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Home >Legal/Professional >Legal Issues>Legal Terms and Their Definitions

Legal Terms and Their Definitions

If you are involved with the criminal justice system, terminology can be intimidating and overwhelming. Listed below are many of the common terms and phrases used in our criminal justice system. We hope that this list will be useful.

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1983 lawsuits
Civil suits brought under Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code, against anyone denying others of their constitutional rights to life, liberty or property without due process of law.

  • abused child
    A child who has been physically, sexually or mentally abused. Most states also consider a child abused who has been forced into delinquent activity by a parent or guardian.
  • acquittal
    The judgment of a court, based on a verdict of a jury or a judicial officer, that the defendant is not guilty of the offense(s) which he or she has been tried.
  • actus reus
    An act in violation of the law; a guilty act.
  • adjudication
    The process by which a court arrives at a decision regarding a case; also, the resultant decision.
  • adjudicatory hearing
    In juvenile justice usage, the fact-finding process wherein the juvenile court determines whether or not there is sufficient evidence to sustain the allegations in a petition.
  • ADMAX
    Administrative maximum; the term used by the federal government to denote ultra-high-security prisons.
  • admission (corrections)
    In correctional usage, the entry of an offender into the legal jurisdiction of a corrections agency and/or physical custody of a correctional facility.
  • adult
    In criminal justice usage, a person who is within the original jurisdiction of a criminal, rather than a juvenile, court because his or her age at the time of an alleged criminal act was above a statutorily specified limit.
  • adversarial system
    The two-sided structure which American criminal trial courts operate and that pits the prosecution against the defense. In theory, justice is done when the most effective adversary is able to convince the judge or jury that their perspective on the case is the correct one.
  • aftercare
    In juvenile justice usage, the status or program membership of a juvenile who has been committed to a treatment or confinement facility conditionally released from the facility, and placed in a supervisory and/or treatment program.
  • aggravated assault
    Unlawful intentional causing of serious bodily injury with or without a deadly weapon, or unlawful intentional attempting or threatening of serious bodily injury or death with a deadly or dangerous weapon.
  • aggravating circumstances
    Circumstances relating to the commission of a crime which cause gravity to be greater than the average instance of the given type of offense.
  • alias
    Any name used for an official purpose that is different from a person's legal name.
  • alter ego rule
    A rule of law in some jurisdictions holds that a person can only defend a third party under circumstances and only to the degree that the third party could act on their own behalf.
  • alternative sanctions
    See intermediate sanctions.
  • appeal
    Generally, the request that a court with appellate jurisdiction review the judgment, decision or order of a lower court and set it aside (reverse it) or modify it; also, the judicial proceedings or steps in judicial proceedings resulting from such a request.
  • appearance (court)
    The act of coming into a court and submitting to the authority of that court.
  • appellant
    The person who contests the correctness of a court order, judgment or other decision and who seeks review and relief in a court having appellate jurisdiction, or the person in whose behalf this is done.
  • appellate court
    A court with primary function to review the judgments of other courts and administrative agencies.
  • appellate jurisdiction
    The lawful authority of a court to review a decision made by a lower court.
  • arraignment
    I. Strictly, the hearing before a court having jurisdiction in a criminal case, in which the identity of the defendant is established, the defendant is informed of the charge(s) and of his or her rights and the defendant is required to enter a plea. II. In some usages, any appearance in court prior to trial in criminal proceedings.
  • arrest
    Taking an adult or juvenile into physical custody by authority of law for the purpose of charging the person with a criminal offense or a delinquent act or status offense, terminating with the recording of a specific offense.
  • arrest (UCR)
    In Uniform Crime Reports terminology, all separate instances where a person is taken into physical custody, notified or cited by a law enforcement officer or agency, except those relating to minor traffic violations.
  • arrest rate
    The number of arrests reported for each unit of population.
  • arrest warrant
    A document issued by a judicial officer which directs a law enforcement officer to arrest an identified person who has been accused of a specific offense.
  • arson
    The intentional damaging, destruction or attempted damaging or destruction by means of fire or explosion of the property of another without the consent of the owner, or of one's own property or that of another with intent to defraud.
  • arson (UCR)
    In Uniform Crime Reports terminology, the burning or attempted burning of property with or without intent to defraud.
  • assault
    Unlawful intentional inflicting or attempted or threatened inflicting of injury upon the person of another.
  • assault on a law enforcement officer
    A simple or aggravated assault where the victim is a law enforcement officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.
  • Ashurst-Sumners Act
    1935 federal legislation which effectively ended the industrial prison era by restricting interstate commerce in prison-made goods.
  • atavism
    A condition characterized by the existence of features thought to be common in earlier stages of human evolution.
  • attendant circumstances
    The facts surrounding an event.
  • attorney
    A person trained in the law admitted to practice before the bar of a given jurisdiction and authorized to advise, represent and act for other persons in legal proceedings.
  • Auburn style
    A form of imprisonment developed in New York state around 1820 that depended upon mass prisons where prisoners were held in congregate fashion. This style of imprisonment was a primary competitor with the Pennsylvania style.

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  • backlog (court)
    The number of cases awaiting disposition in a court which exceed the court's capacity for disposing of them within the period of time considered appropriate.
  • bail
    I. To effect the release of an accused person from custody, in return for a promise that he or she will appear at a place and time specified and submit to the jurisdiction and judgment of the court, guaranteed by a pledge to pay to the court a specified sum of money or property if the person does not appear. II. The money or property pledged to the court or actually deposited with the court to effect the release of a person from legal custody.
  • bail bond
    A document guaranteeing the appearance of the defendant in court as required and recording the pledge of money or property to be paid to the court if he or she does not appear, which is signed by the person to be released and any other persons acting in his or her behalf.
  • bail bondsman
    A person, usually licensed, whose business is to effect release on bail for persons charged with offenses and held in custody, by pledging to pay a sum of money if a defendant fails to appear in court as required.
  • bailiff
    The court officer keeps order in the courtroom and maintains physical custody of the jury.
  • bail revocation
    The court decision withdrawing the status of release on bail previously conferred upon a defendant.
  • balancing test
    A principle developed by the courts and applied to the corrections arena by the 1974 case of Pell v. Procunier, which attempts to weigh the rights of an individual as guaranteed by the Constitution against the authority of states to make laws or otherwise restrict a person's freedom in order to protect its' interests and its' citizens.
  • ballistics
    The analysis of firearms, ammunition, projectiles, bombs, and explosions.
  • Battered Woman's Syndrome (BWS)
    A series of common characteristics that appear in women who are abused physically and psychologically over an extended period of time by the dominant figure in their lives; a pattern of psychological symptoms that develop after somebody has lived in a battering relationship; or a pattern of responses and perceptions presumed to be characteristic of women who have been subjected to continuous physical abuse by their mates.
  • behavioral conditioning
    A psychological principle that the frequency of any behavior can be increased or decreased through reward, punishment and/or association with other stimuli.
  • bench warrant
    A document issued by a court directing a law enforcement officer bring the person named therein before the court, usually one who has failed to obey a court order or a notice to appear.
  • bias crimes
    See hate crimes.
  • bind over
    I. To require by judicial authority that a person promise to appear for trial, appear in court as a witness or keep the peace. II. The decision by a court of limited jurisdiction requiring that a person charged with a felony appear for trial on that charge in a court of general jurisdiction, as the result of a finding of probable cause at a preliminary hearing held in the limited jurisdiction court.
  • biological school
    A perspective on criminological thought that criminal behavior has a physiological basis. Genes, foods and food additives, hormones and inheritance are all thought to play a role in determining individual behavior. Biological thinkers highlight the underlying animalistic aspect of being human as a major determinate of behavior.
  • Bivens action
    The name given to civil suits based upon the case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Defendants brought against federal government officials for denial of the constitutional rights of others.
  • booking
    A law enforcement or correctional administrative process officially recording an entry into detention after arrest and identifying the person, the place, time and reason for the arrest and the arresting authority.
  • broken windows thesis
    A perspective on crime causation that physical deterioration leads to increased concerns for personal safety among area residents and to higher crime rates in that area.
  • burglary
    I. By the narrowest and oldest definition trespassory breaking and entering of the dwelling house of another with the intent to commit a felony. II. Unlawful entry of any fixed structure, vehicle or vessel used for regular residence, industry or business, with or without force, with intent to commit a felony or larceny.
  • burglary (UCR)
    Unlawful entry of any fixed structure, vehicle or vessel used for regular residence, industry or business, with or without force, with intent to commit a felony or larceny.

