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Part 5: Glossary Representing Clients Throughout Virginia

Part 5: Glossary

The list below defines some of the terms not defined elsewhere in this pamphlet, as well as some terms you might hear at the court or during a trial.

  • action, case, cause, suit, lawsuit - These terms all refer to a proceeding in a court of law.
  • acquit - To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.
  • affidavit - A written or printed statement made under oath.
  • answer - formal response made by the defendant, which admits or denies what is claimed by the plaintiff.
  • burden of proof - This term refers to which side is obligated to prove the facts of the case.
  • cause of action - A legal claim.
  • charge - A formal accusation that someone has committed a criminal offense.
  • counterclaim - A claim presented by the defendant in a civil case alleging that the plaintiff owes damages to the defendant.
  • cross-examination - An attorney's questioning of a witness called to testify by the other side in the case.
  • damages - Compensation (usually monetary) awarded to someone who has suffered loss, detriment, or injury to their person, property, or rights.
  • deposition - Sworn testimony taken and recorded outside the courtroom but according to the rules of the court.
  • evidence - Any form of proof legally presented at a trial, including records, documents, photographs, and testimony of witnesses.
  • exhibit - A paper, document, or other physical object presented to the court as evidence during a trial.
  • hearsay - Statements made out of court by someone other than the person testifying in court, which are offered to prove a matter in court.
  • impeachment of a witness - An attempt to show that the testimony of a witness is not truthful, accurate, or reliable.
  • inadmissible - Material or information that cannot be admitted or received as evidence under established rules of evidence.
  • indictment - A written accusation by a grand jury charging someone with committing a crime.
  • leading question - A question that suggests to a witness the answer the attorney wants to hear.
  • litigant - An individual who brings or defends a lawsuit.
  • motion - A request made by an attorney for a ruling or an order by a judge on a particular issue.
  • perjury - Lying under oath, which is a criminal offense.
  • plea - Defendants' statements of "guilty" or "not guilty" to criminal charges made against them.
  • pleadings - Formal, written allegations by both sides of their claims.
  • polling the jury - Asking jurors individually after the verdict has been read whether they agree with the verdict.
  • rebuttal - The introduction of contradicting or opposing evidence.
  • search warrant - A written order issued by a judge or magistrate, directing a law enforcement officer to search a specific location for specific things or individuals.
  • stipulation - An agreement by the attorneys that certain facts are true. Facts that have been stipulated do not need to be proven in the trial.
  • testimony - Any statement made by a witness under oath.
  • tort - An injury or wrong committed to someone else's person or property for which an injured party is requesting damages.

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