Court 101: Terms and Phrases Every Defendant Should Know


6/18/2018

Being charged with a crime in Philadelphia can make even the strongest of people feel as if their world is collapsing. Wimmer Criminal Defense, the preeminent criminal defense law firm in Philadelphia, has put together the below guide to help you become acquainted with some of the terms you may hear as you navigate the criminal justice system.

Appeal – a request asking another court to decide whether a hearing, motion, or trial was conducted properly

Bench Trial – also known as a waiver trial, this is a trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts

Brief – a written statement in an appellate case that explains to the court why they should decide the case in favor of the defendant or the Commonwealth

Case Law – these are decisions issued by courts; it is the law in cases that have already been decided

Chambers – the office of a judge

Clerk of Court – persons whom oversee the court’s administration. The Clerk of Courts assists in the managing of a case as it moves through the judicial system.

Court – an agency of government that resolves legal disputes. You may hear a judge use “court” to refer to themselves in the third person. As in, “the court has read the Presentence Investigation Report.”

Court Reporter – also known as a stenographer, this person makes a verbatim, meaning word-for-word, record of what is said in court and produces a transcript of the proceedings

Cross-Examination and Re-cross Examination – the questioning of a witness by a lawyer when that witness is called by the lawyer’s opponent. For example, if the Commonwealth calls a witness to the witness stand, attorney Lauren Wimmer will have the opportunity to cross-examine that witness when the Commonwealth is finished asking questions

Defendant – the person accused of a crime

Discovery – facts and documents in possession of the lawyers. The Commonwealth will “turn over discovery” prior to trial. These documents will contain all of the information the prosecution intends to use in order to prove the defendant is guilty at trial.

Evidence – information in the form of testimony or documents

Hearsay – evidence that is presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question, but heard about it from someone else

Motion – an application made to the court, typically on paper but may be made orally in court, asking for the court to issue an order or ruling

Remand – when a court sends a case back to a lower court for further proceedings. For example, if a defendant is charged with felony and misdemeanor offenses, at the preliminary hearing if the judge finds that the Commonwealth only proved that the defendant committed misdemeanor offenses and not felony charges, the court will remand the case to Municipal Court for trial.

Testimony – evidence presented orally in court usually by witnesses on the witness stand

Voir Dire – the process by which the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense lawyer select a jury from a larger panel of jurors who are eligible to serve on the jury. “Voir dire” literally means “to speak the truth”

Witness – a person called upon by either the prosecution or the defense attorney in a case

If you have been charged with a crime in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey, call or text Wimmer Criminal Defense at (215) 712-1212 for a risk free confidential consultation today. Attorney Lauren Wimmer is the most aggressive female criminal defense attorney you will find. Choose Wimmer Criminal Defense and let us show you how hard we work.