of a crime, a judge considers a number of factors before imposing a sentence. A judge can impose a sentence that may include a jail or prison term, probation, fine, community service, restitution, or a combination of all penalties, as allowed by Alaska law.
Peremptory Challenge When choosing a jury, each side can reject a fixed number of potential jurors without giving any reason. In Alaska, each side can also peremptorily challenge the judge assigned at the beginning of the case, without giving a reason.
Petition to Revoke Probation Document the prosecutor files in court if someone violates a condition of probation. If the prosecutor proves the defendant violated probation, the judge will determine whether to continue probation, add more restrictions or revoke the probation and send the defendant to jail.
Plea The defendant's response to the prosecution’s charges. A defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
Plea Agreement / Plea Bargain /
Plea Deal
A deal reached between the prosecution and defense which often involves the prosecutor lowering the charges against the defendant and seeking a lower penalty in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty. This saves the time and effort that would be spent going to trial.
Post-Conviction Relief A request to the trial judge to change a sentence or overturn a conviction.
Preliminary Examination A hearing where the judge decides whether probable cause exists to believe that a felony occurred and that the defendant committed it. If there is probable cause the court will allow the prosecution to move forward with the case.
Presentence Report A detailed background investigation ordered by the court in felony cases to help decide the appropriate sentence. A probation officer prepares the presentence report.
Prison A facility for confining someone convicted of a crime. Prisons are usually used by offenders serving longer sentences.
Probable Cause Facts and circumstances that would make a reasonable person believe that someone has committed a crime. Depending on the circumstances, a police officer, grand jury, or judge may decide that probable cause exists.
Probation Release of a convicted defendant, either without imprisonment or after some imprisonment, subject to conditions set by the court. A probation officer may supervise the offender. If the offender violates the conditions of probation, the prosecutor or probation officer can ask the court to revoke probation. If the judge finds a violation, the judge can change the conditions or send the offender to jail.
Probation Officer Probation officers work in the Division of Probation and Parole, in the Department of Corrections. They carry out the orders of the judge, supervising felony offenders who are not sent to jail or prison or who have already served their prison terms. Probation officers check the offender's conduct to make sure the offender complies with all the conditions of supervision. They may try to help the offender find work, get drug and alcohol treatment, and become a law-abiding citizen. They write presentence reports for the judge. They may arrest offenders for violating the conditions of supervision.
Prosecutor A government attorney who represents the citizens’ interests in criminal cases. The prosecutor charges crimes, takes cases to trial or negotiates pleas, makes recommendations at sentencing, and handles appeals.
Public Defender An attorney working for the Public Defender Agency who represents low income adults and juveniles accused of crimes.


Return to top


Return to top
Restitution To pay back, to make whole again. A judge can make the defendant pay the victim of the crime for any money spent or lost because of the crime, including medical and counseling costs, lost wages, and lost or damaged property.
Revocation Hearing A court hearing requested by a probation officer or prosecutor to decide whether the offender violated the conditions of probation and what the consequences should be. The parole board holds similar hearings for parole violations.
Rule 5 Rule of Criminal Procedure that provides the timelines requires for when individuals who have been arrested or cited must appear in court for an arraignment or felony first appearance.
Rules of Evidence Rules that govern the introduction of evidence in the Alaska courts. These rules determine what evidence is allowed for juries or the judge to consider. Read the Rules of Evidence PDF


