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Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions

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  • Petitioner
      The person who originally files a lawsuit or action, or appeals a lower court judgment.  
  • Plaintiff
      Another term for a person who originates a lawsuit or action.  
  • Plea
      A defendant’s response to the charges made against them, it can be any of the following: guilty; not guilty; or nolo contendere.  
  • Plea Deal/Bargain/Agreement
      An agreement in a criminal case where the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for lesser charges, a dismissal of charges, or a recommendation of a more lenient sentence.  
  • Pleadings
      The written complaint and answer filed by the parties in a civil case of their positions.  
  • Precedent
      A court decision decided in a previous case with factual and legal similarity to a current dispute before the court, unless a party shows it was wrongly decided or differed significantly from the current case. Precedent can be binding, meaning it must be followed, or non-binding, meaning(...)
  • Preliminary hearing
      A legal proceeding, similar to a grand jury, done before trial in which a prosecutor presents the evidence to a judge in an attempt to show there is probable cause a person committed a crime. If the judge does not find probable cause, the charges are dropped.  
  • Presumed Father
      A person the law considers the legal father of a child because of their legal relationship to the child’s mother during pregnancy, such as being married to the mother.  
  • Pretrial conference
      A meeting before trial between the judge and parties or their lawyers to discuss the following: the status of the case and defense investigation, outstanding discovery issues, plea negotiations, pre-trial motions, and setting a timeline for the case and trial.  
  • Pro Bono
      Work done for no compensation by an attorney for the public good.  
  • Pro Se
      A Latin phrase meaning “on one’s own behalf.” A person appears pro se when they choose to represent themselves with no help from an attorney.  
  • Probable Cause
      The burden of proof that must be met prior to arresting a person or obtaining a search warrant from a judge. Based on the totality of the circumstances, an officer must reasonably believe that a crime has been committed and that the person being placed under arrest was the one who(...)
  • Probate
      The legal process of gathering and distributing assets to beneficiaries mentioned in a deceased person’s will, and the paying of any final debts and taxes.  
  • Probate Court
      The court that supervises the probate legal process of establishing the validity of a will and distributing assets.  
  • Probation
      An alternative to imprisonment where a convicted defendant is allowed to walk free under supervision as long as they observe certain conditions.  
  • Prosecute
      When a prosecutor charges someone with a crime.  
  • Prosecutor
      An attorney that represents the government in criminal cases and has the responsibility of deciding who to prosecute. The prosecutor represents the state during criminal legal proceedings, including trial.  
  • Public Defender
      A government lawyer who represents defendants accused of a crime if they cannot afford an attorney of their own.  
  • Reasonable Doubt
      In a criminal case, a prosecutor must prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they cannot prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, then the defendant is entitled to an acquittal. This is the highest burden of proof in the legal system.  
  • Record
      A written recording of all proceedings and actions in a lawsuit.  
  • Remand
      When a case is appealed to an appellate court, it is reviewed for any procedural errors. If errors are found, the court will send, or remand, the case back to the lower court for further proceedings, which may or may not change the final decision. A remand in the context of Grand Jury(...)
  • Reporter
      A person who makes a written record of all court proceedings, prepares transcripts, and publishes opinions/decisions.  
  • Respondent
      The term used for the person against whom an appeal of a court decision is brought or a term for the person answering a complaint in a civil case.  
  • Retainer
      An amount of money paid to an attorney to reserve them for when a client needs their services at a later date.  
  • Reverse
      When an appellate court finds an error with a lower court’s decision, the appellate court will set aside or reverse the decision and remand the case back to the lower court to issue a new decision.  
  • Rules of Evidence
      The standards governing the form and admissibility of evidence in a civil or criminal case.  
  • RURESA
      The Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act: a statute that assists in establishing and enforcing support obligations when parents reside in different states. This act has been adopted by most states.  
  • Search Warrant
      A court-issued document, supported by probable cause, which allows the police to search specific locations for specified items.  
  • Self-help
      In the legal field, self-help refers to a person choosing to attempt to enforce their rights outside of the legal system. In the realm of family law, parents may attempt to use “self-help” to set a visitation schedule without court intervention. The downside to self-help in this context(...)
  • Sentence
      After a criminal defendant is found guilty, the court orders or sentences them their punishment, which, among other terms, may include prison, jail, probation, and fines.  
  • Separation Agreement
      A written document created in a divorce proceeding that determines parental/child contact, child support, and parental rights without granting a divorce.  
  • Settlement
      When the parties to a court action, including a criminal or family law case, resolve their differences without going through a formal trial.   
  • Standard of Proof
      A standard by which a party must prove their case in court. In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence.” In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  
  • Standing
      A person or group’s legal right to bring a lawsuit or legal challenge.  
  • Statement
      After a person has witnessed a crime or incident in which the police are called, the police will ask that person to give a statement of their experience. That statement may be written or oral.  
  • Statute
      A term that refers to a law passed by the state or federal legislature.  
  • Statute of Limitations
      A law that designates the amount of time after an incident a party has to file an action in court or be prohibited from bringing the cause of action. In criminal law, most crimes have a set amount of time within which the prosecutor must bring charges against the accused.  
  • Stipulation
      An agreement between the parties of a lawsuit or other court action in which they agree certain laws or facts are assumed true and relevant.  
  • Subpoena
      A court order forcing a person to appear at trial or produce documents, or face penalties ordered by the court.  
  • Summary Judgment
      When, before the trial occurs, a judge decides there is no dispute as to the facts of the case and a party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.  
  • Summons
       A court issued document demanding a person appear in court or respond to a lawsuit, or risk having a judgment filed against them or a warrant issued for their arrest in the context of a criminal case.  
  • Temporary restraining order
      A temporary order issued by the court to prevent immediate and irreparable damages or loss in an emergency.  
  • Testify
      When a person answers questions in court as a witness.  
  • Testimony
      The answers a person gives when testifying as a witness in a case. Testimony is considered evidence in a trial.  
  • Tort
    When a person or entity breaches a duty to another person causing a civil wrong or injury.  
  • Transcript
      An exact written record of what was said in a trial or other proceeding related to a case.  
  • Trial
      A legal proceeding that happens when a defendant pleads “not guilty” and challenges the state’s evidence in front of a judge or jury. A trial occurs if opposing parties are unable to reach an alternative resolution.  
  • Trust
      A legal device set up by a person or business to help manage real or personal property for the benefit of another.  
  • Trustee
      The person or entity appointed in trust documents to manage the real or personal property put into a trust.  
  • U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutor)
      A federal government attorney appointed by the President of the United States in each judicial district to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government.  