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  • capacity (legal)
    In criminal justice usage, the legal ability of a person to commit a criminal act; the mental and physical ability to act with purpose and to be aware of the certain, probable or possible results of one's conduct.
  • capacity (prison)
    See prison capacity.
  • capital offense
    I. A criminal offense punishable by death. II. In some penal codes, an offense which may be punishable by death or imprisonment for life.
  • capital punishment
    Another term for the death penalty. Capital punishment is the most extreme of all sentencing options.
  • career criminal
    In prosecutorial and law enforcement usage, a person having a past record of multiple arrests or convictions for serious crimes or an unusually large number of arrests or convictions for crimes of varying degrees of seriousness.
  • carnal knowledge
    Sexual intercourse, coitus, sexual copulation. Carnal knowledge is accomplished "if there is the slightest penetration of the sexual organ of the female by the sexual organ of the male." (State v. Cross, 200 S.E.2d 27, 29.)
  • case law
    That body of judicial precedent historically built upon legal reasoning and past interpretations of statutory laws which serves as a guide to decision making, especially in the courts.
  • caseload (corrections)
    The total number of clients registered with a correctional agency or agent on a given date or during a specified time period, often divided into active supervisory cases and inactive cases, thus distinguishing between clients with whom contact is regular and those with whom it is not.
  • caseload (court)
    The number of cases requiring judicial action at a certain time or the number of cases acted upon in a given court during a given time period.
  • certiorari
    See writ of certiorari.
  • change of venue
    The movement of a case from the jurisdiction of one court to that of another court which has the same subject matter jurisdictional authority but is in a different geographic location.
  • charge
    In criminal justice usage, an allegation that a specified person(s) has committed a specific offense, recorded in a functional document such as a record of an arrest, a complaint, information or indictment, or a judgment of conviction.
  • child abuse
    The illegal physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment of a child by his or her parent(s) or guardian(s).
  • child neglect
    The illegal failure by a parent(s) or guardian(s) to provide proper nourishment or care to a child.
  • circumstantial evidence
    Evidence that requires interpretation, or requires a judge or jury to reach a conclusion based upon what the evidence indicates. From the close proximity of a smoking gun to the defendant, for example, the jury might conclude that she/he pulled the trigger.
  • citation (to appear)
    A written order issued by a law enforcement officer directing an alleged offender to appear in a specific court at a specified time to answer a criminal charge and not permitting forfeit of bail as an alternative to court appearance.
  • citizen's arrest
    The taking of a person into physical custody by a witness to a crime other than a law enforcement officer for the purpose of delivering him or her to the physical custody of a law enforcement officer or agency.
  • civil death
    The legal status of prisoners in some jurisdictions who are denied the opportunity to vote, hold public office, marry, or enter into contracts by virtue of their status as incarcerated felons. While civil death is primarily of historical interest, some jurisdictions still place limits on the contractual opportunities available to inmates.
  • civil law
    The law that governs relationships between parties.
  • classical school
    A perspective on criminological thought that centered on the idea of free will and held that punishment, if it was to be an effective deterrent, had to outweigh the potential pleasure to be derived from criminal behavior. Classical thinkers who had their roots in the intellectual enlightenment which swept Europe a few centuries ago, highlighted the role that rationality and free choice play in determining human behavior.
  • clearance (UCR)
    The event where a known occurrence of a Part I offense is followed by an arrest or other decision which indicates a solved crime at the police level of reporting.
  • clearance rate
    Investigative effectiveness that compares the number of crimes reported and/or discovered to the number of crimes solved through arrest or other means (such as the death of a suspect).
  • clemency
    Executive or legislative action where the severity of punishment of a single person or a group of persons is reduced or the punishment stopped, or a person is exempted from prosecution for certain actions.
  • closing argument
    An oral summation of a case presented to a judge or to a judge and jury, by the prosecution or by the defense in a criminal trial.
  • cohort
    The group of individuals having one or more statistical factors in common in a demographic study.
  • comes stabuli
    Nonuniformed mounted early law enforcement officers in medieval England. Early police forces were small and relatively unorganized but made effective use of local resources in the formation of possees, the pursuit of offender.
  • commitment
    The action of a judicial officer ordering a person subject to judicial proceedings be placed in a particular kind of confinement or residential facility for a specific reason authorized by law; also, the result of the action, the admission to the facility.
  • common law
    A body of unwritten judicial opinion that was based upon
  • common law
    Law originating from usage and custom rather than from written statutes. The term refers to a body of judicial opinion originally developed by English courts based upon non-statutory customs, traditions and precedents.
  • community-based corrections
    Also, community corrections. A sentencing style of movement away from traditional confinement options and an increased dependence upon correctional resources which are available in the community. More specifically, the use of a variety of court-ordered programmatic sanctions permitting convicted offenders to remain in the community under conditional supervision as an alternative to active prison sentences.
  • community policing
    "A collaborative effort between the police and the community that identifies problems of crime and disorder and involves all elements of the community in the search for solutions to these problems."
  • community corrections
    See community-based corrections.
  • community service
    A sentencing alternative that requires offenders to spend at least part of their time working for a community agency.
  • comparative criminologist
    One who studies crime and criminal justice on a cross-national level.
  • compelling interest
    A legal concept that provides a basis for suspicionless searches (urinalysis tests of train engineers, for example) when public safety is at issue. It is the concept upon which the Supreme Court cases of Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives' Association (1988) and National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Rabb (1989) turned. In those cases, the Court held that public safety may provide a sufficiently compelling interest such that an individual's right to privacy can be limited under certain circumstances.
  • complaint
    I. In general criminal justice usage, any accusation that a person(s) has committed an offense(s) received by or originating from a law enforcement or prosecutorial agency, or received by a court. II. In judicial process usage, a formal document submitted to the court by a prosecutor, law enforcement officer, or other person, alleging a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s) and requesting prosecution.
  • computer crime
    (also cybercrime) A popular name for crimes committed by use of a computer or crimes involving misuse or destruction of computer equipment or computerized information, sometimes specifically theft committed by means of manipulation of a computerized financial transaction system or the use of computer services with intent to avoid payment.
  • computer virus
    A computer program which is designed to secretly invade systems and modify either the way they operate or alter the information they store. Viruses are destructive software which may effectively vandalize computers of all sizes.
  • concurrence
    The coexistence of an act in violation of the law and a culpable mental state.
  • concurrent sentence
    A sentence that is one of two or more sentences imposed at the same time after conviction for more than one offense and to be served at the same time, or a new sentence imposed upon a person already under sentence(s) for a previous offense(s) to be served at the same time as one or more of the previous sentences.
  • conditional release
    The release by executive decision from a federal or state correctional facility of a prisoner who has not served his or her full sentence and whose freedom is contingent upon obeying specified rules of behavior.
  • conditions of probation and parole
    The general (state-ordered) and special (court- or board-ordered) limits imposed upon an offender who is released on either probation or parole. General conditions tend to be fixed by state statute while special conditions are mandated by the sentencing authority and take into consideration the background of the offender and circumstances surrounding the offense.
  • confinement
    In correctional terminology, physical restriction of a person to a clearly-defined area from which he or she is lawfully forbidden to depart and from which departure is usually constrained by architectural barriers and/or guards or other custodians.
  • conflict model
    A perspective on the study of criminal justice assumes that the system's subcomponents function primarily to serve their own interests. According to this theoretical framework, "justice" is more a product of conflicts among agencies within the system than it is the result of cooperation among component agencies.
  • consecutive sentence
    A sentence that is one of two or more sentences imposed at the same time after conviction for more than one offense and which is served in sequence with the other sentences, or a new sentence for a new conviction imposed upon a person already under sentence(s) for previous offense(s) which is added to a previous sentence(s), thus increasing the maximum time the offender may be confined or under supervision.
  • consensus model
    A perspective on the study of criminal justice which assumes the system's subcomponents work together harmoniously to achieve that social product we call "justice."
  • constitutive criminology
    The study of the process by which human beings create an ideology of crime that sustains it (the notion of crime) as a concrete reality.
  • contempt of court
    Intentionally obstructing a court in the administration of justice or acting in a way calculated to lessen its' authority or dignity, or failing to obey its' lawful orders.
  • controlled substance
    A specifically defined bioactive or psychoactive chemical substance which is proscribed by law.
  • Controlled Substances Act
    Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which established schedules classifying psychoactive drugs according to their degree of psychoactivity.
  • conviction
    The judgment of a court based on the verdict of a jury or judicial officer, or on the guilty pleas or nolo contendere pleas of the defendant that the defendant is guilty of the offense(s) with which he or she has been charged.
  • corporate crime
    A violation of a criminal statute either by a corporate entity or by its' executives, employees or agents acting on behalf of and for the benefit of the corporation, partnership or other form of business entity.
  • correctional agency
    A federal, state or local criminal or juvenile justice agency under a single administrative authority which the principal functions are the intake screening, supervision, custody, confinement, treatment or presentencing or predisposition investigation of alleged or adjudicated adult offenders, youthful offenders, delinquents or status offenders.
  • corrections
    A generic term that includes all government agencies, facilities, programs, procedures, personnel and techniques concerned with the intake, custody, confinement, supervision, or treatment, presentencing or predisposition investigation of alleged or adjudicated adult offenders, delinquents, or status offenders.
  • corruption
    Behavior deviation from an accepted ethical standard.
  • Corpus Delicti
    The "body of crime." Facts which show that a crime has occurred.
  • counsel (legal)
    See attorney.
  • count (offense)
    See charge.
  • court
    An agency or unit of the judicial branch of government authorized or established by statute or constitution and consisting of one or more judicial officers with authority to decide upon cases, controversies in law and disputed matters of fact brought before it.
  • court calendar
    The court schedule; the list of events comprising the daily or weekly work of a court, including the assignment of the time and place for each hearing or other item of business, or the list of matters which will be taken-up in a given court term.
  • court clerk
    An elected or appointed court officer responsible for maintaining the written records of the court and for supervising or performing the clerical tasks necessary for conducting judicial business; also, any employee of a court whose principal duties are to assist the court clerk in performing the clerical tasks necessary for conducting judicial business.
  • court disposition
    For statistical reporting purposes, generally, the judicial decision terminating proceedings in a case before judgment is reached, or the judgment; the data items representing the outcome of judicial proceedings and the manner in which the outcome was arrived at.
  • court-martial (also courts-martial)
    A military court convened by senior commanders under authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the purpose of trying members of the armed forces accused of violations of the Code.
  • court of record
    A court in which a complete and permanent record of all proceedings or specified types of proceedings is kept.
  • court order
    A mandate, command or direction issued by a judicial officer in the exercise of his or her judicial authority.
  • court probation
    A criminal court requirement that a defendant or offender fulfill specified conditions of behavior in lieu of a sentence to confinement but without assignment to a probation agency's supervisory caseload.
  • court reporter
    A person present during judicial proceedings who records all testimony and other oral statements made during the proceedings.
  • credit card fraud
    The use or attempted use of a credit card in order to obtain goods or services with the intent to avoid payment.
  • crime
    Conduct in violation of the criminal laws of a state, the federal government, or of a local jurisdiction for which there is no legally acceptable justification or excuse. Also, an act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it for possible penalties for an adult upon conviction include incarceration, for which a corporation can be penalized by fine or forfeit, or for which a juvenile can be adjudged delinquent or transferred to criminal court for prosecution.
  • Crime control model
    A criminal justice perspective that emphasizes the efficient arrest and conviction of criminal offenders.
  • Crime Index
    In Uniform Crime Reports terminology, a set of numbers indicating the volume, fluctuation and distribution of crimes reported to local law enforcement agencies for the United States as a whole and for its geographical subdivisions, based on counts of reported occurrences of UCR Index Crimes.
  • crime rate
    The number of index offenses reported for each unit of population.
  • criminal homicide
    The causing of the death of another person without legal justification or excuse.
  • criminal homicide (UCR)
    The name of the UCR category that includes and is limited to all offenses of causing the death of another person without justification or excuse.
  • criminal incident
    In National Crime Victimization Survey terminology, a criminal event involving one or more victims and one or more offenders.
  • criminal justice
    In its broadest sense, those aspects of social justice which concern violations of the criminal law. In the strictest sense, the criminal (penal) law, the law of criminal procedure and that array of procedures and activities having to do with the enforcement of this body of law.
  • criminal justice system
    The aggregate of all operating and administrative or technical support agencies that perform criminal justice functions. The basic divisions of the operational aspect of criminal justice are law enforcement, courts, and corrections.
  • criminal law
    Offenses committed against society, members, their property and the social order. Another term for criminal law is penal law.
  • criminal negligence
    Behavior in which a person fails to reasonably perceive substantial and unjustifiable risks of dangerous consequences.
  • criminal proceedings
    The regular and orderly steps, as directed or authorized by statute or a court of law, taken to determine whether an adult accused of a crime is guilty or not guilty.
  • criminalist
    Police crime scene analysts and laboratory personnel versed in criminalistics.
  • criminalistics
    The use of technology in the service of criminal investigation; the application of scientific techniques to the detection and evaluation of criminal evidence.
  • criminology
    The scientific study of crime causation, prevention and the rehabilitation and punishment of offenders.
  • culpability
    I. Blameworthiness; responsibility in some sense for an event or situation deserving of moral blame. II. In Model Penal Code (MPC) usage, a state of mind on the part of one who is committing an act which makes him or her potentially subject to prosecution for that act.
  • curtilage
    The area surrounding a residence which can reasonably be said to be a part of the residence for Fourth Amendment purposes.
  • custody
    Legal or physical control of a person or thing; legal, supervisory or physical responsibility for a person or thing.
  • cybercrime
    Crime committed with the use of computers. Another term for computer crime.

