Glossary – CJS 101


Adultery – voluntary sexual relations between someone who is married and someone other than her/his spouse

Anarchy – a society without law

Appellate Courts – courts which hear only cases appealed from lower courts and whose rulings are binding on those lower courts

Antitrust Law – rules intended to prevent monopolistic behavior designed to reduce competition and increase profits

Assault - an unlawful physical attack upon another, or an attempt or offer to do violence upon another

Battery - an unlawful attack upon another person by beating or wounding, or by touching in an offensive manner

Bench Trial – a trial with no jury in which a judge determines guilt or innocence as well as any penalty

Bigamy – being married to two spouses at the same time

Blasphemy – the crime of ridiculing and defaming Christianity

Buggery – having sexual relations with non-human species or sodomy

Burglary – breaking into a building with intent to steal

Capital Crime – one subject to the death penalty

Civil Law – the body of law regulating ordinary private matters

Codification – reducing unwritten rules or customs to writing

Common Law – unwritten law deriving from custom and/or from court rulings

Crackdown – a short burst of intensive law enforcement directed at a particular area or crime

Defamation – attacking the good name or reputation of another by maliciously or falsely making injurious statements

Deterrence – structuring criminal penalties in the hope of discouraging criminal activity. General deterrence tries to discourage crimes by those who have not yet committed this offense while specific deterrence tries to discourage those who have already committed the offense from reoffending

Discovery – the disclosure of evidence in one side’s possession to the other side prior to a trial or legal action

Due Process – the administration of the law so as to guarantee certain rights to those accused of breaking the law

Embezzlement – to appropriate improperly money or property belonging to another but entrusted to one’s care

Exclusionary Rule - the policy that evidence obtained illegally by the state (usually by the police) may not be used by the prosecution in a trial

Extortion – to obtain money or something else of value by violence, threat, intimidation or abuse of authority

Felony – a serious crime, usually punishable by a year or more in prison

Forensic Science – branches of natural science applicable to issues of civil or criminal law

Fornication – consensual sexual activity between partners who are not married to each other

Fraud – deceit, trickery or breach of confidence for the purpose of profit or to gain something else of value

Grand Jury – a group of lay persons tasked with inquiring into alleged violations of the law to see if a trial is warranted

Habeas Corpus (writ of) – an order requiring a person to be brought before a judge or court especially for investigation of a person’s imprisonment

Heresy – opinion or doctrine that contradicts orthodox or accepted opinion or doctrine, especially relating to religious doctrine

Incapacitation – the prevention of crime by making criminals physically unable to commit crimes, for example because they are in jail

Incarceration - imprisonment or confinement

Indictment – a formal accusation used as a means to bring an alleged criminal to trial

Inquisitorial System – a system of trial in which the same person or persons acts as prosecutor and judge

Jury – a group of lay persons tasked with deciding the outcome of a trial

Larceny – the improper taking of the personal goods of another from their possession with the intent of making them one’s own

Libel – writing or publishing words that maliciously or damagingly misrepresent something about another person or persons

Magistrate – a civil officer charged with the administration of the law

Misdemeanor – a crime less serious than a felony, usually punishable by less than a year in prison

Myth - An unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution

Negligence - the failure to exercise that degree of care that, in the circumstances, the law requires for the protection of other persons or those interests of other persons that may be injuriously affected

Parole – the conditional supervised release of someone from prison before they have fully served their term

Plea Bargain (Plea Agreement) – an agreement between a defendant and prosecutor by which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in order to avoid the risk of a trial or as part of an agreement to testify as a witness

Police - an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crime, and enforcing the laws

Ponzi Scheme – a swindle in which earlier investors are paid with the money of later investors

Probation – allowing a criminal to avoid prison by accepting certain conditions including supervision

Sheriff - the law enforcement officer of a county or other civil subdivision of a state

Social Construct - a phenomenon or institution, natural or not, whose interpretation depends on the culture, values and mores of a given society

Sodomy – anal or oral copulation with a member of the opposite sex or copulation with a member of the same sex

Statute – a law passed by a legislative body and embodied in a document

Vagrancy – being idle without visible means of support, wandering idly

Victimless Crime – a legal offense in which all participating parties are competent adults and have consented to participate