Commonly Used Terms
A verdict of "not guilty".

One who speaks for and helps someone else. A victim advocate or victim assistant is someone trained and dedicated to serve those who are victims of crime, family members of victims of crime, and witnesses to crime. An advocate may be a paid professional of a government or private agency or a volunteer.

The transfer of a case from a lower court to a higher court (appellate court) for a new hearing on the case.

The time when a suspect appears before a judge and is formally charged with a crime, and requests a trial by jury.

Bail or Bond:
Money or property that a defendant puts up as a guarantee that he will appear in court. Not all defendants are required to put up bail. Some are given personal recognizance (PR) bonds.

(Pronounced: ser-shee-ah-rah-ree, usually "writ of certiorari", sometimes "writ of cert") A writ from a higher court to a lower court requesting the records of a case for review.

Mercy or leniency. Often refers to a judge's giving a lighter sentence to a defendant because of particular circumstances.

Competent to Stand Trial:
(or 'legally competent') A decision by the court that a defendant is able to stand trial (usually following an examination by a doctor to find out his mental condition).

A person who is charged with a crime.

Defense Attorney:
The lawyer who speaks for the defendant and represents his interest in court.

The right of the defendant to know what evidence the State has against him.

The final result of the case.

Family Court:
A state court that handles cases involving families and juveniles.

General Sessions (Circuit) Court:
The higher level of court, where serious crimes are tried, including all felonies.

Grand Jury:
A jury of eighteen people who listen to the evidence and decide whether or not a case should go on to General Sessions Court. Their meetings are conducted in secret. The Grand Jury may give a "true bill", (indictment) or a "no bill".

Guilty Plea:
A defendant's telling the court that he committed the crime.

Guilty Verdict:
A verdict that the defendant committed the crime.

Habeas Corpus:
(Pronounced: hay-bee-us kor-pus) - One of a variety of writs that may be issued to bring a person before a court or judge. Its purpose is to release someone from unlawful restraint or imprisonment.

"Hung Jury":
The situation where a jury cannot all agree on a verdict. When this happens, the case may be tried all over again.

Incident Report:
A police report about something that happened. Additional reports about the same happening are called Supplemental Reports.

See 'Grand Jury', 'True Bill'.

The person in charge of the courtroom and the trial.

Jury Pool:
A group of randomly chosen citizens from which jurors (people on a jury) are selected.

A group of men and women (usually 12) who must listen to and watch the trial and decide whether or not the defendant is guilty.

Usually an offender under the age of 17.

The judge in the first, (lower) level of county court.

No Bill:
A conclusion by a Grand Jury that a case should not be tried.

Nol pros:
The voluntary withdrawal of criminal charges by the prosecuting attorney.

Not Guilty Plea:
A defendant's telling the court that he did not commit the crime.

Not Guilty Verdict:
A verdict that the State has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

An attorney's telling the court that he believes someone has broken a rule of the court.

An act by the South Carolina Department of Probation, parole and Pardon Services that releases the person pardoned from punishment for the crime he committed. A pardon restores the person's civil rights.

The conditional early release of a prisoner. If a prisoner obeys the conditions of his release, he won't have to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. If he does not, he may be sent back to prison.

A formal, written request for a court or judge to do something, for example, a petition for an appeal.

The defendant's answer to the charge against him. If he pleads "guilty", a trial is not necessary. He may plead guilty to a less serious charge than the one for which he was indicted. If he pleads "not guilty", the case will probably be tried in court.

Preliminary Hearing:
A hearing before a magistrate to determine if a case has probable cause and should be sent to General Sessions Court.

Pre-Trial Conference:
A meeting among you, other witnesses, and the solicitor or deputy solicitor prior to the trial. You will be able to discuss the case and ask questions.

Probable Cause:
Evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that crime was committed by the person accused.

Releasing a convicted offender instead of sending him to prison. An offender on probation must agree to follow certain guidelines and limits. If he "violates probation", that is, fails to keep the agreement, he may be sent to prison.

Reasonable Doubt:
Doubt based on a good reason. If a jury has reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime, the jury must find him not guilty.

"Time out" in a trial. It may be brief (as for lunch), last overnight, over the weekend, or longer.

Revocation of bond or probation:
The withdrawing (taking back) of bond or probation when the defendant fails to obey the requirements of bond or probation. For example, a defendant released on bond or probation may be required to stay within the state, his bond or probation may be revoked, and he may be locked up in jail or prison.

The punishment or legal consequences given to a defendant.

An attorney who prosecutes serious crimes. In other states, they are usually called District Attorneys.

The people of South Carolina represented in court by the Solicitor.

A court order for someone to appear in court.

The facts as stated by a witness. To give testimony is to "testify".

The presentation of the facts of a case in court before a judge (bench trial) or a judge and jury (jury trial), ending with a decision about the defendant's guilt.

True Bill or Indictment:
A conclusion by a Grand Jury that a case should be tried.

The decision by a judge or jury.

A person who has a crime happen to him or suffers a loss as the result of a crime.

Victim Assistant or Victim Advocate:
Someone whose role it is to help those who are victims of crime, family members of victims of crime, and witnesses to crime. A victim assistant may be a paid professional of a governmental or private agency or a volunteer.

Victim Compensation Fund Application:
A form that a victim may fill out in order to apply for money from the state to pay for expenses (such as lost wages, medical bills, and funeral expenses) that the victim may have as a result of a crime.

Victim Impact Statement (VIS):
A victim's form, letter, or oral statement that tells the judge the ways in which the crime has affected him or her, for example, money, lost, emotional difficulties, physical problems, job problems, and so on.

Voir dire:
(Pronounced: "vwah deer") The jury selection process. Both the defense attorney and the solicitor may "strike" (reject) a limited number of people in the jury pool.

In court, a witness is a person who testifies in court. A witness to a crime is a person who sees, hears, or notices something that has to do with a crime.

A written order issued by a court commanding someone to do or stop doing a particular act.