Glossary of Criminal Defense Terms
Arraignment. See Arraignment in Your Constitutional and Statutory Rights
Complaint. Written document generated by the prosecution that contains your criminal charge(s) in misdemeanor and felony cases (but before the preliminary hearing in felony cases). (Compare to Information found herein.)
Expungement. Process by which an individual’s criminal record is cleared of convictions and/or arrests. See Expungements for further information.
Information. Written document generated by the prosecution (after the preliminary hearing in a felony case) that contains the criminal charges on which you will be tried in a jury trial. Generated and used only in felony cases.
Jury Trial. See Jury Trial in Your Constitutional and Statutory Rights
Miranda Rights. See Miranda Rights in Your Constitutional and Statutory Rights
Misdemeanor. Most misdemeanors are petty offenses that are punishable by up to six months in county jail. The more serious misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in county jail. All misdemeanor convictions usually come with informal (court) probation, fines, and court fees.
Motion to Revoke (MTR). Request made to the judge by the prosecution or the probation department to violate the defendant’s probation and sentence the defendant to county jail or, in felony cases, state prison time.
Parole. Release of an inmate from state prison before his or her prison sentence is completed. Parole usually lasts for three years. Parolee is supervised by a parole officer and faces more prison time if he/she violates terms of parole.
Plea. (See also No Contest Plea herein.) Criminal defendant’s response to the charges on the complaint. Possible pleas are “not guilty,” “guilty,” “no contest,” and “not guilty by reason of insanity.”
Preliminary Hearing. See Preliminary Hearing in Your Constitutional and Statutory Rights
Pretrial. See Pretrial in Your Constitutional and Statutory Rights
Probation. Period in which a defendant is supervised by a probation officer. While on misdemeanor probation, your entire county jail sentence or the remainder of your county jail sentence is suspended while you are on probation. Probation usually lasts for three years but can be extended to five years. Probationer faces more county jail time if violates the terms of their probation.
Proposition 36. Drug program in which you plead guilty or no contest to gain entrance. Visit the Drug Charges page to learn more about the Proposition 36 drug program.
Restraining Order. Order issued by a judge that restrains one person (“restrained party”) from being near (usually within a certain number of feet) or contacting another person (“protected party”). Contacting includes telephoning, texting, e-mailing, mailing, “facebooking,” “twittering,” and sending messages through a third party. Note: If the protected party contacts you, only you will get in trouble.