Legal Terms

Many times, the words used in court documents are unfamiliar and confusing. Below are some terms commonly used in the Vermilion Municipal Court. If you have other questions regarding legal terminology, BLACK'S LAW DICTIONARY, a reference book found in most law offices and in our public library, would be very helpful.

AFFIDAVIT:  A written statement of facts signed by an individual and notarized. Affidavits are used in many aspects of the court and are often filed with court documents.

ANSWER:  A written reply to a complaint, prepared by an individual or an attorney, which is filed in Court.

ARRAIGNMENT:  The first court appearance for a Defendant. At the arraignment, the Defendant is informed of his rights, asked whether he requires an attorney, and informed of the charges against him. At the arraignment, the Defendant is asked to enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest.

ATTACHMENT: A seizure of property or funds by a court-assisted process.

BENCH:  The area of a courtroom where the judge sits while court is in session.

BOND: Security, either in the form of money or personal recognizance that is placed with the Court in order to insure that the Defendant will appear in Court for a hearing. If the Defendant fails to appear, the bond money may be forfeited, and a warrant issued for the arrest of the Defendant. Bond is also referred to as "Bail".

BOUND OVER:  The transfer of a felony case to the appropriate Court of Common Pleas when the Defendant either waives a Preliminary Hearing, or goes forward with the Preliminary Hearing and the judge finds that there is probable cause that the Defendant committed the offense.

CASE NUMBER:  The number, which has been assigned to a civil or criminal complaint. Most courts use a system, which indicates the year of filing, and identifies the matter as either civil, traffic or criminal, in the case number.

CITATION:  A ticket issued by a police officer for minor offenses, such as traffic matters, which also specifies the date and time that a Defendant must appear in Court for an arraignment.

CIVIL COMPLAINT:  A written statement, which is either prepared by an attorney or by the Plaintiff, which tells the Court that a claim, exists favoring the Plaintiff. A Civil Complaint includes the signature of the maker, a demand for judgment, and the names and addresses of both Plaintiff(s) and Defendant(s).

CONTINUANCE:  A request by a Plaintiff, Defendant, or attorneys in a case, made to re-schedule a hearing or trial for cause.

CRIMINAL COMPLAINT:  A written statement of the facts alleging that a crime has been committed by the Defendant. The Complain usually includes the state stature or city ordinance of the crime, and the severity of the crime.

DEFENDANT:  The person charged with a crime in a criminal complaint, or who is alleged to owe funds to the Plaintiff in a civil complaint.

DOCKET:  A list of legal cases to be heard during a court session.

FELONY:  A crime in Ohio, which can have extensive jail time and fines. Felonies are not handled in a Municipal Court and are bound over to the appropriate Court of Common Pleas.

GARNISHMENT:  The attachment or seizure of personal wages through a court-assisted process.

MINOR MISDEMEANOR:  A criminal offense in Ohio, which cannot have a penalty, imposed of more than $150, and no jail time.

MISDEMEANOR:  A Misdemeanor is a crime in Ohio, which cannot have a penalty, imposed of more that $1,000 and one year in jail. There are four different levels of Misdemeanors in Ohio (excluding the minor misdemeanor, above), each having specific jail sentences and fines. See the link "Your Rights in Court" for a chart on Misdemeanor offenses.

OFFENSE:  A violation of a criminal or traffic law, which results in a citation or complaint.

PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE:  A written promise by a Defendant that he will appear in Court for a specified hearing.

PLAINTIFF:  The person who makes a complaint against another person. In criminal cases, the state or local municipality is listed as the Plaintiff in a complaint.

PLEA:  The response made by a Defendant to charges filed in a criminal or traffic complaint. The three forms of pleas acceptable in Court are "Guilty", "Not Guilty", and "No Contest".

PRETRIAL:  A meeting with the prosecutor scheduled after your arraignment in which you or your attorney attempt to resolve your case before going to trial.

PROBABLE CAUSE:  A reasonable belief that a crime was committed, and the person accused of the crime was responsible. A probable cause hearing is held in felony matters.

PROBATION:  Instead of sentencing a Defendant to jail, the judge may place him on probation, which is a supervised form of release for a specified period, which may be as long as five years. While under probation, the Defendant must report to a court officer and maintain good behavior.

PURGE:  The process by which a Defendant voluntarily comes to Court to take care of a warrant or a show cause hearing.

SHOW CAUSE:  A hearing held to determine if a Defendant should be found in contempt of Court for failure to follow a previous Court order. A finding of contempt can carry additional fine or jail time, as determined by the Judge.

SUBPOENA:  A document containing a written command that you must appear and give testimony. The subpoena contains a time and place for the testimony to take place, and it may be in a Court, or many times, at an attorney's office.

SUMMONS:  A Court notice telling you to appear in Court at a particular time and place.

VOIR DIRE:  The process of selecting jurors for a trial in a particular case. The prospective jurors are questioned individually and a decision is made following the questioning whether to accept or reject each individual juror.

WAIVER OF TIME:  A document signed by a Defendant or his attorney in a traffic or criminal matter, which allows the case to continue beyond thirty days.

WARRANT:  A Court order to arrest you and hold you in custody until you appear in Court before the judge.