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Court terminology that may pertain to your case

Being charged with a federal crime is one of the most frightening experiences one can have. You are probably already feeling overwhelmed and afraid of what the future may hold.

However, when those legal terms begin to flood the courtroom, it could cause you even more distress. One way to overcome your sense of confusion and regain a feeling of control over what happens to you during this difficult time is to become familiar with those confusing terms.

With that mission in mind, here are a few important terms you will likely hear during your criminal defense proceedings and a brief description of what they mean. Hopefully this will make your journey through the Wisconsin legal system less stressful.

Indictment: This happens when the grand jury states that there is sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

Burden of Proof: This means the prosecution must establish the guilt of the defendant by proving his or her case beyond a reasonable doubt. It supports the justice system's belief that the defendant is innocent until the prosecution proves guilt.

Bench Trial: In a bench trial, no jury is present. Instead, a judge will serve as the sole fact finder.

No Contest: A no contest plea is entered when the defendant neither accepts nor denies the charges.

Exclusionary Rule: This prevents the prosecution from using evidence obtained in a manner that violates the defendant's rights.

Acquittal: This occurs if a judge decides there is insufficient to warrant further legal action.

Appeal: After the trial, defendants can appeal to a higher court to review the case and determine if the verdict was correct.

As you can see, the law is filled with terminology most people do not understand. You should feel comfortable discussing these terms with your criminal defense attorney during any phase of the proceedings.

Source: Dane County District Attorney's Office, "Legal Terms," accessed Oct. 15, 2015

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