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  • danger laws
    Those intended to prevent the pretrial release of criminal defendants judged to represent a danger to others in the community.
  • dangerousness
    The likelihood that a given individual will later harm society or others. Dangerousness is often measured in terms of recidivism or as the likelihood of additional crime commission within a five-year period following arrest or release from confinement.
  • data encryption
    Methods used to encode computerized information.
  • date rape
    Unlawful forced sexual intercourse with a female against her will which occurs within the context of a dating relationship.
  • deadly force
    Force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
  • deadly weapon
    An instrument designed to inflict serious bodily injury or death, or capable of being used for such a purpose.
  • deconstructionist theories
    Emerging approaches which challenge existing criminological perspectives to debunk them and work toward replacing them with concepts more applicable to the postmodern era.
  • decriminalization
    The redefinition of certain previously criminal behaviors into regulated activities which become "ticketable" rather than "arrestable."
  • defendant
    A person formally accused of an offense(s) by the filing in court of a charging document.
  • defense counsel (also defense attorney)
    A licensed trial lawyer hired or appointed to conduct the legal defense of an individual accused of a crime and to represent him or her before a court of law.
  • defenses (to a criminal charge)
    Evidence and arguments offered by a defendant and his or her attorney(s) to show why that person should not be held liable for a criminal charge.
  • defensible space theory
    The belief that an area's physical features may be modified and structured to reduce crime rates in that area and to lower the fear of victimization which area residents experience.
  • delinquency
    Juvenile actions or conduct in violation of criminal law, juvenile status offenses and other juvenile misbehavior.
  • delinquent
    A juvenile who has been adjudged by a judicial officer of a juvenile court to have committed a delinquent act.
  • delinquent act
    An act committed by a juvenile which an adult could be prosecuted in a criminal court, but for which a juvenile can be adjudicated in a juvenile court, or prosecuted in a court having criminal jurisdiction if the juvenile court transfers jurisdiction; generally, a "felony" or "misdemeanor"-level offense in states employing those terms.
  • delinquent child
    A child who has engaged in activity considered a crime if the child were an adult. The term "delinquent" is applied to such a child in order to avoid the stigma that comes from application of the term "criminal."
  • dependent
    A juvenile whom a juvenile court has assumed jurisdiction and legal control because his or her care by parent, guardian or custodian has not met a legal standard of proper care.
  • dependent child
    A child who has no parents or whose parents are unable to care for him or her.
  • design capacity (or bed capacity)
    The number of inmates which a correctional facility was originally designed to house, or currently has the capacity to house as a result of later, planned modifications, exclusive of extraordinary arrangements to accommodate overcrowded conditions.
  • detainee
    A person held in local, very-short-term confinement while awaiting consideration for pretrial release or first appearance for arraignment.
  • detention
    The legally authorized confinement of a person subject to criminal or juvenile court proceedings until the point of commitment to a correctional facility or until release.
  • detention hearing
    A hearing by a judicial officer of a juvenile court to determine whether a juvenile is to be detained, continue to be detained, or be released while juvenile proceedings in the case are pending.
  • determinate sentencing
    (also called fixed sentencing)Criminal punishment in which an offender is given a fixed term that may be reduced by good time or earned time. Under the model, for example, all offenders convicted of the same degree of burglary would be sentenced to the same length of time behind bars.
  • deterrence
    A goal of criminal sentencing that seeks to prevent others from committing crimes similar to the one for which an offender is being sentenced.
  • deviance (also deviant behavior)
    A violation of social norms defining appropriate or proper behavior under a particular set of circumstances. Deviance often includes acts which are criminal.
  • diminished capacity, also diminished responsibility
    A defense based upon claims of a mental condition which may be insufficient to exonerate a defendant of guilt, but that may be relevant to specific mental elements of certain crimes or degrees of crime.
  • directed patrol
    Designed to increase the productivity of patrol officers through the application of scientific analysis and evaluation to patrol techniques.
  • direct evidence
    Evidence that, if believed, directly proves a fact. Eyewitness testimony ( videotaped documentation) account for the majority of all direct evidence heard in the criminal courtroom.
  • direct supervision jails
    (also called podular/direct and new generation jails) Temporary confinement facilities that eliminate many of the traditional barriers between inmates and correctional staff. Physical barriers in direct supervision jails are less common than in traditional jails, allowing staff members the opportunity for greater interaction with and control over residents.
  • discharge
    To release from confinement or supervision or to release from a legal status imposing an obligation upon the subject person.
  • discretion
    Individual law enforcement officers have choices in their daily activities. The decision whether to effect an arrest or release a suspect is a primary example of discretion in law enforcement activity.
  • disposition
    In criminal justice usage, the action by a criminal or juvenile justice agency which signifies a portion of the justice process is complete and jurisdiction is terminated or transferred to another agency, or which signifies that a decision has been reached on one aspect of a case and a different aspect comes under consideration, requiring a different kind of decision.
  • disposition hearing
    A hearing in juvenile court conducted after an adjudicatory hearing and subsequent receipt of the report of any predisposition investigation to determine the most appropriate form of custody and/or treatment for a juvenile who has been adjudged a delinquent, a status offender or a dependent.
  • dispute resolution centers
    Informal hearing infrastructures designed to mediate interpersonal disputes without need for the more formal arrangements of criminal trial courts.
  • district attorney
    See prosecutor.
  • diversion
    The official suspension of criminal or juvenile proceedings against an alleged offender at any point after a recorded justice system intake but before the entering of a judgment and referral of that person to a treatment or care program administered by a nonjustice or private agency, or no referral.
  • DNA profiling
    The use of biological residue found at the scene of a crime for genetic comparisons in aiding the identification of criminal suspects.
  • docket
    See court calendar.
  • double jeopardy
    A common law and constitutional prohibition against a second trial for the same offense.
  • drug
    Any chemical substance defined by social convention as bio- or psychoactive.
  • drug abuse
    Illicit drug use that results in social, economic, psychological or legal problems for the user.
  • drug czar
    The head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). A federal cabinet-level position that was originally created during the years of the Reagan presidency to organize federal drug fighting efforts.
  • drug law violation
    The unlawful sale, purchase, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, transport, possession or use of a controlled or prohibited drug, or attempt to commit these acts.
  • due process of law
    A right guaranteed by the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and generally understood in legal contexts to mean the due course of legal proceedings according to the rules and forms which have been established for the protection of private rights.
  • due process model
    A criminal justice perspective that emphasizes individual rights at all stages of justice system processing.

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  • ECPA
    An acronym for the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
  • element of a crime
    (1) Any conduct, circumstance, condition or state of mind which in combination with other conduct, circumstances, conditions or states of mind constitutes an unlawful act; (2) the basic components of crime; (3) in a specific crime, the essential features of that crime as specified by law or statute.
  • embezzlement
    The misappropriation or illegal disposal of legally entrusted property by the person(s) to whom it was entrusted with intent to defraud the legal owner or intended beneficiary.
  • emergency searches
    Those searches conducted by the police without a warrant that are justified on the basis of some immediate and overriding need, such as public safety, the likely escape of a dangerous suspect or the removal or destruction of evidence.
  • entrapment
    An improper or illegal inducement to crime by agents of enforcement. Also, a defense that may be raised when such inducements occur.
  • equity
    A sentencing principle based upon concerns with social equality which holds similar crimes should be punished with the same degree of severity, regardless of the social or personal characteristics of offenders.
  • espionage
    The "gathering, transmitting or losing" of information related to the national defense in such a manner that the information becomes available to enemies of the United States and may be used to their advantage.
  • ethnocentrism
    The phenomenon of culture-centeredness by which one uses one's own culture as a benchmark against which to judge all other patterns of behavior.
  • evidence
    Anything useful to a judge or jury in deciding the facts of a case. Evidence may take the form of witness testimony, written documents, videotapes, magnetic media, photographs, physical objects and so on.
  • exclusionary rule
    The understanding, based on Supreme Court precedent, that incriminating information must be seized according to constitutional specifications of due process or it will not be allowed as evidence in criminal trials.
  • ex post facto
    Latin for "after the fact." The Constitution prohibits the enactment of ex post facto laws that make acts punishable as crimes which were committed before the laws in question were passed.
  • excuses
    A category of legal defenses in which the defendant claims some personal condition or circumstance at the time of the act was such that he or she should not be held accountable under the criminal law.
  • expert systems
    Computer hardware and software which attempt to duplicate the decision-making processes used by skilled investigators in the analysis of evidence and in the recognition of patterns which such evidence might represent.
  • expert witness
    A person who has special knowledge recognized by the court as relevant to the determination of guilt or innocence. Expert witnesses may express opinions or draw conclusions in their testimony, unlike lay witnesses.
  • extradition
    The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense in the second state.

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  • federal court system
    The three-tiered structure of federal courts involving U.S. district courts, U.S. courts of appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • federal interest computers
    Those that (1) are the property of the federal government, (2) belong to financial institutions or (3) are located in a state other than the one in which the criminal perpetrator is operating.
  • felony
    A criminal offense punishable by death or by incarceration in a prison facility.
  • feminist criminology
    A developing intellectual approach which emphasizes gender issues in the subject matter of criminology.
  • filing
    The initiation of a criminal case in a court by formal submission to the court of a charging document alleging one or more named persons have committed one or more specified criminal offenses.
  • fine
    The penalty imposed upon a convicted person by a court, requiring that he or she pay a specified sum of money to the court.
  • first appearance(also initial appearance)
    An appearance before a magistrate whereby the legality of a defendant's arrest is initially assessed and he or she is informed of the charges on which he or she is being held. At this stage in the criminal justice process, bail may be set or pretrial release arranged.
  • forcible rape (UCR)
    The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. See also, carnal knowledge.
  • forensic anthropology
    The application of anthropological principles and techniques in the service of criminal investigation.
  • forfeiture (also asset forfeiture)
    The authorized seizure of money, negotiable instruments, securities, or other things of value. In federal anti-drug laws, the authorization of judicial representatives to seize all moneys, negotiable instruments, securities or other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance and all proceeds traceable to such an exchange.
  • forgery
    The creation or alteration of a written or printed document, which if validly executed, would constitute a record of a legally binding transaction with intent to defraud by affirming it to be the act of an unknowing second person; also the creation of an art object with intent to misrepresent the identity of the creator.
  • fraud offense
    Offenses sharing the elements of practice of deceit or intentional misrepresentation of fact with the intent of unlawfully depriving a person of his or her property or legal rights.
  • frivolous suit
    A lawsuit with no foundation in fact. Frivolous suits are generally brought by lawyers and plaintiffs for reasons of publicity, politics or other non-law-related issues and may result in fines against plaintiffs and their counsel.
  • Fruit of the Poisoned Tree Doctrine
    A legal principle that excludes from introduction at trial any evidence eventually developed as a result of an originally illegal search or seizure.
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  • general deterrence
    A goal of criminal sentencing which seeks to prevent others from committing crimes similar to the one for which a particular offender is being sentenced by making an example of the person sentenced.
  • good faith
    A possible legal basis for an exception to the exclusionary rule. Law enforcement officers who conduct a search or seize evidence on the basis of good faith where they believe they are operating according to the dictates of the law) and who later discover that a mistake was made (perhaps in the format of the application for a search warrant) may still use evidence seized as the result of such activities in court.
  • good time
    The amount of time deducted from time to be served in prison on a given sentence(s) and/or under correctional agency jurisdiction, at some point after a prisoner's admission to prison, contingent upon good behavior and/or awarded automatically by application of a statute or regulation.
  • grand jury
    A body of persons who have been selected according to law and sworn to hear the evidence against accused persons and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring those persons to trial, to investigate criminal activity generally and to investigate the conduct of public agencies and officials.
  • grievance procedure
    Formalized arrangements, usually involving a neutral hearing board, whereby institutionalized individuals have the opportunity to register complaints about the conditions of their confinement.
  • Guilty But Mentally Ill (GBMI)
    Equivalent to a finding of "guilty," a GBMI verdict establishes that the defendant, although mentally ill, was in sufficient possession of his faculties to be morally blameworthy for his acts.
  • guilty plea
    A defendant's formal answer in court to the charge(s) contained in a complaint information or indictment claiming he or she did commit the offense(s) listed.
  • guilty verdict
    See verdict.
    habeas corpus
    See writ of habeas corpus.

