Glossary

ABADirect link to this item

American Bar Association

AcquittalDirect link to this item

When an accused criminal defendant is found not guilty at trial.

AdjudicationDirect link to this item

When a court makes an order or judgment in a case.

ArraignmentDirect link to this item

After an arrest is made and charges have been filed by the prosecutor, the defendant is expected to appear in court to have their charges read to them. This is also the time in which they enter their plea and bail is set.

ArrestDirect link to this item

When law enforcement takes an individual into custody upon suspicion of committing a crime or pursuant to a warrant, depriving them of their freedom of movement.

Arrest WarrantDirect link to this item

An arrest warrant is a legal document issued by a judge, a magistrate or, sometimes, a prosecutor, authorizing law enforcement to take an individual into custody for criminal investigation.

Attorney WithdrawalDirect link to this item

An attorney terminates her representation of her client, whether voluntarily or under circumstances that require it.

BailDirect link to this item

Money pledged to the court in return for the release of a defendant from custody, with the understanding that the individual will return to court for trial.

Bench TrialDirect link to this item

In a bench trial there is no jury. The judge makes the determination of guilt and decides on the appropriate sentence or punishment.

BondDirect link to this item

A portion of bail paid by a defendant, or a bail bondsman, or other contractor on his/her behalf. Typically, the defendant must offer a certain percentage of bail in cash and the rest in some form of collateral. The defendant or representative is responsible to pay the remainder of the bail if the defendant fails to appear for his/her court dates.

Bond MotionDirect link to this item

A motion to allow a defendant out on bond or reduce the existing amount.

CaseDirect link to this item

In order to have a standard definition across states, we use a proxy definition of "case" to mean all charges associated with the same defendant and filed (or referred for prosecution, in the case of declinations) on the same date as a single case. We assume that when a prosecutor files multiple charges together, even for different incidents, they intend to resolve these charges at the same time. Since the focus of our Measures is case processing, we believe this approach, while not perfect, is currently the best way to standardize case definition across jurisdictions.

Case DismissalDirect link to this item

When certain criteria are met, a case can be dismissed by a judge or no longer pursued by a prosecutor. This ends the case without a finding of guilt that would have led to a conviction or acquittal.

Case DispositionDirect link to this item

The final judgment or decision by the court that closes the case.

Case FilingDirect link to this item

Criminal proceedings are initiated if and when the prosecutor decides to file a case with the court.

Clearance RateDirect link to this item

Number of crimes "cleared" (solved) divided by the total number of crimes recorded.

ContinuanceDirect link to this item

When the prosecution or defense (or both) request that the proceedings in a criminal case be postponed or continued at a later time.

ConvictionDirect link to this item

A person is found guilty at trial or pleads guilty or "no contest" to the charge.

CountyDirect link to this item

We measure criminal justice performance at the county level because it is usually at this level that charging, disposition, and sentencing decisions are made.

Court-appointed private attorneyDirect link to this item

In lieu of public defenders, some states may contract with private attorneys to provide counsel for defendants unable to afford an attorney on their own.

Criminal ChargesDirect link to this item

A criminal charge is a formal accusation made by a prosecutor or, in some jurisdictions, the police alleging that someone has committed a criminal offense defined by the penal code.

CriminogenicDirect link to this item

Factors likely to cause or predict criminal behavior.

DeclinationDirect link to this item

A case that was referred for prosecution by law enforcement but was not filed in court by prosecutors.

DecriminalizationDirect link to this item

The act of reducing and/or completely removing criminal penalties for certain acts; not to be confused with legalization.

Deferred ProsecutionDirect link to this item

An agreement between the prosecutor and defendant to dismiss a case with concessions made by the defendant. If the defendant breaks the agreement, the prosecutor can refile charges with the defendant's confession.

DiscoveryDirect link to this item

The process through which information and evidence in a case is shared by opposing counsel.

Discretionary ArrestDirect link to this item

Discretionary arrest laws are a classification of warrantless arrest laws that do not mandate an arrest, but rather allow individual police officers to make that decision.

Dispose/DispositionDirect link to this item

An action by a court that closes a case. Examples include conviction, acquittal, dismissal, diversion/deferral.

District AttorneyDirect link to this item

Represents the government in the prosecution of criminal offenses.

Drug CaseDirect link to this item

Cases that involve the alleged possession, use, distribution, or manufacture of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia.

Drug offenseDirect link to this item

Category of crime that involves the use, possession, distribution, or manufacturing of any illegal drug or drug paraphernalia. The full offense crosswalk is available on the NACJD website.