Return to top
Secured Bond Also known as an appearance bond which a defendant provides to the court to be released from custody. The bond is supposed to help ensure the defendant shows up for court. This type of bond that is secured by cash deposit of the full bond amount or by a mortgage or some other asset. A bail bondsman puts up the bond when the defendant either pays cash or pledges some other asset. If the defendant doesn't show up in court, the defendant loses the money or asset pledged.
Sentence The penalty imposed on a defendant after conviction for a crime. A sentence can include a combination of imprisonment, probation, restitution, community work service, treatment, fines, loss of license, or other restrictions and punishments.
Sentencing Hearing Court proceeding to determine the defendant’s sentence or punishment after being found guilty or pleading guilty or no contest.
Serve Providing other side in the case with any document filed in court or any order or notice issued by the court; it can also be used when a citizen is chosen to sit on a jury (serve on a jury); it can also be used when a defendant completes their sentence (serve the sentence or serve time in jail).
Speedy Trial The constitutional right of an accused person to have a trial free from unreasonable delay.
SR-22 insurance Special car insurance required by the DMV for people who have had their license revoked because of a DUI to get their license reinstated. The insurance company must notify DMV any time the policy is canceled, terminated or lapses. SR-22 insurance is required for 3 years to life depending on the number of DUI offenses.
Stipulation An agreement by attorneys on opposite sides of a case about facts or procedures. It does not bind the parties unless both agree and the judge approves it.
Subpoena A court order requiring a witness to appear and give testimony before a judge or grand jury.
Summons A written order from a judge telling a person to appear at a certain time and place to answer charges or questions.
Suppress Keep evidence out of a criminal case. A defense lawyer may file a motion to suppress arguing that evidence was gotten illegally so should not be presented to the jury for consideration.
Surcharge Money that a defendant has to pay after pleading guilty or no content, forfeiting bail or getting convicted of a felony, some misdemeanors or violations of city ordinances. The surcharge amount is set by statute and ranges from $30-$100.
Suspended Entry of Judgment (SEJ) A type of probationary sentence where the court may “defer further proceedings” and place the defendant on probation. If the defendant follows the probation conditions, the SEJ will result in the court dismissing the criminal case including removing the charge from their record.
Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) A special judgment entering a conviction but suspending the sentence for a set period of probation to give a defendant a chance to show rehabilitation by complying with probation conditions. If the defendant follows all the conditions, the court can set aside the conviction. The law prohibits an SIS for certain cases, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI), most physical and sexual assaults, and if a person uses a firearm in the crime.
Suspended Sentence In some cases, the judge can suspend part or all of a sentence to imprisonment and give probation instead. If the defendant fails to meet the conditions, the judge can require the suspended time.


Return to top
Third Party Custodian An individual responsible for a criminal defendant who was in custody and waiting for their trial. If approved by the court, the defendant will be released to the third party custodian who must make sure the defendant follows all conditions of release and shows up for court.
Time Served Describes a sentence where the defendant is credited after the guilty verdict with the time he or she spent in jail before the trial.
Trial A formal judicial proceeding through which courts decide criminal and civil disputes.
Trial Court Judge The trial court judge acts as an impartial decision maker in the adversary system. Trial court judges oversee a large part of the criminal justice process. Judges make decisions about bail, appointment of defense counsel, motions on legal issues, trial, sentencing, and probation revocations.


Return to top
Unsecured Appearance Bond Bond where the defendant signs a contract and agrees to appear before the court without putting up any cash.


Return to top
Verdict The decision by the jury or judge of guilty or not guilty after hearing the evidence in a criminal case.
Victim Person who the defendant committed the crime against. The victim is not a party to the criminal case but may be called as a witness to provide evidence about the crime. If the defendant is found guilty, the court may order the defendant to pay the victim restitution.
Violation an offense that carries no jail time but may result in a fine up to $500. A violation is not considered a crime.
Voir Dire The questions asked of potential jurors by the attorneys or judge to decide whether the jurors will serve on the jury.


Return to top
Waiver The intentional and voluntary giving up of a known right. A person can waive a right by agreeing to give it up, or the judge can infer the waiver from circumstances. Examples: waive jury; waive speedy trial; waive presentence report.
Warrant A written order from a judge that authorizes a police officer to make an arrest or a search, or carry out a judgment.
Witnesses Individuals who provide evidence in a criminal case. This can include people who saw the crime being committed or have first-hand knowledge about the crime. An expert witness has special knowledge about the topic they will testify about such as a doctor, forensic expert or psychologist.

Rev. 30 April 2019
© Alaska Court System
Contact Us
PDF You'll need to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view and print documents with this symbol. If you are using a screen reader, get support and information at the Adobe Access website.