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  • habitual offender
    A person sentenced under the provisions of a statute declaring persons convicted of a given offense and shown to have previously been convicted of another specified offense(s) shall receive a more severe penalty than the current offense alone.
  • hackers
    Computer hobbyists or professionals, generally with advanced programming skills. The term "hacker" has a sinister connotation and includes those hobbyists who are bent on illegally accessing the computers of others or who attempt to demonstrate their technological prowess through computerized acts of vandalism.
  • hands-off doctrine
    An historical policy of nonintervention with regard to prison management that American courts tended to follow until the late 1960s. For the past 20 years, the doctrine has languished as judicial intervention in prison administration has dramatically increased, although there is growing evidence of a return to a new hands-off doctrine.
  • Harrison Act
    The first major piece of federal anti-drug legislation passed in 1914.
  • hate crimes
    Criminal offenses in which the defendant's conduct was motivated by hatred, bias or prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation of another individual or group of individuals.
  • hearing
    A proceeding in which arguments, witnesses or evidence are heard by a judicial officer or administrative body.
  • hearsay
    Something not based upon the personal knowledge of a witness. Witnesses who testify, for example, about something they have heard, are offering hearsay by repeating information about a matter of which they have no direct knowledge.
  • hearsay rule
    The long-standing American courtroom precedent that hearsay cannot be used in court. Rather than accepting testimony based upon hearsay, the American trial process asks that the person who was the original source of the hearsay information be brought into court to be questioned and cross-examined. Exceptions to the hearsay rule may occur when the person with direct knowledge is dead or is otherwise unable to testify.
  • hierarchy rule
    A standard UCR scoring practice in which only the most serious offense is counted in a multiple-offense situation.
  • high-technology crime
    Violations of the criminal law whose commission depends upon, makes use of and often targets sophisticated and advanced technology. See also cybercrime and computer crime.
  • home confinement
    House arrest. Individuals ordered confined in their homes are sometimes monitored electronically to be sure they do not leave during the hours of confinement (absence from the home during working hours is often permitted).
  • homicide
    See criminal homicide.
  • Hudud crimes
    Serious violations of Islamic law regarded as offenses against God. Hudud crimes include such behavior as theft, adultery, sodomy, drinking alcohol and robbery.
  • hung jury
    A jury that after long deliberation is so irreconcilably divided in opinion that it is unable to reach a verdict.
  • hypothesis
    I. An explanation that accounts for a set of facts and can be tested by further investigation. II. Something that is taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation.

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  • illegal search and seizure
    An act in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: "The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."
  • illegally seized evidence
    Evidence seized in opposition to the principles of due process as described by the Bill of Rights. Most illegally seized evidence is the result of police searches conducted without a proper warrant or of improperly conducted interrogations.
  • incapacitation
    The use of imprisonment or other means to reduce the likelihood that an offender will be capable of committing future offenses.
  • inchoate offense
    One not yet completed. Also, an offense that consists of an action or conduct that is a step toward the intended commission of another offense.
  • incident-based reporting
    A less restrictive and more expansive method of collecting crime data (as opposed to summary reporting) in which all the analytical elements associated with an offense or arrest are compiled by a central collection agency on an incident by incident basis.
  • included offense
    An offense that consists of elements that are a subset of the elements of another offense having a greater statutory penalty and the occurrence of which is established by the same evidence or by some portion of the evidence that has been offered to establish the occurrence of the greater offense.
  • incompetent to stand trial
    The finding by a court that a defendant is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the charges and proceedings against him or her, or consulting with an attorney, and aiding in his or her own defense.
  • indeterminate sentence
    A type of sentence to imprisonment where the commitment instead of being for a specified single time quantity, such as three years is for a range of time, such as two to five years or five years maximum and zero minimum.
  • indeterminate sentencing
    A model of criminal punishment which encourages rehabilitation via the use of general and relatively unspecific sentences (such as a term of imprisonment of "from one to ten years").
  • Index crimes
    See Crime Index.
  • indictment
    A formal written accusation submitted to the court by a grand jury alleging a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s), usually a felony.
  • individual rights
    Those rights guaranteed to all members of our society by the U.S. Constitution (especially as found in the first ten amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights). These rights are especially relevant to criminal defendants facing formal processing by the criminal justice system.
  • individual rights advocate
    One who seeks to protect personal freedoms within the process of criminal justice.
  • industrial prisons
    Those which flourished during the industrial prison era and whose intent it was to capitalize on the labor of convicts sentenced to confinement.
  • information
    A formal written accusation submitted to the court by a prosecutor alleging a specified person(s) has committed a specified offense(s).
  • infraction
    A minor violation of state statute or local ordinance punishable by a fine or other penalty but not by incarceration, or by a specified, usually limited term of incarceration.
  • inherent coercion
    Tactics used by police interviewers pressure suspects to divulge information.
  • initial appearance
    The first appearance of an accused person in the first court having jurisdiction over his or her case. See also first appearance.
  • initial plea (also first pleas)
    The first plea to a given charge entered in the court record by or for the defendant. The acceptance of an initial plea by the court unambiguously indicates the arraignment process has been completed.
  • insanity defense
    A defense which claims the person charged with a crime did not know what they were doing, or they did not know what they were doing was wrong.
  • institutional capacity
    An officially stated number of inmates a confinement or residential facility is or was intended to house.
  • intake
    The process by which a juvenile referral is received by personnel of a probation agency, juvenile court or special intake unit and a decision made to close the case at intake, or refer the juvenile to another agency, or place him or her under some kind of care or supervision or file a petition in a juvenile court.
  • intensive supervision
    Probation supervision involving frequent face-to-face contacts between the probationary client and probation officers.
  • intent
    The state of mind or attitude with which an act is carried out; the design, resolve or determination with which a person acts to achieve a certain result.
  • interdiction
    The interception of drug traffic at the nation's borders. Interdiction is one of the many strategies used to stem the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.
  • intermediate appellate court
    An appellate court with the primary function to review the judgments of trial courts and the decisions of administrative agencies, and whose decisions are usually reviewable by a higher appellate court in the same state.
  • intermediate sanctions (also alternative sanctions)
    The use of split sentencing, shock probation and parole, home confinement, shock incarceration and community service in lieu of other more traditional, sanctions such as imprisonment and fines. Intermediate sanctions are popular as prison crowding grows.
  • INTERPOL
    An acronym for the International Police Association. INTERPOL began operations in 1946 and has 137 members.
  • interrogation
    The information-gathering activities of police officers that involve the direct questioning of suspects. The actions of officers during suspect interrogation are constrained by a number of Supreme Court decisions, the first of which was Brown v. Mississippi (1936).
  • Islamic Law
    A system of laws, operative in some Arab countries, based upon the Muslim religion and especially the holy book of Islam, the Koran.

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  • jail
    A confinement facility administered by an agency of local government, typically a law enforcement agency, intended for adults but sometimes also containing juveniles which holds persons detained pending adjudication and/or persons committed after adjudication, usually those committed on sentences of a year or less.
  • jail commitment
    A sentence of commitment to the jurisdiction of a confinement facility system for adults which is administered by an agency of local government and which the custodial authority is usually limited to persons sentenced to a year or less of confinement.
  • judge
    An elected or appointed public official who presides over a court of law authorized to hear and sometimes to decide cases and conduct trials.
  • judgment
    The statement of the decision of a court, that the defendant is acquitted or convicted of the offense(s) charged.
  • judgment suspending sentence
    A court-ordered sentencing alternative that results in the convicted offender being placed on probation.
  • judicial officer
    Any person authorized by statute, constitutional provision or court rule to exercise those powers reserved to the judicial branch of government.
  • judicial review
    The power of a court to review actions and decisions made by other agencies of government.
  • jural postulates
    Propositions developed by the famous jurist Roscoe Pound that law reflects shared needs without which members of society could not co-exist. Pound's jural postulates are often linked to the idea that the law can be used to engineer the social structure to ensure certain kinds of outcomes (such as property rights as embodied in the law of theft in capitalistic societies).
  • jurisdiction
    The territory, subject matter or persons which lawful authority may be exercised by a court or other justice agency as determined by statute or constitution. See also venue.
  • jurisprudence
    The philosophy of law; the science and study of the law.
  • juror
    A member of a trial or grand jury, selected for jury duty, and required to serve as an arbiter of the facts in a court of law.
  • jury panel
    The group of persons summoned to appear in court as potential jurors for a particular trial or the persons selected from the group of potential jurors to sit in the jury box, from the second acceptable group to the prosecution and the defense chosen as the jury.
  • jury selection
    The process whereby, according to law and precedent, members of a particular trial jury are chosen.
  • just deserts
    As a model of criminal sentencing, one which ststes that criminal offenders deserve the punishment they receive at the hands of the law and punishments should be appropriate to the type and severity of crime committed.
  • justice
    The principle of fairness; the ideal of moral equity.
  • justice model
    A contemporary model of imprisonment which the principle of just deserts forms the underlying social philosophy.
  • justifications
    A category of legal defenses which the defendant admits committing the act in question but claims it was necessary in order to avoid some greater evil.
  • juvenile
    In the context of the administration of justice, a person subject to juvenile court proceedings because a statutorily defined event or condition caused by or affecting that person was alleged to have occurred while his or her age was below the statutorily specified age limit of original jurisdiction of a juvenile court.
  • juvenile court
    The name for the class of courts that have, as all or part of their authority, original jurisdiction over matters concerning person's statutorily defined as juveniles.
  • juvenile court judgment
    The juvenile court decision terminating an adjudicatory hearing that the juvenile is a delinquent, status offender or dependent, or the allegations in the petition are not sustained.
  • juvenile disposition
    The decision of a juvenile court concluding a disposition hearing that an adjudicated juvenile be committed to a juvenile correctional facility, placed in a juvenile residence, shelter, care or treatment program or required to meet certain standards of conduct, or released.
  • juvenile justice agency
    A government agency or subunit which investigates, supervises, adjudicates, care or confinement of juvenile offenders and non-offenders subject to the jurisdiction of a juvenile court; also, in some usages, a private agency providing care and treatment.
  • juvenile justice system
    Government agencies that investigate, supervise, adjudicate, care for or confine youthful offenders and other children subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
  • juvenile petition
    A document filed in juvenile court alleging that a juvenile is a delinquent, a status offender or a dependent and asking that the courts assume jurisdiction over the juvenile or asking an alleged delinquent be transferred to a criminal court for prosecution as an adult.

