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Glossary



  • A B

    Accompaniment: An advocate will go with you to criminal court proceedings, protection from abuse hearings, media, medical, and/or police interviews.

    Adjudication: The judicial decision that ends a criminal proceeding by a judgment of acquittal, conviction, or dismissal of the case.

    Adjudicated delinquent: A child ten years of age or older whom the court has found to have committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation.

    Adjudicatory hearing: A hearing in a juvenile case where a judge determines whether the facts as stated in the petition or warrant are true.

    Allegation of delinquency: Formal finding by the Juvenile Court that the juvenile is in need of treatment, supervision and rehabilitation and allows the court to supervise the juvenile for the maximum possible time allowed by law. It gives the juvenile a permanent record that in some cases may be used against him/her should the juvenile reoffend as an adult.

    Advocate: An advocate will help you with any questions or problems you may have because of the crime. Such as unpaid bills, plans for you to feel safe, or child care if you need to go to court.

    Appeal: A petition to a higher court for a reversal or modification of the judgment of a lower court.

    Apprehension: The act of arresting; seizure.

    Arraignment: Generally means an accused person’s appearance in a court at which the court may inform him/her of the charges against him/her, advise him/her of his/her rights, appoint a lawyer for him/her, and hear his/her plea

    Arrest: The taking of a person into legal custody, as by officers of the law (under arrest).

    Arrest Warrant: A document issued by a judicial officer, which directs a law enforcement officer to arrest a person who has been accused of an offense.

    Assessment: Advocates will talk to you about your concerns, problems, needs, and safety issues that you may have because of the crime.

    Assumpsit: An expressed or implied promise or contract not under seal on which an action may be brought.


    Bail: Money or other security (such as a bail bond) given to a court to temporarily allow a person to be released from custody and assure his/her appearance in court. May be lost should the individual fail to appear in court. Bail and bond are often used interchangeably.

    Bail Bond: Commitment, signed by accused, to ensure his/her presence at trial and which he/she may lose by not appearing for trial.



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  • C D

    Charge: A formal allegation that a specific person(s) has committed a specific offense, also referred to as pressing charges.

    Civil Actions: An action that is not criminal in nature, normally filed by one party against another, when a dispute or issue cannot be settled without going before a Magisterial District Judge.

    Community Justice Panel: Small groups of community volunteers who meet with offenders and victims of low-level crimes. The Panel holds the offender directly accountable to the victims and community they harmed. They discuss the circumstances and impact of the crime and ways the offender can avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

    Compensation: Payment provided to a victim for the loss resulting from another’s criminal actions.

    Complainant: The person who files a formal criminal complaint or the victim of the crime described in the complaint.

    Complaint: A formal written statement filed in court by any person, often a prosecutor or a victim, which accuses a specific person of committing a specific crime.

    Confidentiality: Spoken, written, acted on, etc., in strict privacy or secrecy; secret.

    Confidential Communications: While all victim service agencies keep information private, not all agencies have the same level of confidentiality. Some programs like sexual assault and domestic violence programs always keep information private. Other programs will keep information private but it can be requested by the district attorney. If you have a question, you can discuss this with an advocate (texting or emailing is not the best way to contact someone as it is not protected by confidentiality).

    Consent Decree: An order of a judge based upon an agreement, almost always put in writing, between the parties to a lawsuit instead of continuing the case through trial or hearing.

    Counseling: Victim service programs provide free, private counseling to help you with problems you may have because of a crime.

    Court Events: Advocates will tell you what is going on with your case as it moves through the court system.

    Correctional Institution/Facility: A penal institution maintained by the government; a prison, especially for long-term confinement.

    Court Familiarization: An advocate at the victim service program can take you on-site to see the courtroom to help you feel more comfortable.

    Crime Scene Investigator: The individual responsible for processing the crime scene.

    Criminal Summary: A criminal case in which the only offense or offenses charged are summary offenses.

    Criminal Summons: Order requiring the defendant to appear in court. May be issued in lieu of an arrest warrant for misdemeanors when issuing official believes accused will appear in court without being placed under bail.

    Criminal Trial: The determination of a person's guilt or innocence by due process of the law, as it relates to a crime.

    Crisis Intervention: Advocates can help you deal with your feelings of being scared and with safety concerns after becoming a victim of crime.

    Cross Examination: The question asked of a witness by the opposing attorney for more information.

    Custody: Immediate charge and control (as over a ward or a suspect) exercised by a person or an authority.


    Defense Attorney: The party who represents the defendant during the criminal proceedings

    Delinquent Act: An act designated a crime under Pennsylvania or Federal law. A crime committed by a juvenile may be called a delinquent act.

    Delinquency: A delinquent act has occurred.

    Detention: The legal confinement (keeping someone in custody) of a person subject to criminal or juvenile proceedings.