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What People Say

Client Testimonials

Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

“The calm in the middle of my storm…”

I, recently, consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again, however, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.

Frank - AVVO Review

Divorce / Reconciliation Client
Attorney David Maletta

“There is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David”

I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.

Jacob - AVVO Review

DUI Defense Client
Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

“Because of Darin I got my daughter back”

Before I hired Darin I went through a total of 3 different attorneys in two different states fighting a jurisdiction battle, when my daughter was taken to a different state. It was a very difficult decision to switch attorneys at one of the most difficult, time sensitive and important times in my case, but I’m very glad I did. Upon receiving my file from previous attorneys Darin came very familiar with my case quickly. Like other people have explained he took the time to lay everything out and explain how the process was going to proceed and what to expect and continued to do this as new issues arrived. He is also very quick at responding to emails and phone calls. My case was getting close to trial as told by my previous attorneys, I did not want to go to trial as I know this is very costly (most attorneys will convince you that you need to.) Darin knew my situation, fought for what was right and got the results I wanted while avoiding a costly trial. He is extremely knowledgeable in the Child Support Guidelines as well. Because of Darin I got my daughter back. I would highly recommend him and would hire again for any future issues. Thanks Darin!

Chris - AVVO Review

Child Custody & Support Client
Attorney David Maletta

“I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.”

Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trial… Watching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.

Gregory - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
Arizona Attorney Timothy Hintze

“Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently”

I had an incident and was Given the catch-all charge. There wasn’t really anything I could do by myself to get out of it. Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently to ensure that I would have the best possible outcome from my case. Which he successfully achieved! As of right now I am on the path to having my case fully dismissed. A couple things that really helped me through this process was that Tim did an amazing job at was answering my questions. He was available almost anytime and would respond promptly when he got my emails. He was also very approachable and comforting to be around while we had in person meetings and especially when I was at the court house. I would trust him and the company he works for with any other cases in the future and as of right now they will be my first choice if I need a lawyer in the future.

Dylan - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
Arizona Attorney Timothy Hintze

“Listens to every request that you make on a case”

I honestly just want to let it be known to any and everyone looking for an attorney on a case. Whether it be DUI, possession, or your every day to day traffic violations where you need representation attorney Tim Hintze is your man. You have to respect a man that listens to every request that you make on a case and he gets in there and gets it done. Tim has my respect as an attorney and being a well-rounded representer. From him being honest on the possibility and options for your case to him being easy to work and communicate with via over the phone or face to face Mr. Hintze is working it out.

Ben - AVVO Review

Criminal Defense Client
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