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  • kidnaping
    Transportation or confinement of a person without authority of law and without his or her consent or without the consent of his or her guardian, if a minor.

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  • larceny
    Unlawful taking or attempted taking of property other than a motor vehicle from the possession of another, by stealing without force and without deceit, with intent to deprive the owner of the property permanently.
  • larceny-theft (UCR)
    Unlawful taking, carrying, leading or riding away by theft of property, other than a motor vehicle from the possession or constructive possession of another, including attempts.
  • law
    A rule of conduct, generally found enacted in the form of a statute which prescribes and/or mandates certain forms of behavior. Statutory law is often the result of moral enterprise by interest groups through the exercise of political power are successful in seeing their valuative perspectives enacted into law.
  • law enforcement
    The generic name for activities of the agencies responsible for maintaining public order and enforcing the law, particularly the activities of prevention, detection and investigation of crime and the apprehension of criminals.
  • law enforcement agency
    A federal, state or local criminal justice agency or identifiable subunit which the principal functions are the prevention, detection, investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders.
  • law enforcement officer
    An employee of a law enforcement agency who is an officer sworn to carry-out law enforcement duties.
  • lawyer
    See attorney.
  • lay witness
    An eyewitness, character witness or any other person called upon to testify who is not considered an expert. Lay witnesses must testify to facts alone and may not draw conclusions or express opinions.
  • legal cause
    A legally-recognizable cause. The type of cause that is required to be demonstrated in court to hold an individual criminally liable for causing harm.
  • legalistic style
    A style of policing marked by a strict concern with enforcing the precise letter of the law. Legalistic departments however, may take a "hands-off" approach to otherwise disruptive or problematic forms of behavior that are not violations of the criminal law.
  • legalization(of drugs)
    Eliminates the laws and associated criminal penalties that prohibit the production, sale, distribution and possession of a controlled substance.
  • lex talionis
    The law of retaliation often expressed as "an eye for an eye," or like for like.

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  • M'Naghten Rule
    A rule for determining insanity which asks whether the defendant knew what he was doing or if he knew that what he was doing was wrong.
  • mala in se
    Acts that are regarded by tradition and convention as wrong.
  • mala prohibita
    Acts that are considered "wrongs" only because there is a law against them.
  • mandatory sentence
    A statutory requirement that a certain penalty shall be set and carried-out in all cases upon conviction for a specified offense or series of offenses.
  • mandatory sentencing
    A structured sentencing scheme which allows no leeway in the nature of the sentence required and under which clearly enumerated punishments are mandated for specific offenses or for habitual offenders convicted of a series of crimes.
  • maximum sentence
    I. In legal usage, the maximum penalty provided by law for a given criminal offense, usually stated as a maximum term of imprisonment or a maximum fine. II. In correctional usage in relation to a given offender, any of several quantities (expressed in days, months, or years) which vary according to whether calculated at the point of sentencing or at a later point in the correctional process and according to whether the time period referred to is the term of confinement or the total period under correctional jurisdiction.
  • mediation committees
    Chinese civilian dispute resolution groups found throughout the country. Mediation committees successfully divert many minor offenders from handling by the more formal mechanisms of justice.
  • medical model
    A therapeutic perspective on correctional treatment that applies the diagnostic perspective of medical science to the handling of criminal offenders. Rehabilitation is seen as a cure and offenders are treated through a variety of programs in order to reduce their antisocial tendencies.
  • mens rea
    The state of mind that accompanies a criminal act. Also, guilty mind.
  • Miranda rights
    The set of rights that a person accused or suspected of having committed a specific offense has during interrogation and of which he or she must be informed prior to questioning as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in deciding Miranda v. Arizona and related cases.
  • Miranda triggers
    The dual principles of custody and interrogation, both of which are necessary before an advisement of rights is required.
  • Miranda warnings
    The advisement of rights due criminal suspects by the police prior to the beginning of questioning. Miranda warnings were first set forth by the Court in the 1966 case of Miranda v. Arizona.
  • misdemeanor
    An offense punishable by incarceration, usually in a local confinement facility, for a period of which the upper limit is prescribed by statute in a given jurisdiction, typically limited to a year or less.
  • mistrial
    A trial that has been terminated and declared invalid by the court because of some circumstances create a substantial and uncorrectable prejudice to the conduct of a fair trial or which makes it impossible to continue the trial in accordance with prescribed procedures.
  • mitigating circumstances
    The opposite of aggravating circumstances: Circumstances surrounding the commission of a crime which do not in law justify or excuse the act but which in fairness may be considered as reducing the blameworthiness of the defendant.
  • mixed sentence
    One which requires a convicted offender serve weekends (or other specified periods of time) in a confinement facility (usually a jail) while undergoing probation supervision in the community.
  • Model Penal Code
    A generalized modern codification which is considered basic to criminal law published by the American Law Institute in 1962.
  • money laundering
    The process of converting illegally earned assets originating as cash to one or more alternative forms to conceal such incriminating factors as illegal origin and true ownership.
  • moral enterprise
    The process undertaken by an advocacy group in order to have its values legitimated and embodied in law.
  • motion
    An oral or written request made to a court at any time before, during or after court proceedings, asking the court to make a specified finding, decision or order.
  • motive
    A person's reason for committing a crime.
  • motor vehicle theft (UCR)
    Unlawful taking or attempted taking of a self-propelled road vehicle owned by another with the intent to deprive him or her of it permanently or temporarily.
  • murder and nonnegligent manslaughter (UCR)
    Intentionally causing the death of another without legal justification or excuse, or causing the death of another while committing or attempting to commit another crime.

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  • narcoterrorism
    A political alliance between terrorist organizations and drug supplying cartels. The cartels provide financing for the terrorists, who provide quasi-military protection to the drug dealers.
  • natural law
    Rules of conduct inherent in human nature and the natural order which are thought to be knowable through intuition, inspiration and the exercise of reason without the need for reference to man-made laws.
  • NCVS
    An abbreviation for "National Crime Victimization Survey."
  • neglected child
    A child who is not receiving the proper level of physical or psychological care from his or her parents or guardian or who has been placed for adoption in violation of the law.
  • negligence
    Generally, a state of mind accompanying a person's conduct that he or she is not aware, though a reasonable person should be aware there is a risk that the conduct might cause a particular harmful result.
  • negligent manslaughter (UCR)
    Causing death of another by recklessness or gross negligence.
  • new police
    Also known as the Metropolitan Police of London, formed in 1829 under the command of Sir Robert Peel. Peel's police became the model for modern-day police forces throughout the Western World.
  • nolle prosequi
    A formal entry upon the record of the court, indicating prosecutor declares that he or she will proceed no further in the action. The terminating of adjudication of a criminal charge by the prosecutor's decision not to pursue the case, in some jurisdictions requiring the approval of the court.
  • nolo contendere
    A plea of "no contest." A no contest plea may be used where the defendant does not wish to contest conviction. Since the plea does not admit guilt, however, it cannot provide the basis for later civil suits that might follow a criminal conviction.
  • not guilty by reason of insanity
    The plea of a defendant or the verdict of a jury or judge in a criminal proceeding that the defendant is not guilty of the offense(s) charged because at the time the crime(s) was committed the defendant did not have the mental capacity to be held criminally responsible for his or her actions.
  • nothing works doctrine
    The belief, popularized by Robert Martinson in the 1970s, that correctional treatment programs have little success in rehabilitating offenders.
  • no true bill
    The decision by a grand jury that it will not return an indictment against the person(s) accused of a crime(s) on the basis of the allegations and evidence presented by the prosecutor.

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  • occupational crime
    Any act punishable by law that is committed through opportunity created in the course of an occupation that is legal.
  • offender
    An adult who has been convicted of a criminal offense.
  • offense
    (1) a violation of the criminal law or, in some jurisdictions, (2) a minor crime, such as jaywalking, sometimes described as "ticketable."
  • offenses known to police (UCR)
    Reported occurrences of offenses which have been verified at the police level.
  • opening statement
    The initial statement of an attorney (or of a defendant representing himself or herself) made in a court of law to a judge or to a judge and jury, describing the facts that he or she intends to present during trial in order to prove his or her case.
  • operational capacity
    The number of inmates a prison can effectively accommodate based upon management considerations.
  • opinion
    The official announcement of a decision of a court with reasons for that decision.
  • opportunity theory
    A perspective which sees delinquency as the result of limited legitimate opportunities for success available to most lower-class youth.
  • organized crime
    The unlawful activities of the members of a highly organized, disciplined association engaged in supplying illegal goods and services, including but not limited to gambling, prostitution, loansharking, narcotics, labor racketeering and other unlawful activities of members of such organizations.
  • original jurisdiction
    The lawful authority of a court to hear or act upon a case from its beginning and to pass judgment on the law and facts.

