Finding yourself the defendant in a criminal prosecution is bad enough. Realizing you don’t understand half of what anyone involved is talking about makes a frightening and intimidating situation even worse. Unless you work in the criminal justice system, you have likely never had a reason to learn what many of the commonly-used legal terms mean. Although you should always consult with your Nebraska criminal defense attorney to find out how a specific term applies to your case, it may put you more at ease to learn the meaning of some common criminal law terms you may encounter over the course of your legal proceedings. The following are criminal law terms that begin with the letters J through Z. Please be sure to read through Part I of this series for terms beginning with the letters A through I.
- Jury Nullification — the acquitting of a defendant by a jury in disregard of the judge’s instruction and contrary to the jury’s findings of fact. Often occurs because the jury is sympathetic towards the defendant or opposed to the law under which the defendant is charged.
- Jury instructions — a judge’s directions to the jury before it begins deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal rules it must apply.
- Miranda Warnings / Miranda Rights — The Miranda v. Arizona ruling by the United States Supreme Court that requires anyone being questioned by authorities to receive a Miranda warning which must include the following : 1) You have the right to remain silent. 2) If you choose to speak, anything you say can be used against you in court. 3) If you decide to answer any questions, you may stop at any time and all questioning must cease. 4) You have a right to consult with your attorney before answering any questions. You have the right to have your attorney present if you decide to answer any questions, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you or appointed for you by the court without cost to you before any further questions may be asked.
- Misdemeanor – less serious criminal offense, usually punishable by no more than one year in jail.
- Mistrial — an invalid trial caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.
- No Contest Plea – a defendant neither admits nor denies the charges, letting them stand as is.
- Own Recognizance (OR) / Personal Recognizance — allows the defendant to get out of jail, without paying bail, by promising to appear in court when next required to be there.
- Parole – period of community supervision following a period of incarceration in state or federal prison.
- Peremptory challenge — the right to exclude a certain number of prospective jurors without cause or giving a reason.
- Plea agreement – an admission of guilt on the part of the defendant in return for a negotiated sentence.
- Pre-trial diversion or intervention – programs that allow the defendant to attend classes or serve a period of time under the supervision of probation after which the charges against the defendant will be dismissed by the state if successfully completed.
- Probation – a sentencing alternative that allows the defendant to remain in the community under the supervision of the local probation office and the court.
- Search Warrant — an order signed by a judge for probable cause that directs owners of private property to allow the police to enter and search for items named in the warrant.
- Self-incrimination — the making of statements that might expose you to criminal prosecution, either now or in the future.
- Suppress — to forbid the use of evidence at trial because it is improper or was improperly obtained.
- Voir Dire — jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.