The legal world can often feel like a labyrinth of complex terminology and jargon. For the average person, understanding legal concepts and deciphering convoluted language can be daunting. However, gaining a basic understanding of common legal terms can empower individuals to navigate legal situations with confidence. This post will attempt to demystify some commonly used legal jargon.
First, let’s start with the difference between criminal and civil cases. Criminal Courts deal with, you guessed it, crime. If you have been charged with a crime you may eventually find yourself in criminal court. To be Charged with a crime means a formal allegation of a criminal offense has been levied against you. An allegation is a statement not yet proven. Once you have been charged, it is possible that after trial you will be Convicted. A person who has been Convicted of a crime has been found by a jury to be guilty of the crime with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Beyond a reasonable doubt is an example of a Burden of Proof. A Burden of Proof is the responsibility of a party to prove its claims or defenses in court. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the burden of proof for criminal cases. Beyond a reasonable doubt can be thought of as the highest burden of proof sometimes defined as 99%. In Civil Cases, the burden of proof is the Preponderance of the Evidence. A preponderance of the evidence simply means more likely than not or 51%.
In Civil Court, the disputes can be almost anything besides criminal cases. In civil court, most of the cases involve disputes where one party is suing for damages. Damages is the legal term for the award a party has requested if they win their civil dispute. So, in a civil case where someone is suing for money, their award for proving by a preponderance of the evidence the allegations they made against the opposing party, their damages would come in the form of money as long as the court found it the appropriate remedy. A remedy is the award given by a court to make a party whole.
Here are some more terms you may find yourself looking at in Civil or Criminal cases.
Plaintiff: The person who initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint.
Defendant: The person against whom a lawsuit is filed.
Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear and decide a legal matter.
Statute of Limitations: The period within which a lawsuit must be filed.
Prosecution: Institution conducting legal proceedings against someone who has been charged in a criminal case
Subpoena: Order issued by a court to compel testimony by a witness or order production of evidence
Injunction: A court order that compels a party to do or refrain from doing a specific act.
Providing definitions for every legal term would be an impossible task, however, many resources can help you understand the jargon if you find yourself in a sticky situation. For example, https://www.ncleg.gov is a great place to start. Here you can find the laws of North Carolina with a simple search. From there, look for definitions online in law libraries or trusted online dictionaries to help make sense of the jumble. Or click here for an official US Government glossary of legal terms.
Understanding legal jargon will put you a step ahead of those around you when dealing with a lawsuit or a criminal charge, however understanding these words is only the first step. It is important to consult with professionals to ensure your understanding aligns with what is going on The lawyers at King Law can help you get a better sense of where you stand. We invite you to come in and talk with one of our attorneys on the phone or in person during a consultation. King Law has offices in western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina conveniently located to serve you. Call (888)748-KING (5464) or visit our website to request a consultation.