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  • parens patriae
    The legal basis which delinquent children may be removed from the home and supervised by the state. It means, in effect, that the state assumes responsibility for the welfare of problem children.
  • Parliament
    The British legislature; the highest lawmaking body of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
  • parole
    The status of an offender conditionally released from a prison by discretion of a paroling authority prior to expiration of sentence, required to observe conditions of parole and placed under supervision of a parole agency.
  • parole board
    A state paroling authority. Most states have parole boards (also called "commissions") that decide when an incarcerated offender is ready for conditional release and may also function as revocation hearing panels.
  • parolee
    A person who has been conditionally released by a paroling authority from a prison prior to the expiration of his or her sentence, placed under the supervision of a parole agency and who is required to observe conditions of parole.
  • parole revocation
    The administrative action of a paroling authority removing a person from parole status in response to a violation of lawfully required conditions of parole. Included is the prohibition against commission of a new offense, which usually resulting in a return to prison.
  • parole supervision
    Guidance, treatment or regulation of the behavior of a convicted adult who is obliged to fulfill conditions of parole or conditional release. Parole supervision is authorized and required by statute, performed by a parole agency and occurs after a period of prison confinement.
  • parole supervisory caseload
    The total number of clients registered with a parole agency or officer on a given date or during a specified time period.
  • parole violation
    An act or failure to act by a parolee that does not conform to the conditions of parole.
  • paroling authority
    A board or commission which has the authority to release on parole adults committed to prison, to revoke parole or other conditional release and to discharge from parole or other conditional release status.
  • Part I offenses
    In Uniform Crime Reports terminology, the group of offenses, also called "major offenses," which UCR publishes counts of reported instances, consists of those that meet the following five-part criterion: (1) are most likely to be reported to police, (2) police investigation can easily establish whether a crime has occurred, (3) occur in all geographical areas, (4) occur with sufficient frequency to provide an adequate basis for comparison, (5) are serious crimes by nature and/or volume.
  • Part II offenses
    In Uniform Crime Reports terminology, a set of offense categories used in UCR data concerning arrests.
  • peacemaking criminology
    A perspective that crime control agencies and the citizens they serve should work together to alleviate social problems and human suffering to reduce crime.
  • penal code
    The written, organized and compiled form of criminal laws of a jurisdiction.
  • penal law
    See criminal law.
  • penitentiary
    A prison. Also see Pennsylvania style.
  • Pennsylvania style
    A form of imprisonment developed by the Pennsylvania Quakers around 1790 as an alternative to corporal punishments. The style made use of solitary confinement and resulted in the nation's first penitentiaries.
  • peremptory challenge
    The right to challenge a juror without assigning a reason for the challenge. In most jurisdictions each party to an action, both civil and criminal has a specified number of such challenges and after using all his peremptory challenges is required to furnish a reason for subsequent challenges.
  • perjury
    The intentional making of a false statement as part of testimony by a sworn witness in a judicial proceeding on a matter material to the inquiry.
  • perpetrator
    The person who directly commits the criminal act.
  • petition
    A written request made to a court asking for exercise of its judicial powers or asking permission to perform some act where the authorization of a court is required.
  • petit jury
    See trial jury.
  • phenomenological criminology
    A perspective on crime causation that the significance of criminal behavior is ultimately knowable only to those who participate in it. The social actors endow their behavior with meaning and purpose. A crime might mean one thing to the person who commits it, quite another to the victim and something entirely different to professional participants in the justice system.
  • physical addiction (or physical dependence)
    Dependence upon drugs marked by a growing tolerance of a drug's effects so that increased amounts of a drug are needed to obtain a desired effect, and by the onset of withdrawal symptoms over periods of prolonged abstinence. Also, a craving for a specific drug which results from long-term substance abuse. Dependence upon drugs is marked by a growing tolerance of a drug's effects so that increased amounts of a drug are needed to obtain a desired effect and by the onset of withdrawal symptoms over periods of prolonged abstinence.
  • piracy
    See software piracy.
  • plaintiff
    A person who initiates a court action.
  • plain view
    A legal term describing the ready visibility of objects that might be seized as evidence during a search by police in the absence of a search warrant specifying the seizure of those objects. For evidence in plain view to be lawfully seized, officers must have a legal right to be in the viewing area and have cause to believe the evidence is somehow associated with criminal activity.
  • plea
    A defendant's formal answer in court to the charge contained in a complaint, information or indictment, that he or she is guilty or not guilty of the offense charged or does not contest the charge.
  • plea bargaining
    The negotiated agreement between defendant, prosecutor and the court to an appropriate plea and associated sentence should be in a given case. Plea bargaining circumvents the trial process and dramatically reduces the time required for the resolution of a criminal case.
  • police community relations (PCR)
    An area of emerging police activity that stresses the need for the community and police to work together effectively. It emphasizes that the police derive their legitimacy from the community they serve. PCR began to be of concern to many police agencies in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • police culture (also subculture)
    A particular set of values, beliefs and acceptable forms of behavior characteristic of American police and which the police profession strives to imbue new recruits. Socialization into the police subculture commences with recruit training and is ongoing thereafter.
  • police ethics
    The special responsibility for adherence to moral duty and obligation inherent in police work.
  • police management
    The administrative activities of controlling, directing and coordinating police personnel, resources and activities in the service of crime prevention, the apprehension of criminals, and the recovery of stolen property and the performance of a variety of regulatory and helping services.
  • police professionalism
    The increasing formalization of police work, and the rise in public acceptance of the police which accompanies it. Any profession is characterized by a specialized body of knowledge and a set of internal guidelines which hold members of the profession accountable for their actions. A well-focused code of ethics, equitable recruitment and selection practices and informed promotional strategies among many agencies contribute to the growing level of professionalism among American police agencies today.
  • police working personality
    All aspects of the traditional values and patterns of behavior evidenced by police officers who have been effectively socialized into the police subculture. Characteristics of the police personality often extend to the personal lives of law enforcement personnel.
  • postconviction remedy
    The procedure or set of procedures a person who has been convicted of a crime can challenge in court the lawfulness of a judgment of conviction or penalty or of a correctional agency action to obtain relief in situations where this cannot be done by a direct appeal.
  • postmodern criminology
    A brand of criminology developed following World War II, that builds upon the tenants inherent in postmodern social thought.
  • precedent
    A legal principle that operates to ensure previous judicial decisions are authoritatively considered and incorporated into future cases.
  • preliminary hearing
    The proceeding before a judicial officer in which three matters must be decided-whether a crime was committed, whether the crime occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the court and whether there are reasonable grounds the defendant committed the crime.
  • presentence investigation
    The examination of a convicted offender's background prior to sentencing. Presentence examinations are generally conducted by probation/parole officers and submitted to sentencing authorities.
  • presentment
    Any of several presentations of alleged facts and charges to a court or a grand jury by a prosecutor.
  • presumptive sentencing
    A model of criminal punishment that meets the following conditions: (1) the appropriate sentence for an offender in a specific case is presumed to fall within a range of sentences authorized by sentencing guidelines that are adopted by a legislatively created sentencing body, usually a sentencing commission; (2) sentencing judges are expected to sentence within the range or provide written justification for departure; (3) the guidelines provide for some review, usually appellate, of the departure.
  • pretrial detention
    Any period of confinement occurring between arrest or other holding to answer a charge and the conclusion of prosecution.
  • pretrial discovery
    Disclosure by the prosecution or defense prior to trial of evidence or other information intended to be used in the trial.
  • pretrial release
    The release of an accused person from custody, for all or part of the time before or during prosecution upon his or her promise to appear in court when required.
  • prison
    A state or federal confinement facility having custodial authority over adults sentenced to confinement.
  • prison argot
    The slang characteristic of prison subcultures and prison life.
  • prison capacity
    The size of the correctional population an institution can effectively hold.
  • prison commitment
    A sentence of commitment to the jurisdiction of a state or federal confinement facility system for adults which the custodial authority extends to persons sentenced to more than a year of confinement for a term of years or for life, or to await execution of a death sentence.
  • prisoner
    A person in physical custody in a confinement facility or in the personal physical custody of a criminal justice official while being transported to or between confinement facilities. A person in physical custody in a state or federal confinement facility.
  • prisonization
    The process whereby newly institutionalized individuals accept prison lifestyles and criminal values. While many inmates begin their prison experience with only a modicum of values supportive of criminal behavior, the socialization experience they undergo while incarcerated leads to a much wider acceptance of such values.
  • prison subculture
    The values and behavioral patterns characteristic of prison inmates having consistencies across the country.
  • private prisons
    Correctional institutions operated by private firms on behalf of local and state governments.
  • private security
    Those self-employed individuals and privately funded business entities and organizations providing security-related services to specific clientele for a fee, for the individual or entity that retains or employs them, or for themselves to protect their persons, private property or interests from various hazards.
  • private security agency
    An independent or proprietary commercial organization which provides protective services to employers on a contractual basis and whose activities include employee clearance investigations, maintaining the security of persons or property and/or performing the functions of detection and investigation of crime and criminals and apprehension of offenders. Also known as private protective services.
  • privatization
    The movement toward the wider use of private prisons.
  • probable cause
    A set of facts and circumstances inducing a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe a particular person had committed a specific crime; reasonable grounds to make or believe an accusation. Probable cause is needed for a "full blown" search or arrest.
  • probation
    A sentence of imprisonment that is suspended. Also, the conditional freedom granted by a judicial officer to an adjudicated or adjudged adult or juvenile offender if the person meets certain conditions of behavior.
  • probationer
    A person who is placed on probation status and required by a court or probation agency to meet certain conditions of behavior and may or may not be placed under the supervision of a probation agency.
  • probation revocation
    A court order in response to a violation of conditions of probation, taking away a person's probationary status and usually withdrawing the conditional freedom associated with the status.
  • probation termination
    The ending of the probation status of a given person by routine expiration of probationary period, by special early termination by court or by revocation of probation.
  • probation violation
    An act or failure to act by a probationer that does not conform to the conditions of his or her probation.
  • probation work load
    The total set of activities required to carry out the probation agency functions of intake screening of juveniles cases, referral of cases to other service agencies, investigation of juveniles and adults for the purpose of preparing predisposition or presentence reports, supervision or treatment of juveniles and adults granted probation, assisting in the enforcement of court orders concerning family problems such as abandonment and nonsupport cases, and such other functions as may be assigned by statute or court order.
  • problem-solving policing (also, problem-oriented policing)
    A style of policing which assumes many crimes are caused by existing social conditions within the community and that crimes can be controlled by uncovering and effectively addressing underlying social problems. Problem-solving policing makes use of other community resources such as counseling centers, welfare programs and job training facilities. It attempts to involve citizens in the job of crime prevention through education, negotiation and conflict management.
  • procedural defense
    A defense which claims the defendant was in some significant way discriminated against in the justice process or some important aspect of official procedure was not properly followed in the investigation or prosecution of the crime charged.
  • procedural law
    Aspect of the law that specifies the methods to be used in enforcing substantive law.
  • procuratorate (also procuracy)
    Foreign agencies with powers and responsibilities similar to those of prosecutor's offices in the United States.
  • professional criminal
    See career criminal.
  • property crime
    An offense category according to the FBI's UCR program, including burglary, larceny, auto theft and arson. Since citizen reports of criminal incidents figure heavily in the compilation of "official statistics," the same critiques apply to tallies of these crimes as the category of violent crime.
  • property bond
    The setting of bail in the form of land, houses, stocks or other tangible property. In the event the defendant absconds prior to trial, the bond becomes the property of the court.
  • proportionality
    A sentencing principle that the severity of sanctions should bear a direct relationship to the seriousness of the crime committed.
  • prosecution agency
    A federal, state or local criminal justice agency or subunit which the principal function is the prosecution of alleged offenders.
  • prosecutor
    An attorney elected or appointed chief of a prosecution agency whose duty is to conduct criminal proceedings on behalf of the people against persons accused of committing criminal offenses. Also called "district attorney," "DA," "state's attorney," "county attorney," "U.S. attorney" and any attorney deputized to assist the chief prosecutor.
  • prosecutorial discretion
    The decision-making power of prosecutors based upon the wide range of choices available to them in the handling of criminal defendants, the scheduling of cases for trial, the acceptance of bargained pleas, etc. The most important form of prosecutorial discretion lies in the power to charge or not charge, a person with an offense.
  • prostitution
    Offering, or agreeing to engage in, or engaging in a sex act with another for a fee.
  • psychoactive drug
    A chemical substance that affects cognition, feeling and/or awareness.
  • psychoanalysis
    A theory of human behavior, based upon the writings of Sigmund Freud, that sees personality as a complex composite of interacting mental entities.
  • psychological addiction (or psychological dependence)
    A craving for a specific drug which results from long-term substance abuse. Also, dependence upon drugs marked by the feeling that drugs are needed to achieve a feeling of well-being.
  • psychological manipulation
    Manipulative actions by police interviewers, designed to pressure suspects to divulge information, based upon subtle forms of intimidation and control.
  • psychological school
    A perspective on criminological thought that views offensive and deviant behavior as the products of dysfunctional personalities. The conscious and especially the subconscious contents of the human psyche are identified by psychological thinkers as major determinants of behavior.
  • psychopath or sociopath
    A person with a personality disorder, especially one manifested in aggressively antisocial behavior said to be the result of a poorly developed superego.
  • psychopathology
    The study of pathological mental conditions of mental illness.
  • psychosis
    A form of mental illness when sufferers are said to be out of touch with reality.
  • public defender
    An attorney employed by a government agency, sub-agency or by a private organization under contract to a unit of government for the purpose of providing defense services to indigents; also an attorney who has volunteered such service. The head of a government agency or subunit whose function is the representation in court of persons accused or convicted of a crime who are unable to hire private counsel and any attorney employed by such an agency or subunit whose official duty is the performance of the indigent defense function.
  • public defender agency
    A federal, state or local criminal justice agency or subunit with the principal function to represent in court persons accused or convicted of a crime(s) who are unable to hire private counsel.
  • public safety department
    An agency organized at the state or local level of government incorporating minimum various law enforcement and emergency service functions.

