Criminal Law Glossary
Actus Reus and Mens Rae – Actus reus is Latin for guilty act while mens rae means a guilty mind. Lawyers must prove that a criminal act took place (committed by the defendant) and that the criminal act was intentionally committed.
Appeal – Defendants found guilty of a crime have the right to appeal the case which takes it to a higher court – potentially all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Arraignment – During an arraignment, the accused person answers the charges in court but entering a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the plea is not guilty, then a trial will be scheduled.
Bail – Posting bail is a means of securing release from jail until trial. Bail money is used to guarantee that the accused will appear at the trial. If the accused appears as promised, the bail money, less any fees, will be returned.
Capital Punishment – Capital punishment is a type of punishment known as the death penalty. It is requested as punishment for some capital offenses such as first-degree murder and treason.
Criminal Law – Criminal law is concerned with misdemeanor or felony cases where crimes have been committed. Criminal offenses are typically punished by fines and/or imprisonment.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) – Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal act in the U.S. with strict consequences that can include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and prison time.
Embezzlement – Embezzlement involves an employee or government employee misappropriating company or government funds or property.
Extortion – Also known as blackmail, extortion is a criminal offense. It can also involve taking money or property through threats or intimidation.
Felony – Felonies are serious crimes such as rape, murder, and kidnapping that are punishable by a year or more of confinement in state or federal prisons.
Fraud – A breach of trust where a person deceives or misleads another person and either abuses the victim's rights or acquires money or property as a result. Fraud takes many forms including tax fraud, securities fraud, identity fraud, health fraud, insurance fraud, and Internet fraud.
Juvenile crimes – Crimes committed by a minor (under the age of 18).
Larceny – Larceny is a type of theft. When the property stolen is worth over $500, the theft is considered grand larceny which is a felony. When the value of the stolen property is less than $500, the crime is considered petty larceny which is a misdemeanor.
Misdemeanor – Misdemeanors are considered less serious crimes such as disturbing the peace or shoplifting. As such, misdemeanors are punishable by less than a year of imprisonment in a county jail and/or a fine.
Perjury – Perjury is lying under oath, and it is a criminal offense.
Reasonable Doubt – Jurors and judges must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If there's doubt, the jurors and judge cannot convict the accused.