Common Terms that Apply to Criminal Defense Law

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Brett Pritchard Law

Updated on August 22, 2022

If you are facing a criminal charge, you are facing significant challenges that can leave you unsure how best to proceed. One of the best steps you can take is consulting with an experienced Killeen criminal defense lawyer, but understanding the common terms that apply to criminal defense law can help ease your stress.

From A to Z

There are wide-ranging legal terms related to criminal defense law. It can be beneficial to familiarize yourself with them.

The Accused

The accused is a person who has been charged with a crime but has not yet been to trial for the charge.


“Admissible” is an adjective that refers to evidence that was obtained legally and that the jury (or judge) is allowed to consider in determining the innocence or guilt of a defendant.


At an arraignment, the judge will advise the accused of the charge he or she faces, and the accused will plead either not guilty, no contest, or guilty. If the accused pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set.


After being charged, the accused may be required to stay in jail until his or her trial date, but the judge is very likely to set bail. This payment works as collateral, which helps to ensure that the accused will show up at the appointed trial date. If the accused fails to do so, he or she will forfeit all bail money and will very likely face a bench warrant.

Related: Bail Bonds and How They Work


Booking is purely administrative and refers to when all of the following apply to an individual:

  • He or she has been arrested by the police.

  • He or she has been read his or her Miranda rights.

  • He or she has been notified of the charges levied against him or her.

  • He or she has had his or her name, address, phone number, fingerprints, and mugshot recorded.


A charge is a formal allegation or legal indictment in relation to a specific crime that is levied against someone by the prosecution. The act of charging someone is known as pressing charges.


The defendant in the case is the person who is accused of the crime in question.


Discovery is when the prosecution or the defense attempts to obtain information that is relevant to the case from the other side.


A finding refers to a formal conclusion that a judge, jury, or regulatory agency reaches in relation to a significant fact in a specific case.

Grand Jury

A grand jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining if there is probable cause for taking an individual to trial for a criminal charge. Grand juries only have the authority to investigate and accuse an individual of a crime—not the authority to convict.

Related: Texas and Grand Jury Proceedings


A hearing is different from a trial in the sense that it lacks a jury. A hearing is a legal proceeding in which a legal issue is resolved by a judge after evidence and arguments are presented.


Litigation refers to a legal action that can be civil or criminal. Both the plaintiffs and the defendants are referred to as litigants.

Pretrial Hearing

At pretrial hearings, the prosecution will present the evidence against the defendant. The judge will determine if the evidence suffices to prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant is the perpetrator. If there is insufficient evidence, the case will not proceed to trial.


In lieu of jail time, the judge can order probation. This means that the defendant will be released into the community but will have to adhere to specifications set by the court for a predetermined amount of time—under the supervision of a probation officer. Those who violate their probation can be sent directly to jail to serve out their original sentence.

Related: Know How Not to Violate Your Probation


At sentencing, the judge will hand down a sentence, which will amount to either jail time, fines, or both.


At a trial, both the defense attorney and the prosecution will begin with opening statements. From here, witnesses will be called, questioned, and cross-examined; evidence will be presented; and both sides will make their closing statements. The judge will then instruct the jury, which will deliberate before announcing its verdict.

Related: Your Right to a Fair and Speedy Trial


The verdict is the final decision that is made by either the judge or jury in a criminal case.


A warrant refers to the court’s authorization for law enforcement to move forward with either a search or arrest.

Related: What Does It Mean When Police Have a Bench Warrant in Texas?

It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard—proudly serving Killeen, Texas—is a distinguished criminal defense lawyer who skillfully advocates for his clients’ rights in pursuit of their case’s best possible resolutions. For more information, please contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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