    Disposition: The outcome of a case. The ultimate resolution of a criminal matter. The word disposition is often used in Juvenile Court.

    Dispositional hearing: A proceeding, which occurs in court which potentially could dispose of the case.

    District Attorney: An officer who acts as an attorney for the people or government within a specified district. The prosecuting officer of a judicial district.

    Diversion: The act or an instance of diverting or turning aside; deviation to another path; or alternative outcome.



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  • E F

    Elder Abuse: Elder Abuse can be defined as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or financial exploitation. Physical abuse may include sexual abuse, neglect or abandonment of care by a care taker. Emotional abuse may include verbal threats and can also be considered psychological abuse. Financial scams, telemarketing, fraud and identity theft are just a few of the financial crimes frequently committed against the elderly.

    Evidence: Information presented in court to prove or disprove believed facts.

    Expungement: Process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed after expiration of crime.


    Felony : A more serious crime which has a greater punishment imposed by law than that imposed on a misdemeanor. Usually punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison. In Pennsylvania, felonies may be of the first, second, or third degree.

    Furlough: A temporary leave of absence authorized for a prisoner from confinement (jail or prison).



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  • G H

    Game Commission Laws: Federal and state laws passed for the protection of game, usually specifying what animals can be killed and captured during certain seasons, and how many can be killed or trapped in a season.

    Grieve: To feel grief or great sorrow; sadden.

    Guardian ad litem:  An individual appointed by the court to take charge of specific responsibilities for another individual, often times a child.  

    Guilty Plea: A formal response by a person accused of committing a specific crime admitting that the charges are true.




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  • I J

    Incarceration: The confinement of a defendant to any federal, state, or local penal facility.

    Incident: An action likely to lead to getting the authorities involved, such as the police.

    Inmate: A person confined to an institution such as a prison (as a convict) or hospital (as a patient).

    Intake conference: At the Intake Conference an intake officer will determine the amount of restitution, community service, counseling, curfew and school attendance, as well as any other terms and conditions that the officer believes to be appropriate. All parties sign a contract agreeing to the conditions. If all the conditions are met, the charges are never filed with the Juvenile Court. However, if the juvenile violates the contract, the Informal Adjustment, Consent Decree or Agreement of Protective Supervision may be revoked and the juvenile can be referred to court for a formal court hearing in front of the judge.

    Investigation: To observe or study by close examination and efficient inquiry.


    Judgment: A decision has been made.

    Judicial Officer: Any judge, hearing officer or magistrate.

    Judicial Recommendation: A recommendation made by a judicial officer.

    Jurisdiction: Court's authority to hear and/or decide a case. Also, territory for which a court is allowed to hear cases.

    Jury: A body of 12 persons sworn to make a verdict or give a true answer on a question or on criminal charges officially submitted to them.

    Jury Foreman: The person selected by the jury, to help process the trial and to represent the jury when reading the verdict.

    Juvenile: A person who is under an age fixed by law (under 18).



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  • K L


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  • M N

    Magistrate: Local judicial official having limited original jurisdiction, especially in criminal cases. Also, often used to refer to a judge.

    Mental Trauma: An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person.

    Misdemeanor: A more minor crime that carries a less severe punishment than a felony; most often punishable by a fine or by a term of imprisonment in a county jail. In Pennsylvania, a misdemeanor may be of the first, second, or third degree.

    Motivational Boot Camp: It is a military-style motivational boot camp. Inmates assigned to the boot camp undergo a rigid six-month disciplinary and training program which, if successfully completed will result in their immediate release on parole.


    Nolo Contendere: A formal plea in court wherein the defendant maintains that he/she will not contest the charges being brought against him/her.

    Non-jury trials: A trial in which the judge hears the case without a jury and decides whether the accused is guilty.

    Notification Booklet: Booklet of information regarding your rights and potential referral options.



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  • O P

    Oath: Solemn pledge to keep a promise or speak the truth.

    Offender: Any person who has been found guilty of any crime.

    Opening Statement: Statements made at the start of a trial by attorneys for each side, outlining their legal position and the facts each intends to establish during the trial.

    Ordinance: Law enacted by a municipality such as a county or city council.


    Pardon: A release from the penalty of an offense; a remission of penalty, as by a governor; to release (a person) from liability for an offense.

    Parole: The status of an offender conditionally released from a prison by discretion of a paroling authority prior to the expiration of their sentence.  They are required to observe conditions of parole and are placed under the supervision of a parole agency.

    Personal Injury Crime: Actual bodily harm, including pregnancy, directly resulting from the crime.

    Plea: A defendant's formal answer in court to the charge that he/she committed a crime.

