28 Legal Terms Made Easy – Detroit Criminal Defense Attorney

Legal terms

Have you ever talked with a lawyer and felt like they were speaking a different language?

Would you like an easy guide to understanding common legal terms?

We have all been there. You are talking with someone and they are throwing around terms that you have never heard of. At The David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC, we want to help make talking to a lawyer a little easier and a little less frustrating. Below are 28 commonly used legal terms and help put them into easy-to-understand definitions.

  1. Adjourn
    Adjourn is to postpone the court session indefinitely or to a later time.
  2. Appeal
    An appeal is when a higher court is asked to evaluate a decision/sentence made by the lower court.
  3. Bail or Bond
    Bail or bond is money or even property that is given to the court in order for the defendant to be released. It is to guarantee that the defendant will return to court.
  4. Complaint
    A complaint is a legal document that informs the court of what you want is served with a summons to the defendant and the case begins.
  5. Conviction
    A conviction is when someone is found guilty of a crime.
  6. Custodial Parent
    A custodial parent is the parent who has custody of the child.
  7. Damages
    When the term, damages, is used an attorney is referring to the amount of money that the client has been paid due to injurious actions by another person.
  8. Defendant
    A defendant is the person who the law suit is against or who is being accused of the crime. You can think of it like this, the defendant is defending themselves.
  9. Emancipation
    Emancipation is when a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 is granted rights and privileges of an adult and is free of his parents’ control.
  10. Evidence
    Evidence is the testimony, physical objects or documentation that proves a fact and is presented at trial or a court hearing.
  11. Felony
    A felony is a crime with a minimum sentence of one year in the state prison.
  12. Hearsay
    The term hearsay refers to a testimony this is told as second or third hand information by a witness.
  13. Judgment
    A judgment is the court’s decision.
  14. Oath
    An oath is to swear the truth of a statement. If the statement proves to be untrue, it is punishable for perjury.
  15. Order
    An order is when the court issues a written direction or judgment abstaining from a certain action.
  16. Minor
    A minor is a person under the age of 18.
  17. Mediation
    Mediation is the process of dispute resolution in which an impartial third party volunteers to help both sides come to an agreement.
  18. Misdemeanor
    A misdemeanor is a crime that has a maximum sentence of one year in jail and/or a fine.
  19. Mistrial
    A trial that is thrown out of court because of something that has gone wrong with the proceedings is a mistrial.
  20. Motion
    A motion is a written request of the court filed with the clerk’s office.
  21. Perjury
    Perjury is a term referring to lying under oath.
  22. Plaintiff
    In a civil case, a plainfiff is the person who starts the case or is suing. In a criminal case, this is usually the prosecuting attorney who represents the people of Michigan.
  23. Plea or Plead
    When the defendant enters a plea, he/she is responding to a criminal charge.
  24. Probation
    Probation is when the court has allowed a convicted person to remain in the community, instead of incarnation, while being supervised.
  25. Probation Officer
    A probation officer is the officer who is supervising those on probation.
  26. Recess
    A recess is a short amount of time that the judge allows for everyone to leave the courtroom.
  27. Sentence
    Once the defendant has indeed been convicted of a crime, the sentence is the punishment that is given.
  28. Testimony
    A testimony is when a witness gives a statement under oath.


Legal terminology can be confusing. With these 28 legal terms, you will have a better knowledge of what an attorney or judge is referring to.

If you did not see a legal term on the list that you do not understand, please let me know by commenting in the comment section below. If you need help with a legal matter, please contact our office. We are happy to help untangle the confusion that legal matters can cause.

248-348-7400 or 586-530-1000