Legal words - Criminal trials

Accused
The person who has been charged with a criminal offence.

Adjournment
When your court matter is put off to another date, usually so you can get legal advice, but there might be other reasons.

Alibi
Details about where you were and who you were with at a certain time if you are saying that you were not there when the offence was committed.

For example: I was not at [location of alleged incident] on [date of incident]. I was with [name and contact details of the person you were with] at [details of where you were].

Case theory
A brief summary of your case and your version of what happened. For example: 'I thought the other personwas going to seriously hurt me, so I punched them in self-defence.'

Cross-examination
When you question the other side’s witness about the evidence they have just given.

Defence
A legal reason for being 'not guilty' of an offence, even though you may have committed the actions that the prosecution have alleged. For example: you may have been acting in self-defence when you assaulted someone.

Disclosure
The information police have about your case. This includes written statements, video records of interview and other evidence the prosecutor will be using at trial.

Duty lawyer
Duty lawyers attend Magistrates Courts and Children’s Courts to advise and represent people who are facing criminal charges in those courts. The role of the duty lawyer is limited, and they CANNOT represent you at trial.

Either-way offences
Types of serious offences that can be dealt with either by a magistrate in the Magistrates Court or a judge in the District or Supreme Court.

Evidence
Anything presented in court to prove a fact. It can be spoken evidence from a witness, a document, an object, or recording.

Examination in chief
The questions that a person asks their own witness.

Exhibits
Physical objects that will be shown in court as part of the evidence to prove the case. They may include documents, photographs, maps and other objects.

Indictable offences
The most serious types of offences that can only be dealt with by a Judge in the District or Supreme Court.

Interpreter
A person who translates what is being said orally from one language to another. Only an accredited interpreter can be used in court.

Magistrate
The person who considers all the evidence, applies rules of law to ensure that the court process is fair for everyone involved, and decides whether you are guilty or not guilty.

Opening address
Before evidence is called at trial, the accused and the prosecutor can make comments to the Magistrate about the case. Often there are no opening addresses in Magistrates Court trials.

Plea in mitigation
What an accused (or their lawyer) says to the Magistrate about the circumstances of the offence and the personal circumstances of the accused before the Magistrate hands down the sentence.

Prosecution notice
The formal document that contains details of the offence/s that the accused is alleged to have committed. It starts the case against the accused.

Prosecutor
The police officer or lawyer or other person who presents the case against an accused person.

Re-examination
The questions that a person asks their own witness, after they have been cross-examined, if the evidence they gave needs to be clarified.

Simple/summary offence
A simple or summary offence is a less serious offence that can only be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.

Spent conviction order
An order that a criminal conviction be 'spent' so that, generally, you do not have to tell anyone about it. It will often help you with employment, travel and finances.

Statement of material facts
A summary of the prosecution’s version of the facts in support of the allegations against you.

Trial date
The date when your trial is scheduled to take place where the prosecution must prove the charge against you. You bring all your witnesses to court as well as any other evidence you wish to rely on. The Magistrate will hear all the evidence and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.

Video Record of Interview
An interview or series of questions and answers between an accused person and another person, usually the arresting officer involved in the case. It is videotaped and often played in court during a trial.

Witness
A person who gives evidence in court after swearing an oath or affirmation to tell the truth. Witnesses are usually ordered to leave the court when the trial starts. They then come into court when they are called to give evidence.

Witness statement
A written version of the evidence a witness intends to give in court.

Witness summons
An order from the court requiring a witness to attend a trial to give evidence and/or produce documents (or other things).
 

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The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.