Common Terms

Common Terms You May Need To Know

90 Day Shock Probation

 See “Reconsideration of felon’s sentence”


 To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial.


 A verdict in a criminal case by a judge or jury that determines the defendant is not guilty.


A judicial proceeding in which a higher court is asked to review the decision of a lower court

To see if any mistakes were made by the trail judge.


 A judicial proceeding in which a person is formally accused of a crime.


Money or property required by a judge to be paid or pledged to the court by the defendant or his representative to insure the defendant will appear for trial

Bail Bondsman

 A person who makes a living by paying or pledging a bail in the amount the defendant must post with the court. The bail bondsman must have sufficient collateral to pay the bail if the defendant does not appear in court on the scheduled court date.


The entry into a residence, building, etc., with the intent to commit a crime. Burglary may be one of three types: forcible entry, attempted forcible entry, or unlawful entry. Unlawful entry refers to persons without the legal right to be on the property and who have gained entry even though force was not used.


The substitution of a lesser punishment than the punishment imposed by the courts. Commutation affirms the verdict rendered by the jury, but the Governor has the authority to “commute” or modify the sentence to a lesser punishment.


When an offender with more than one sentence is ordered to serve the sentences at the same time. For example, if an offender is given a 3-year sentence for one offense and a 6- year sentence for another offense, and is to serve them concurrently, the offender would serve the longer of the two sentences, or 6 years.


When an offender with more than one sentence is ordered to serve the sentences one after the other.  For example, if an offender is given a 3-year sentence for one offense and a 6-year sentence for another offense, and is to serve them consecutively, the offender would serve a sentence of 9 years.

Contempt of Court

A willful failure to obey a court order or the show of disrespect or unacceptable behavior in the presence of the court. The court has the power to punish a person found guilty of contempt.


When a case is rescheduled to a future date.


Finding a defendant guilty of a criminal charge.


An official who inquires and reports on the cause of death when there is reason to believe the death may not be from natural causes.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Being aware of the danger of killing another, and of being negligent in preventing the death, but not intentionally killing another.

Cross Examination

Refers to the questions that the prosecuting attorney and defense attorney ask of witnesses on the opposing side of the case.


The person charged with committing a crime.

Defense Attorney

The attorney representing the defendant. May be from the Public Defender’s Office if defendant cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

Direct Examination

Refers to the questions the prosecuting attorneys or the defense attorney directs to their own witnesses.

Discharge A Sentence

Completed sentence for a specific crime with Department of Corrections.


A decision by the judge to end the prosecution of a case without deciding the guilt or innocence of the defendant.


A schedule of cases awaiting court action on a given day, week, or month.

Due Process

A provision in the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing an accused person a fair and impartial trail.


Any form of proof legally presented at the trail through witnesses, records, documents, etc.


First offenders are sometimes eligible for a type of probation, which, when successfully completed, has the effect of “erasing” the records of that particular criminal offense. The record is expunged, or erased from public access. However, law enforcement officials do have access to the information.


Evidence based on what the witness has heard someone say, but not personally experienced.


A document, which formally accuses a person of a crime, usually a felony. An indictment must state who committed the crime, what crime was committed, approximately when it was committed, and where it was committed.

Leading Question

A question that suggests to the witness how to answer or suggests the answer desired. Such questions are prohibited on direct examination.


A legal contest in court.


The killing without legal justification of one human being by another without the intent to do injury.


A crime less serious than a felony. A crime for which the maximum sentence is less than one year.


An invalid trial, a trial declared defective and void.


The willful and unlawful killing of one human being by another.


A statement by the prosecuting or defense attorney taking exception to testimony or the admission of evidence.


When an attorney raises an objection, the court may either “sustain” or “overrule” the objection raised. If overruled, the testimony or evidence will be admitted for he jury’s consideration.


The discretionary release of an inmate to the community by the Board of Paroles prior to the expiration of the inmate’s prison term. Parole is a privilege and not a right.

Personal Recognizance

A promise by a person to return to court. The person is released without posting any bail, based on their character and their promise to return to court.


The making of false statements under oath – a criminal offense.

Plea Bargaining

A process in which the prosecutor and defense attorney, and sometimes the judge, reach an agreement whereby the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser number of crimes, or less serious crimes, than charged. In return, the defendant may receive a reduction in sentence. If a plea bargain is reached, and the judge accepts the plea bargain, a trial is not held. Plea-bargaining occurs in the vast majority of criminal cases.


An instrument used to detect false or misleading statements, or lies. This test is sometimes used as an investigative tool by the police.

Preliminary Hearing

A court procedure where a prosecutor must establish that a crime was committed and evidence that the defendant committed the crime. The judge then determines if there is enough evidence to require the defendant to stand trial.


A sentence that is served in the community rather than prison. The offender is under the supervision of a probation officer.

Probable Cause

A reasonable belief that a crime has been, or is being committed. It is the basis for all lawful searches and arrests.


The attorney who represents the federal government, the state, or the county in a criminal case. The prosecutor does not represent the victim; the victim is considered a witness in the case.

Public Defender

A lawyer employed by the state to represent defendants who cannot afford a private attorney.


Unlawful sexual penetration, accompanied by circumstances such as force, coercion, lack of consent of the victim, fraud, mental incapacitation or physical helplessness on the part of the victim.

Reconsideration of felon’s sentence

Iowa Code 902.4—For a period of one year from the date when a person convicted of a  felony, other than a class “A” felony(which the defendant receives a life sentence) or a felony for which a minimum sentence of confinement is imposed, begins to serve a sentence of confinement, the court, on its own motion or on the recommendation of the director of Iowa department of corrections, may order the person to be returned to the court, at which time the court may review it previous action and reaffirm it to substitute for it any sentence permitted by law. The felon may be released to community on probation for the duration of the sentence and the release may occur after the felon has served 90 days in prison.


A process by which a person convicted of a crime is required to compensate the victim or community for losses suffered as a result of the crime.


The taking of property from a person by force or violence, or by the threat of force or violence.

Sexual Assault

A category of crime including rape, in which a person forces another to commit a sex act.


A court order requiring a person to appear in court.

Suspended Sentence

A court sentence that allows the defendant to be placed on probation instead of serving jail time, as long as he or she does not violate certain terms.


Court’s ruling in favor of an objection. If an objection is sustained during a trial, the evidence or conduct objected to will not be admitted for the jury’s consideration.


Any statement made by a witness under oath in legal proceeding.

Theft of property

Formerly referred to as larceny. The taking of the property of another, usually not by force.


The geographic area from which a jury is gathered and which the trail is held. This typically is in the city or county where the crime occurred.


Formal decision on guilt or innocence made by a jury, read before the court and accepted by the judge.


The person against whom a crime is alleged to have been committed.

Victim Compensation

Financial assistance paid to the victim for expenses incurred as a result of criminal injury and conduct. Victims do not receive compensation for property crimes.

Victim Impact Statement

A report from the victim to a sentencing judge, the Department of Corrections, or the Parole Board, stating the effect the victimization has had one the victim’s life and what the victim feels the punishment should be.

Victim/Witness Coordinator

A specialized unit usually within the prosecutor’s office, which provides services to crime victims and witnesses.


A judicial order authorizing a law enforcement official to conduct a search, seizure or arrest.


A person who testifies before a court under oath regarding what had been seen, heard, or otherwise observed.

Printed from the website on October 17, 2018 at 4:16am.