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The Legal Terminology You Can Expect To Hear In Court

Going to court can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re a first-timer. The courtroom is full of legal jargon, and if you don’t know what people are saying it can make it that much more stressful. It’s important that you can keep up with everything as it happens, whether it’s a conversation between you and your lawyer, your lawyer and the judge, or the opposing counsel and the judge. Here are some commonly confused terms you should know:

  • Defendant vs. Plaintiff

Many aspects of a legal proceeding vary on a case-by-case basis, but one thing you can be sure of is that there will always be a plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff is the person (or business) who brings the case to court. In other words, they file the complaint. The defendant is defending themselves against the plaintiff. They are the ones being charged.

  • Discovery vs. Deposition

Discovery refers to the time before the trial where both sides work to prepare for the trial by obtaining evidence. Depositions also occur pretrial, typically as part of the discovery period. It is an out-of-court oral testimony that either the plaintiff or defendant gives under oath. It allows both sides to get a better understanding of what is going to happen during the trial.

  • Felony vs. Misdemeanor

These are two very common terms in a criminal courtroom, and your attorney will likely use them before the trial as well. Both terms refer to the severity of a crime. A felony is a more serious offense that carries a harsher punishment, and typically involves more than one year of jail time (think: arson, assault, and fraud). A misdemeanor is a less severe offense that is punishable by less than a year in prison and/or a fine. Misdemeanors include DUIs or perjury. You’ll likely hear these words during sentencing and, depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may fight to have your charges decreased as part of your representation. 

  • Direct Examination vs. Cross-Examination

Direct examination is when a witness is on the stand testifying and answering questions from the party who called them to the stand, for example, the plaintiff’s counsel questioning the plaintiff directly. The cross-examination then happens, which is when the other side has the chance to ask the witness question (this would be the defendant’s counsel questioning the plaintiff). 

  • Objection vs. Sustained

These terms are used during the examination of witnesses. An attorney will say “objection” if they have an issue with the question the opposing side is asking. In turn, the judge will either sustain or overrule that objection. If sustained, the attorney must rephrase or ask a different question. If overruled, the judge disagrees with the objection and the attorney can continue their line of questioning.

Of course, your lawyer should be there every step of the way to help. Contact us today.

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