    Plea Bargain: A legal proceeding between the prosecutor and the defense attorney that the defendant will plead guilty to a crime in exchange for a compromise from the State, usually a lesser charge, the dismissal of other pending charges, or a recommendation by the prosecutor for a reduced sentence.

    Post Sentencing: After the sentence is given.

    Preliminary Hearing: A legal proceeding before a judicial officer in which arguments, witnesses, and/or evidence are presented to determine if there is sufficient cause to hold the accused for trial.

    Presentence investigation: Report to sentencing judge containing background information about crime and defendant to assist the judge in making his/her sentencing decision. Sometimes called sentencing report.

    Pretrial conference: Informal meeting between judge and lawyers in a lawsuit to narrow issues, agree on what will be presented at trial and make final effort to settle a case without trial.

    Prima facie case: Case that has minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process.

    Private complaint: An accusation of criminal action that one citizen files against another after obtaining approval by a district attorney.

    Probable Cause: Sufficient legal reasons for allowing search and seizure or arrest of a person.

    Probation: The action of suspending the sentence of a convicted offender and giving the offender freedom during good behavior under the supervision of a probation officer.

    Prosecutor: Attorney representing the government in a criminal case.

    Protection from Abuse Order (PFA): A PFA is an order that protects you and your children from your abuser. It is a civil order that you file on your own behalf against a family or household member who is abusing you.

    Psychological: Influencing or intended to influence the mind or emotions; "give psychological support."



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  • Q R

    Remedy: Means by which right or privilege is enforced or violation of right or privilege is prevented, redressed, or compensated. Also called relief.

    Reimbursement: To pay back or compensate (another party) for money spent or losses incurred.

    Restitution: Advocates will help you tell the court what your losses are and how much money needs to be paid back to you by the person who committed the crime.



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  • S T

    Seized: Taken lawfully.

    Sentence: The punishment or penalty imposed by the court on a person convicted of a crime.

    Settlement: Payment or adjustment of an account.

    Statement: Something stated, a report of facts or opinions.

    Subrogation: If you are compensated by the Victims Compensation Assistance Program, and you later receive money through a lawsuit, insurance action, or restitution, you are required to reimburse the Program the monies that were paid to you or on your behalf. All reimbursements are used to help future crime victims.

    Suit: An action or process in a court for the recovery of a right or claim.

    Summary Traffic Offenses: When an individual violates any provisions of the PA Vehicle Code, unless the violation is declared to be a misdemeanor or felony. A person convicted of a summary traffic offense, for which another penalty is not provided, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of $25.

    Summons: Notice to a defendant that he/she has been sued and is required to appear in court. Also, notice requiring person receiving it to report for jury duty or as witness in a trial.

    Summary Citation: A summary citation is the document given to you if you are arrested for a summary offense.

    Summary Offense: In Pennsylvania, a lesser violation of law (less serious than a misdemeanor) punishable by imprisonment of up to 90 days and/or a fine not exceeding $300.

    Suspect: A person who is believed by criminal justice officials to have committed a specific crime, but who has not been arrested or formally charged.


    Testimony: Statements made in court by witnesses or parties who have sworn to tell the truth.

    Third Party: Person, business or government agency, etc., not actively involved in a legal proceeding, agreement, or transaction, but who is somehow involved.

    Transfer hearing: When a juvenile is alleged to have committed a serious felony a hearing is held in front of a juvenile court judge to determine if the juvenile is to be transferred for criminal proceedings

    Trauma: An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person.

    Trespass actions:

    Trial: A hearing before a judge, or a judge and jury where issues of fact and law and evidence are presented to determine whether an accused person is guilty of a committing a specific crime.



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  • U V

    Unanimous verdict: All of the same mind. All persons of the jury agree on the verdict.


    Verdict: The decision made by the jury in a jury trial, or by a judge in a bench trial after full discussion on the facts.

    Victim Impact Statement: Advocates will help you tell the court how the crime has made you and your family feel.

    Victim/Witness Coordinator: A person who normally works out of the district attorney's office who will help guide and support you throughout the criminal justice system.

    Victims Compensation Assistance Program: This Program may be able to help by paying you back for money you had to pay or lost because of a crime. Compensation may be paid to you or others for medical expenses, counseling, lost work earnings, loss of support, funeral expenses, travel costs, childcare, stolen cash, relocation, the costs to cleanup a crime-scene, and other expenses.



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  • W X

    Warrant: A court order authorizing law enforcement officers to make an arrest or conduct a search.


    If there is a definition that you are looking for and it does not appear in the glossary, you may use Webster's dictionary online service.



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  • Y Z
    Youth Aid Panel: The Youth Aid Panel is a group of trained community volunteers who oversee the completion of alternative plans by youth who are referred by schools, police or the courts. The Youth Aid Panel program provides a second chance for first-time non-violent juvenile offenders and aims to prevent future offenses and make the juvenile responsible for their actions.


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