Glossary of Terms


A court hearing that establishes the identity of the defendant, the defendant is informed of the charges and of their rights. The defendant is required to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. This is the final preparatory step before the criminal trial. This is the initial appearance of a criminal defendant that takes care of all preliminaries.


Notice to appear in court due to the probable commission of a minor crime. Failure to appear can result in a warrant for the defendant's arrest.


A serious crime that is punishable for at the very minimum a year in prison or the maximum of death.

First Appearance

The first time the defendant comes into court either in person or by an attorney. An attorney may represent the defendant in a misdemeanor case once the notice of appearance is filed. The defendant learns in the arraignment that they have a right to counsel so if the notice of appearance is filed the attorney doesn't even have to show.

Preliminary Hearing

A hearing to determine if an individual charged with a felony should be tried for the felony. This determination is based on whether there is sufficient evidence that this person committed the crime. The preliminary hearing is held at the lowest level court

Probable Cause

Sufficient facts to believe a crime has been committed or that certain property is connected with a crime. Probable cause must exist for a law enforcement officer to make an arrest without a warrant, search without a warrant, or seize property in the belief the items were evidence of a crime.

Warrantless Arrest

An arrest that is made after an individual is detained due to probable cause. No warrant was issued.

Superceding Indictment

Sets aside any previous indictments.

Pretrial Practice

Takes place before the trial. Parties outline the issues to be tried, the evidence to be introduced and discovery procedures.


Proceedings before a judge or judge and jury examining evidence, hear arguments, deciding legal and factual questions to get a final decision.