Glossary of Court Terms
Felony: A felony case is a very serious criminal offense. The municipal court may only determine if there is probable cause that a crime has been committed in a felony case. If the municipal judge finds probable cause, the case is then transferred to the Common Pleas Court. Any case that involves a penalty of more than one year of jail is a felony case.
Misdemeanor: A misdemeanor case may be tried in the municipal court. These cases are considered less serious than felony cases. These cases may involve jail time of up to one year.
Minor misdemeanor: These cases are considered very minor criminal offenses and there is no jail time involved. A few examples of minor misdemeanors are: possession of marijuana, intoxication, or dog at large.
Traffic cases: Traffic cases are cases that arise out of traffic offenses or accidents. Most of these cases are considered minor.
DUI cases: (Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs) This is considered a serious traffic offense.
Civil cases: Civil cases are lawsuits filed by individuals or companies. There are a number of different types of civil suits, such as: Forcible Entry & Detainer (eviction cases), Small Claims, Transfer cases, Contracts, etc.
Index: An index is a book listing all plaintiffs and defendants by alphabetical order. This index will show the defendant's name, violation, and date of arrest in traffic or criminal cases, and defendant's name, date of filing, and type of case in civil cases.
Docket: The docket books show the disposition of traffic, criminal, or civil cases.
Defendant: The defendant in a traffic or criminal case is the accused. A good way to remember is that the defendant must defend himself against charges brought against him. In a civil case, the defendant is the person or company being sued.
Plaintiff: The plaintiff in a criminal or traffic case is the party bringing the charges against someone. In criminal or traffic cases, the plaintiff is usually the city or municipality where the crime occurred. In a civil case, the plaintiff is the party who is suing someone.
Arraignment: An arraignment is the first appearance in a traffic or criminal case. At this hearing the Judge explains the charges filed against the person and sets a bond for the case. If it is a serious offense, the Judge will recommend the defendant consult an attorney or appoint an attorney if the defendant cannot afford one. The defendant may also enter a plea at this hearing. If the defendant pleads guilty, the case may be completed at the arraignment stage. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be set for a pre-trial or trial and the defendant will return at a later date.
Pre-trial: After a defendant in a serious traffic or criminal case enters a not guilty plea, the case is set for a pre-trial. The pre-trial is a rather informal hearing between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Any plea-bargaining is done at this time. The Judge approves all results of the pre-trial.
Trial: There are two types of trials. A trial to the court, in which the Judge decides guilty or innocence, or a trial by jury, in which a jury decides the verdict. Most traffic cases are tried to the court and are heard by the Magistrate. Either a jury or judge may try any serious traffic case or criminal case. Trials are also conducted for civil cases.
Hearing on Motion: These are short hearings heard by the Judge on a specific motion arising from a particular case.
Preliminary Hearing: Preliminary hearings are conducted for all felony cases. At this hearing the Judge determines if there is probable cause that a crime was committed. He does not determine guilt or innocence.
Bind Over: If a Judge determines there is probable cause in a felony case, the felony case is bound over to the Summit County Grand Jury. This simply means that the case is transferred to the Common Pleas Court for further action.
Prosecutor: The attorney for the state or the attorney for the plaintiff. The prosecutor is the attorney that must prove that the defendant committed the crime or is at fault in a civil case.
Defense Attorney: The defense attorney represents the accused in either a criminal, traffic or civil case.
Appointed Attorney: If a defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for him or her.
Public Defender: The public defender will also represent people who cannot afford their own attorney. The public defender usually handles minor criminal and traffic cases.
Indigent: An indigent is a person who cannot afford his or her own attorney and must have the court appoint one. The defendant signs an affidavit stating he does not have the funds to afford an attorney.
Affidavit: An affidavit is simply a sworn statement.
Waiver: A waiver is simply a waiver of some right according to law. For example, when a person is cited for a traffic offense, or arrested for a crime, they have the right to a trial. If the defendant chooses, he may waive that right and simply plead guilty to a traffic offense and pay the fine.
Disposition: A disposition is the outcome of a particular case. If someone requires a disposition, they usually want to know what the person was charged with, how they pled to the charge, if they were found guilty, and the fine and sentence imposed on them.
Journal Entry: A journal entry is a court order or motion that is made a part of the court's records. Another term for this may be judgment entry.
Judgment: A judgment is a term used regarding civil cases. It is the decision and/or monetary amount awarded to a party in a civil suit.
Certified Copy: A certified copy is a copy of a court document that is stamped and sworn to be true.
Continuance: If someone cannot appear at the date they are due in court, the case may be continued for a later date.
Bench Warrant: If a defendant fails to appear for their appointed court date, the Judge or Magistrate will issue a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest. The police department will then go out and arrest the defendant and bring them before the court.
Praecipe: A praecipe is a note of instruction filed by the attorney or prosecutor asking the court to perform some duty. Usually, an attorney will issue a praecipe for the issuance of a subpoena.
Subpoena: A subpoena is a court document requesting someone to testify in court.
Subpoena Duces Tecum: This subpoena requests someone's attendance at a trial and also requests the witness bring some type of record or document with them to the trial.
Summons: A summons is an order for an individual to appear in court. A summons is usually sent certified mail to the defendant with a court date listed on the summons. A summons is different from an arrest in that the person is told to appear at a certain date and time, and not arrested by the police. All civil cases are processed as summons.
To Pay: If a defendant comes to court and does not have the money to pay their fine and costs, the Judge or Magistrate may grant the person time to pay. The defendant makes regular payments on the case until all fines and costs are paid.
Jail Folder: The jail folder is where all cases with jail sentences are kept.
Bond or Recognizance: At the time a defendant is arrested, a bond is set. A bond is to insure that the defendant will appear at the date and time he is scheduled for court. There are a number of types of bonds. Some of these are: cash bond; 10% bond (only 10% of the amount of the bond is posted by the individual); personal recognizance (no money is actually posted-the person signs their name and will appear on good faith); surety bond ( a bonding company will post a bond for an individual); property bond (some real estate property will be put up as bond).
Commitment Papers: Commitment papers or jail papers are prepared for anyone who must serve jail time.
Release Papers: When a bond is posted or all fines and costs are paid on a particular case, the person may be released from jail. A release paper is prepared to authorize release from jail.
Warrant Recall: When someone is arrested or appears in court to answer a bench warrant, the warrant is then recalled. This means the warrant is canceled.