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  • radical criminology
    A conflict perspective that sees crime as engendered by the unequal distribution of wealth, power and other resources which it believes is especially characteristic of capitalist societies. Also called "critical criminology."
  • rape (generic)
    Unlawful sexual intercourse achieved through force and without consent. Broadly speaking, the term "rape" has been applied to a wide variety of sexual attacks and may include same-sex rape and the rape of a male by a female. The term "forcible rape" has a more concise meaning. See also, forcible rape and sexual battery.
  • rated capacity
    The number of inmates a correctional facility can house without overcrowding, determined by comparison with some set of explicit standards applied to groups of facilities.
  • reasonable doubt
    (in legal proceedings) an actual and substantial doubt arising from the evidence of facts or circumstances shown by the evidence, or lack of evidence. Also, that state of the case after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence, leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition they cannot give an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge.
  • reasonable doubt standard
    that standard of proof necessary for conviction in criminal trials.
  • reasonable force
    A degree of inexcessive force that is appropriate in a given situation. The minimum degree of force necessary to protect oneself, ones' property, a third party or the property of another in a substantial threat.
  • recidivism
    The repetition of criminal behavior.
  • recidivist
    A person who has been convicted of one or more crimes alleged or found to have subsequently committed another crime or series of crimes.
  • reckless behavior
    Activity which increases the risk of harm.
  • recreational drug user
    A person who uses drugs relatively infrequently, and whose use occurs primarily among friends and within social contexts which define drug use as pleasurable. Most addicts began as recreational users.
  • reformatory concept
    A late-nineteenth-century correctional model based upon the use of the indeterminate sentence and belief in the possibility of rehabilitation, especially for youthful offenders. The reformatory concept faded with the emergence of industrial prisons around the turn of the century.
  • rehabilitation
    The attempt to reform a criminal offender. Also, the state of a reformed offender.
  • release on recognizance (ROR)
    The pretrial release of a criminal defendant on their written promise to appear. No cash or property bond is required.
  • reprieve
    An executive act temporarily suspending the execution of a sentence, usually a death sentence. A reprieve differs from other suspensions of sentence not only in that it almost always applies to temporary withdrawing of a death sentence, but also it is usually an act of clemency intended to provide the prisoner with time to secure amelioration of the sentence.
  • research
    The use of standardized systematic procedures in the search for knowledge.
  • reasonable suspicion
    1. Level of suspicion that justifies an officer making further inquiry or in conducting further investigation. Reasonable suspicion may permit a simple "stop and frisk." 2. A belief, based upon a consideration of the facts at hand and upon reasonable inferences drawn from those facts, which would induce an ordinarily prudent and cautious person under the same circumstances to generally conclude that criminal activity is taking place or that criminal activity has recently occurred. See also, probable cause.
  • resident
    A person required by official action or his own acceptance of placement to reside in a public or private facility established for purposes of confinement, supervision or care.
  • residential commitment
    A sentence of commitment to a correctional facility for adults. The offender is required to reside at night at the facility, but he or she is regularly permitted to depart during the day, unaccompanied by any official.
  • restitution
    A court requirement that an alleged or convicted offender pay money or provide services to the victim of the crime or provide services to the community.
  • restoration
    A goal of criminal sentencing that attempts to make the victim "whole again."
  • restorative justice
    A sentencing model in which restitution and community participation in an attempt to make the victim "whole again."
  • retribution
    The act of taking revenge upon a criminal perpetrator.
  • revocation
    The cancellation of a probationer's or parolee's freedom. Revocation usually results from the violation of at least one of the conditions of probation or parole and may be ordered only by a special hearing board constituted for that purpose.
  • revocation hearing
    A hearing held before a legally constituted hearing body (such as a parole board) to determine whether or not a probationer or parolee has violated the conditions and requirements of his or her probation or parole.
  • RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization)
    A federal statute that allows for the federal seizure of assets derived from illegal enterprise.
  • rights of defendant
    Those powers and privileges constitutionally guaranteed to every defendant.
  • robbery (UCR)
    The unlawful taking or attempted taking of property in the immediate possession of another by force or threat of force.
  • rules of evidence
    Rules of court which govern the admissibility of evidence at a criminal hearing and trial.
  • runaway
    A juvenile adjudicated by a judicial officer of juvenile court as having committed the status offense of leaving the custody and home of his or her parents, guardians or custodians without permission and failing to return within a reasonable length of time.

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  • schizophrenics
    Mentally ill individuals who suffer from disjointed thinking and possibly delusions and hallucinations.
  • scientific police management
    The application of social scientific techniques to the study of police administration for the purpose of increasing effectiveness, reducing the frequency of citizen complaints and enhancing the efficient use of available resources.
  • search warrant
    A document issued by a judicial officer which directs a law enforcement officer to conduct a search at a specific location for specified property or persons relating to a crime(s)to seize the property or persons if found and to account for the results of the search to the issuing judicial officer.
  • searches incident to an arrest
    Those warrantless searches of arrested individuals which are conducted in order to insure the safety of the arresting officer(s). Since individuals placed under arrest may be in the possession of weapons, courts have recognized the need for arresting officers to protect themselves by conducting an immediate and warrantless search of arrested individuals without the need for a warrant.
  • security
    The restriction of inmate movement within a correctional facility usually divided into maximum, medium and minimum levels.
  • self-defense
    The protection of oneself or one's property from unlawful injury or the immediate risk of unlawful injury; the justification for an act which would otherwise constitute an offense that the person who committed it reasonably believed that the act was necessary to protect self or property from immediate danger.
  • sentence
    The penalty imposed by a court upon a person convicted of a crime. The court judgment specifying the penalty imposed upon a person convicted of a crime. Any disposition of a defendant resulting from a conviction including the court decision to suspend execution of a sentence.
  • sentencing
    The imposition of a criminal sanction by a sentencing authority.
  • sentencing dispositions
    Court dispositions of defendants after a judgment of conviction expressed as penalties, such as imprisonment or payment of fines; or any of a number of alternatives to actually executed penalties such as suspended sentences, grants of probation or orders to perform restitution; or various combinations of the foregoing.
  • sentencing hearing
    In criminal proceedings, a hearing during which the court or jury considers relevant information such as evidence concerning aggravating or mitigating circumstances to determine a sentencing disposition for a person convicted of an offense(s).
  • sequestered jury
    A jury isolated from the public during the course of a trial and throughout the deliberation process.
  • service style
    Policing marked by a concern with helping rather than strict enforcement. Service-oriented agencies are more likely to take advantage of community resources such as drug treatment programs than are other types of departments.
  • sex offenses
    In current statistical usage, the name of a broad category of varying content, usually consisting of all offenses having a sexual element except forcible rape and commercial sex offenses. All unlawful sexual intercourse, unlawful sexual contact, and other unlawful behavior intended to result in sexual gratification or profit from sexual activity.
  • sex offenses (UCR)
    The name of the UCR category used to record and report arrests made for "offenses against chastity, common decency, morals, etc", except forcible rape, prostitution, and commercialized vice.
  • sexual battery
    Intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person without his or her consent that entails a sexual component or purpose.
  • sheriff
    The elected chief officer of a county law enforcement agency usually responsible for law enforcement in unincorporated areas and for the operation of the county jail.
  • sheriff's department
    A local law enforcement agency organized at the county level, directed by a sheriff, exercising its law enforcement functions at the county level, usually within unincorporated areas and operates the county jail in most jurisdictions.
  • shock incarceration
    A sentencing option that makes use of "boot camp"-type prisons to impress upon convicted offenders the realities of prison life.
  • shock probation
    The practice of sentencing offenders to prison, allowing them to apply for probationary release and enacting such release in surprise fashion. Offenders who receive shock probation may not be aware they will be released on probation and may expect to spend a much longer time behind bars.
  • simple assault (UCR)
    Unlawful threatening, attempted inflicting or inflicting of less than serious bodily injury in the absence of a deadly weapon.
  • smuggling
    Unlawful movement of goods across a national frontier or state boundary or into or out of a correctional facility.
  • social control
    The use of sanctions and rewards available through a group to influence and shape the behavior of individual members of that group. Social control is a primary concern of social groups and communities and is the interest human groups hold in the exercise of social control that leads to the creation of both criminal and civil statutes.
  • social disorganization
    A condition said to exist when a group is faced with social change, uneven development of culture, maladaptiveness, disharmony, conflict and lack of consensus.
  • social debt
    A sentencing principle which objectively counts an offender's criminal history in sentencing decisions.
  • social ecology
    An approach focused on the misbehavior of lower-class youth and regards delinquency primarily the result of social disorganization.
  • social justice
    An ideal embracing all aspects of civilized life and linked to fundamental notions of fairness and cultural beliefs about right and wrong.
  • social order
    The condition of a society characterized by social integration, consensus, smooth functioning and lack of interpersonal and institutional conflict. Also, a lack of social disorganization.
  • social order advocate
    One who suggests certain circumstances involving criminal threats to public safety, the interests of society should take precedence over individual rights.
  • Social-Psychological School
    A perspective on criminological thought which highlights the role played in crime causation by weakened self-esteem and meaningless social roles. Social-psychological thinkers stress the relationship of the individual to the social group as the underlying cause of behavior.
  • sociopath
    See psychopath.
  • software piracy
    The unauthorized duplication of software or the illegal transfer of data from one storage media to another. Software piracy is one of the most prevalent computer crimes in the world.
  • specific deterrence
    A goal of criminal sentencing which seeks to prevent a particular offender from engaging in repeat criminality.
  • speedy trial
    A trial held in a timely manner. The right of a defendant to have a prompt trial is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reads, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.."
  • Speedy Trial Act
    A 1974 federal law requiring proceedings in a criminal case against a defendant begin before passage of a specified period of time, such as 70 working days after indictment. Some states also have speedy trial requirements.
  • split sentence
    A sentence explicitly requiring the convicted person to serve a period of confinement in a local, state or federal facility followed by a period of probation.
  • stare decisis
    The legal principle that courts be bound by their own earlier decisions and by those of higher courts having jurisdiction over them regarding subsequent cases on similar issues of law and fact. The term literally means "standing by decided matters."
  • state action doctrine
    The traditional legal principle that only government officials or their representatives in the criminal justice process could be held accountable for the violation of an individual's constitutional civil rights.
  • state court administrators
    Coordinating personnel who assist with case flow management, budgeting of operating funds and court docket administration.
  • state court systems
    State judicial structures. Most states have at least three court levels, generally referred to as trial courts, appellate courts and a state supreme court.
  • state highway patrol
    A state law enforcement agency of which the principal functions consist of prevention, detection, investigation of motor vehicle offenses and the apprehension of traffic offenders.
  • state police
    A state law enforcement agency functioning to maintaining statewide police communications, aiding local police in criminal investigation, police training and guarding state property; may also include highway patrol.
  • state-use system
    A form of inmate labor which items produced by inmates are salable only by or to state offices. Items that only the state can sell include such things as license plates and hunting licenses, while items sold only to state offices include furniture and cleaning supplies.
  • status offender
    A child who commits an act that is contrary to the law by virtue of the juvenile's status as a child. Purchasing cigarettes, buying alcohol and truancy are examples of such behavior.
  • status offense
    An act or conduct declared by statute to be an offense when committed by or engaged in by a juvenile and can be adjudicated only by a juvenile court.
  • statutory law
    Written or codified law. The "law on the books," as enacted by a governmental body or agency having the power to make laws.
  • stay of execution
    The stopping by a court of the carrying out or implementation of a judgment, that is, of a court order previously issued.
  • stolen property offenses
    The unlawful receiving, buying, distributing, selling, transporting, concealing or possessing of the property of another by a person who knows that the property has been unlawfully obtained from the owner or other lawful possessor.
  • stop and frisk
    The detaining of a person by a law enforcement officer for the purpose of investigation, accompanied by a superficial examination by the officer of the person's body surface or clothing to discover weapons, contraband or other objects relating to criminal activity.
  • strategic policing
    A style of policing which retains the traditional police goal of professional crime fighting, but enlarges the enforcement target to include nontraditional kinds of criminals such as serial offenders, gangs and criminal associations, drug distribution networks and sophisticated white-collar and computer criminals. Strategic policing generally makes use of innovative enforcement techniques, including intelligence operations, undercover stings, electronic surveillance and sophisticated forensic methods.
  • street crime
    A class of offenses, sometimes defined with some degree of formality as those which occur in public locations, are visible and assaultive, and thus constitute a group of crimes which are a special risk to the public and a special target of law enforcement preventive efforts and prosecutorial attention.
  • strict liability
    Liability without fault or intention. Strict liability offenses do not require mens rea.
  • structured sentencing
    A model of criminal punishment that includes determinate and commission-created presumptive sentencing schemes, as well as voluntary/advisory sentencing guidelines.
  • subculture of violence
    A cultural setting in which violence is a traditional method of dispute resolution.
  • subpoena
    A written order issued by a judicial officer, prosecutor, defense attorney or grand jury, requiring a specific person to appear in a designated court at a specified time in order to testify in a case under the jurisdiction of that court or to bring material to be used as evidence to that court.
  • substantive criminal law
    That part of the law that defines crimes and specifies punishments.
  • superpredators
    members of a new generation of juveniles "who are coming of age in actual and 'moral poverty' without the benefits of parents, teachers, coaches and clergy to teach them right from wrong and show them 'unconditional love.'" The term is often applied to those inner-city youths who meet the criteria it sets forth.
  • supervised probation
    Guidance, treatment, or regulation by a probation agency of the behavior of the person who is subject to adjudication or who has been convicted of an offense, resulting from a formal court order or a probation agency decision.
  • suspect
    An adult or juvenile considered by a criminal justice agency to be one who may have committed a specific criminal offense, but who has not been arrested or charged.
  • suspended sentence
    The court decision to delay imposing or executing a penalty for a specified or unspecified period, also called "sentence withheld." A court disposition of a convicted person pronouncing a penalty of a fine or commitment to confinement, but unconditionally discharging the defendant or holding execution of the penalty in abeyance upon good behavior.
  • suspicionless searches
    Those searches conducted by law enforcement personnel without a warrant and without suspicion. Suspicionless searches are permissible only if based upon an overriding concern for public safety.

