Criminal Defense Glossary

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Illinois, it is bad enough; the last thing you need to do is make the situation worse because you did not understand some of the confusing legal terms frequently used in criminal law.  Should you make a mistake and wind up with a conviction, you will be facing penalties that may include jail time, fines, penalty assessments and other costs.  You will also have a criminal record that will follow you forever and negatively impact many aspects of your life.

At this sensitive time, you need all the help you can get.   The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., understand the seriousness of your situation and offer aggressive representation for clients facing criminal charges. We know the courts and the criminal justice system, and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take your case to trial.  We offer a free consultation to gather information about your situation and look at all viable defense options.

To help you understand what you are dealing with, we provide the following glossary of commonly used criminal defense legal terms you might hear when you are seeking criminal defense representation:

Criminal Law Glossary

  • Acquit –to be found not guilty in a criminal trial.
  • Affidavit –a written statement of fact that is signed and sworn to before a person who can administer an oath.
  • Allegation –the statement made to the court of the criminal charges that are intended to be proven.
  • Arraignment— a court proceeding during which a judge informs a person of the criminal charges, asks whether the person has an attorney or needs a court-appointed attorney, and asks for a plea of guilty or not guilty.
  • Bail—the amount of money that a person must pay as security in order to get out of jail until future court dates.  This will be returned if the person shows up for the court date.
  • Continuance –when the proceedings in a case are put off to another day or time.
  • Cross-examination –when a witness is questioned by the opposition during a trial or a deposition.
  • Defendant –the person charged with committing a crime.
  • Deposition –testimony that is taken under oath and recorded outside the courtroom.
  • Discovery –the proceedings before a trial where a person is informed about facts known by others which may be used as evidence against the person.
  • Felony – the more serious category of crime that is generally punishable by imprisonment of more than one year. Misdemeanors are less serious and generally punishable by less than one year in prison.
  • Grand Jury— a jury that decides whether there is sufficient evidence to indict a suspect and continue criminal proceedings. The grand jury does not decide whether the person is guilty.
  • Habeas corpus –the requirement for a person to be brought before a judge to make sure the person is not being held or imprisoned without due process. (Latin for “you have the body.”)
  • Indictment— the formal process of charging a person with a crime.
  • Miranda Rights— the suspect’s constitutional right to an attorney and right to remain silent and not self-incriminate. Police must inform suspects of these rights upon arrest or detention or the information obtained is inadmissible in court.
  • Mitigating circumstances –circumstances that do not excuse an offense, but which may be considered as reasons for reducing penalties.
  • Mistrial –a trial that is declared invalid, often because of an error or interruption in the proceedings, or a hung jury.
  • Motions –oral or written requests that are brought before a judge prior to, during, or after a trial.
  • Plea bargain— a negotiated agreement between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor to end the criminal matter.  Often the prosecutor may reduce or drop charges or agree to a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, usually to a lesser offense.
  • Probable cause— having enough information to reasonably believe that a crime has been committed before arresting a suspect, performing a search, or obtaining a warrant.
  • Probation—punishment that allows a person to stay in the community instead of going to jail.  This usually involves conditions that may include regularly reporting to and being supervised by a probation officer, not taking alcohol and drugs and not committing further crimes.
  • Prosecutor— the attorney who represents the federal, state or local government in a case against a criminal defendant.
  • Stipulation –voluntary agreement on a matter by the attorneys and parties on opposite sides of a case. This agreement eliminates having to prove that matter.
  • Subpoena –a court document compelling a witness to appear and give testimony in a proceeding or to obtain evidence.
  • Voir dire –the process by potential jurors are questioned to see if they will be selected to hear evidence in a case. (French for “to speak the truth”)
  • Warrant— a court order allowing some action to be taken, such as arresting a suspect or searching a home or property.

Put Your Trust In Us — Contact Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. for a Free Consultation.

Criminal law is complicated and confusing, and your future is at stake; if you are accused of a crime in Illinois, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can find.  Your case may seem impossible, but with skillful representation you have a chance. Remember, the law places a heavy burden on the government, and you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Illinois criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each case is unique, with its own set of circumstances. We examine the facts, the individuals involved, and the evidence available, and work hand in hand with our clients throughout the criminal process to come up with an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

We are aggressive litigators, and we will work with you to answer all your questions and make sure you fully understand the facts surrounding your case.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

Delaying can only make your situation worse, so call 630-305-0222 today to schedule your free initial consultation.


Attorney Marc Wolfe

Marc Wolfe has been representing clients in criminal matters in Chicago and the entire State of Illinois for over 30 years. Mr. Wolfe has tried over 300 cases to verdict and represents clients facing investigation or prosecution for a broad range of state and federal criminal offenses, including murder, embezzlement, sexual abuse, drugs, marijuana and white collar crimes. [ Attorney Bio ]

Recent Defense Results

After the police broke into our client’s house, we successfully suppressed the evidence and the case was subsequently dismissed.

Drugs, “Class X” Felony, Intent to Distribute

We have tried many aggravated battery and domestic batter cases. Our most recent success was our client was charged with attacking and stabbing the victim in their home. After conducting extensive discovery, interviewing witnesses, and reviewing all the factors contained in the case, we were able to get the cause dismissed.

Aggravated Domestic Battery

We handle numerous first and repeat DUIs and have excellent success in acquittals or reductions of charges with minimum impact for our clients. As members of the NACDL, we have numerous expert witnesses available to rebut the vast resources of the prosecution and receive favorable rulings.

Woodridge Illinois Law Firm

3321 Hobson Road, Suite B
Woodridge, IL 60517
Phone: 630-305-0222

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