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CHM Law Arizona Family Law, Criminal Defense and DUI Lawyers

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Glossary of Legal Terms & Definitions

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  • Panel  Refers to either a group of appellate judges assigned to hear a case or a group of potential jurors.  
  • Paralegal (legal assistant)  A person working under the supervision of a lawyer who has special training but does not have a law degree.  
  • Parties  The opposing sides of a lawsuit.  
  • 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.  

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