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  • Tazirat crimes
    Minor violations of Islamic law, which are regarded as offenses against society, not God.
  • team policing
    The reorganization of conventional patrol strategies into "an integrated and versatile police team assigned to a fixed district."
  • TEMPEST
    A standard developed by the U.S. government that requires that electromagnetic emanations from computers designated as "secure" be below levels that would allow radio receiving equipment to "read" the data being computed.
  • terrorism
    A violent act or an act dangerous to human life in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
  • testimony
    Oral evidence offered by a sworn witness on the witness stand during a criminal trial.
  • theft
    Generally, any taking of the property of another with intent to deprive the rightful owner of possession permanently.
  • theory
    A series of interrelated propositions that attempt to describe, explain, predict and ultimately control some class of events. A theory gains explanatory power from inherent logical consistency and is "tested" by how well it describes and predicts reality.
  • tort
    A private or civil wrong or injury. The "unlawful violation of a private legal right other than a mere breach of contract, express or implied."
  • total institutions
    Enclosed facilities, separated from society both socially and physically, where the inhabitants share all aspects of their lives on a daily basis.
  • transfer to adult court
    The decision by a juvenile court, resulting from a transfer hearing, that jurisdiction over an alleged delinquent will be waived, and that he or she should be prosecuted as an adult in a criminal court.
  • treason
    "A U.S. citizen's actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the United States." Also, the attempt to overthrow the government of the society of which one is a member.
  • trial
    The examination in a court of the issues of fact and law in a case, for the purpose of reaching a judgment. In criminal proceedings, the examination in a court of the issues of fact and law in a case, for the purpose of reaching a judgment of conviction or acquittal of the defendant(s).
  • trial de novo
    Literally, a new trial. The term is applied to cases that are retried on appeal, as opposed to those which are simply reviewed on the record.
  • trial judge
    A judicial officer who is authorized to conduct jury and nonjury trials, and who may not be authorized to hear appellate cases, or the judicial officer who conducts a particular trial.
  • trial jury
    A statutorily defined number of persons selected according to law and sworn to determine, in accordance with the law as instructed by the court, certain matters of fact based on evidence presented in a trial and to render a verdict.
  • truth in sentencing
    A close correspondence between the sentence imposed upon those sent to prison and the time actually served prior to prison release.

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  • UCR
    An abbreviation for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "Uniform Crime Reporting" program.
  • unconditional release
    The final release of an offender from the jurisdiction of a correctional agency; also, a final release from the jurisdiction of a court.
  • undisciplined child
    A child who is beyond parental control, as evidenced by their refusal to obey legitimate authorities such as school officials and teachers.

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  • vagrancy (UCR)
    The name of the UCR category relating to being a suspicious character or person, including vagrancy, begging, loitering, and vagabondage.
  • vandalism (UCR)
    The name of the UCR category used to record and report arrests made for offenses of destroying or damaging, or attempting to destroy or damage, the property of another without his consent or public property, except by burning.
  • venue
    The particular geographical area in which a court may hear or try a case. Also, the locality within which a particular crime was committed. See also jurisdiction.
  • verdict
    In criminal proceedings, the decision of the jury in a jury trial or of a judicial officer in a nonjury trial.
  • victim
    A person who has suffered death, physical or mental anguish, or loss of property as the result of an actual or attempted criminal offense committed by another person.
  • victim assistance program
    An organized program which offers services to victims of crime in the areas of crisis intervention and follow-up counseling and which helps victims secure their rights under the law.
  • victim impact statement
    The in-court use of victim- or survivor-supplied information by sentencing authorities wishing to make an informed sentencing decision.
  • victimization
    In National Crime Survey terminology, the harming of any single victim in a criminal incident.
  • violation
    I. The performance of an act forbidden by a statute or the failure to perform an act commanded by a statute. II. An act contrary to a local government ordinance. III. An offense punishable by a fine or other penalty but not by incarceration. IV. An act prohibited by the terms and conditions of probation or parole.
  • violent crime
    An offense category which, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), includes murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.

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  • warden
    The official in charge of operation of a prison, the chief administrator of a prison or the prison superintendent.
  • warehousing
    An imprisonment strategy based upon the desire to prevent recurrent crime but which has abandoned any hope of rehabilitation.
  • warrant
    In criminal proceedings, any of a number of writs issued by a judicial officer, which direct a law enforcement officer to perform a specified act and afford him protection from damage if he performs it.
  • watchman style
    A style of policing that is marked by a concern for order maintenance. This style of policing is characteristic of lower-class communities where informal police intervention into the lives of residents is employed in the service of keeping the peace.
  • weapons offenses
    Unlawful sale, distribution, manufacture, alteration, transportation, possession, or use or attempted sale, distribution, manufacture, alteration, transportation, possession, or use of a deadly or dangerous weapon or accessory.
  • white-collar crime
    Nonviolent crime for financial gain committed by means of deception by persons whose occupational status is entrepreneurial, professional, or semiprofessional and utilizing their special occupational skills and opportunities; also, nonviolent crime for financial gain utilizing deception and committed by anyone having special technical and professional knowledge of business and government, irrespective of the person's occupation.
  • witness
    In criminal justice usage, generally, a person who has knowledge of the circumstances of a case; in court usage, one who testifies as to what he or she has seen, heard, otherwise observed or has expert knowledge of.
  • work release
    A prison program in which inmates are temporarily released into the community in order to meet job responsibilities.
  • workhouse (or brideswell)
    A form of early imprisonment whose purpose it was to instill habits of industry in the idle.
  • writ
    A document issued by a judicial officer ordering or forbidding the performance of a specified act.
  • writ of certiorari
    A writ issued from an appellate court for the purpose of obtaining from a lower court the record of its proceedings in a particular case. In some states this writ is the mechanism for discretionary reviews. A request for review is made by petitioning for a writ of certiorari and granting of review is indicated by issuance of writ.
  • writ of habeas corpus
    In criminal proceedings, the writ that directs the person detaining a prisoner to bring him or her before a judicial officer to determine the lawfulness of the imprisonment.

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  • youthful offender
    A person, adjudicated in criminal court, who may be above the statutory age limit for juveniles but is below a specified upper age limit, for whom special correctional commitments and special record sealing procedures are made available by statute.