Court Terminology (also found in FAQ's under each Court)
Accused - The person against whom an accusation is made; one who is charged with a crime or traffic infraction.
Appeal - Taking a case which has been decided in a court of inferior jurisdiction to one of superior jurisdiction, for the purpose of obtaining a review.
Arraign - Arraignment of an accused consists of calling upon him by name, reading to him the charges in the arrest documents, demanding of him whether he pleads guilty or not guilty or, in misdemeanors, no lo contendere, and entering his plea. This hearing may be combined with right to counsel hearing.
Bail - The release of a person from legal custody by a written agreement that he shall appear at the time and place designated and submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court and observe the requirements set forth in the recognizance.
Bond - A certificate or evidence of a debt with a sum fixed as a penalty, which contains a written agreement binding the parties to pay the debt, conditioned, however, that the payment of the penalty may be avoided by the performance of certain acts by one or more of the parties.
Civil action - A case brought for determination enforcement or protection of a right, or redress; or prevention of a wrong; every action other than a criminal action.
Complaint - criminal - A charge brought before a judicial officer having jurisdiction, that a person named has committed a specified offense.
Court order - A command or mandatory direction of a judge which is made during a case. Also includes a command of the judge which establishes courtroom or administrative procedures.
Crime - A positive or negative act in violation of penal law; an offense against the state classified either as a felony or misdemeanor.
Custody - The detainment of a person by virtue of lawful process or authority; actual imprisonment.
Defendant - The party against whom relief or recovery is sought in a court action or suit. Sometimes used to designate the accused in criminal or traffic cases.
Deposition - The testimony of a witness taken upon oral examination, after notice to the adverse party, not in open court, but in pursuance of a notice to take testimony issued by the party wanting the deposition. The adverse party has the right to attend and cross-examine. Testimony is reduced to writing and duly authenticated, and intended to be used in connection with the trial of an action in court. These are used in circuit court.
Detention - The holding of a person in custody or confinement.
Discovery - Procedures by which one party to a lawsuit may obtain information relevant to the case which is held or known by the other party.
Dismissal - An order disposing of an action, suit, etc., without trial.
Dismissed but not sealed - An order disposing of an action without trial but the file can be physically opened for review.
Disposition - Determination of the final arrangement or settlement of a case following judgment.
Docket - A record of all cases and actions scheduled to be heard in court, whether or not the matter is actually heard in a court on a particular day.
Evidence - All the means by which a matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted for investigation, is established or disproved.
Felony - A crime punishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary. See Â§ 18.2-10 for classification of felonies and the punishment for each classification.
Finding - The result of the deliberations of a court.
Garnishment - A statutory post-judgment proceeding in which a third party who holds property, money or credits belonging to the judgment debtor is required to surrender such property, money or credits (to the extent of the judgment) to the court or sheriff for application against the judgment awarded against the judgment debtor.
Grand Jury - A special type of jury assembled to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought. Grand jury proceedings are supervised by circuit courts.
Guilty - Responsible for committing a criminal offense or a traffic infraction. The word used by an accused in pleading to the charges when he confesses to committing the crime of which he is charged. It is also used by the judge if he finds that the accused committed a criminal offense or a traffic infraction.
Indictment - A formal accusation by a grand jury that charges a person with a crime. Indictments are used to bring more serious charges and are used in circuit court only.
Juvenile - A person under the age of 18.
Legal Aid - Legal services are available in some areas to persons unable to afford an attorney. Legal aid offices handle only civil matters.
Minor - An infant or person who is under the age of legal competence. One under 18.
Misdemeanor - Offenses punishable by fine not exceeding $2,500 or being jailed for a term not exceeding 12 months or a combination of fine and jail within these limits.
Mistrial - A trial that is cut short and does not result in a verdict due to a procedural error or other problem. The trial must then start over from the beginning.
Motion - A request made to the judge by a litigant or other person connected with the case for a ruling or order.
Notice - Formal notification of a legal proceeding or determination.
Parole - In criminal law, a conditional release. If prisoner makes good, he will receive an absolute discharge from balance of sentence, but, if he does not, he will be returned to serve unexpired time.
Petition - A formal request to a court to take a certain action on a matter.
Plaintiff - A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a personal action and is so named on the record.
Plea - Statement made by the defendant either as to his guilt or innocence to the charge made against him.
Probation - In modern criminal administration, allowing a person convicted of some offense to remain free under a suspension of a jail sentence during good behavior and generally under the supervision or guardianship of probation officer together with other restrictions as the court may impose.
Remand - Sending a case back to the same court out of which it came for purpose of having some action taken on it there.
Sealed - A file that is physically closed from review.
Search warrant - An order in writing, issued by a judicial officer, in the name of the state, directed to a sheriff, or other officer commanding him to conduct a search to aid an official investigation.
Seizure - To take into possession forcibly.
Sentence - The judgment formally pronounced by the judge upon the defendant after his conviction in a criminal prosecution, setting the punishment for the offense.
Subpoena - A process to cause a witness to appear and give testimony, commanding him to appear before a court therein named at a time therein mentioned to testify for the party named under a penalty therein mentioned.
Warrant of Arrest - A written order issued and signed by a judicial officer directed to a law enforcement officer or some other person specially named and commanding him to arrest the body of a person named in it who is accused of an offense.