Due ProcessDirect link to this item

The Fifth and Fourteenth amendments each contain a clause preventing the government from "depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or property" without fair and formal treatment under the law; including the laws under which they are prosecuted and the legal proceedings they endure. There should be no arbitrary or unreasonable treatment of a defendant.

Eighth AmendementDirect link to this item

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

ExpunctionDirect link to this item

Sealing, or making unavailable, a criminal record.

Failure to AppearDirect link to this item

Also known as an "FTA," a failure to appear in court is when a defendant doesn't show up for a scheduled court hearing. FTAs can affect the pretrial release status of a defendant since they can lead to the judge issuing a warrant for the defendant's arrest.

FelonyDirect link to this item

Serious offenses punishable by either formal probation or prison or, in a select few crimes, a maximum penalty of death.

Felony CaseDirect link to this item

A case where the most serious filing charge (or referred charge for a declination) was a felony.

Fifth AmendmentDirect link to this item

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Fourteenth AmendmentDirect link to this item

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Gross MisdemeanorDirect link to this item

A class of misdemeanor that is more serious than a regular misdemeanor but less serious than a felony.

Guilty PleaDirect link to this item

A defendant admits guilt to a crime and forfeits their right to trial.

HearingDirect link to this item

Any formal proceeding in court in which evidence is presented and/or arguments are made in favor of a certain outcome on a case.

IncarcerationDirect link to this item

A sentence involving prison or jail confinement.

Index crimeDirect link to this item

The FBI classifies murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, arson, and auto theft as index crimes in its annual crime report because they are considered more serious.

IndigentDirect link to this item

A person is of indigent status if he or she does not have sufficient income to afford an attorney as determined by the courts.

Insufficient CasesDirect link to this item

There were fewer than 30 cases in the pool from which the Measure was to be derived.

Jury TrialDirect link to this item

In a jury trial the jury determines whether there is enough evidence to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge will then decide on the appropriate sentence or punishment.

MisdemeanorDirect link to this item

A minor offense usually punishable by probation or at most one year in county jail.

Misdemeanor caseDirect link to this item

A case where the most serious filing charge (or referred charge if the case was declined) was a misdemeanor.

Missing or UnknownDirect link to this item

Values that were not provided in the original source data, were deemed unreliable during the coding process, or could not be standardized to the common codebook.

Motion to Compel DiscoveryDirect link to this item

Utilized to settle disputes when one party refuses to turn over evidence to opposing counsel; this motion orders them to do so.

Non-custodial referralDirect link to this item

In the situation of an arrest, a notice to appear/citation was given instead of physical detainment.

NonviolentDirect link to this item

Nonviolent offenses are those in which there was no use or threat to use violence. They include property, drug, driving under the influence, public order, criminal traffic, and other offenses.

Other OffenseDirect link to this item

An offense outside of the violent, property, drug, DUI, public order, and criminal traffic categories.

Other attorneyDirect link to this item

A type of representation that does not fall into the other categories (court-appointed private, private, pro-se, public defender).

Per CapitaDirect link to this item

Per person

Permanent attorneyDirect link to this item

Retained or assigned counsel that is expected to remain throughout the case.

Plea BargainDirect link to this item

A negotiation process between the prosecution and the defense by which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for concessions made by the prosecutor, typically including lesser (charge bargaining) or fewer (count bargaining) charges or less severe punishment (sentence bargaining).

Preliminary HearingDirect link to this item

In a preliminary hearing the judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence or probable cause to believe that a felony crime occurred, that it was committed by the defendant, and that the individual should be taken to trial. Misdemeanors do not have preliminary hearings.

Presumptive (citations)Direct link to this item

Some states require the issuance of citations (instead of arrest) when certain factors are present, for example, a misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Presumptive vs. MandatoryDirect link to this item

A mandatory sentence is dictated by state law and leaves no room for judicial discretion, while presumptive sentencing sets a baseline to be considered along with other aggravating or mitigating factors of the case.

Pretrial DetentionDirect link to this item

The court may decide to keep a defendant in jail for the duration of the case. Pretrial detention is often imposed when there is a high risk that the defendant won't show up in court, a high risk that they will hurt themselves or others, or when a very serious offense was committed.

Pretrial DiversionDirect link to this item

Pretrial diversion programs offer eligible defendants a chance to avoid charges, incarceration, or a criminal record, provided the programs are completed. The prosecutor may offer the defendant the opportunity to enroll in such a program before or after charges have been filed in court.

Private attorneyDirect link to this item

A defense attorney retained at the defendant's own expense.

Pro seDirect link to this item

Opting to represent oneself during court proceedings rather than retain an attorney.

Probable CauseDirect link to this item

Probable cause is the legal standard for police to determine whether they can make an arrest or conduct a search. This requires that the police present facts or evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a specific suspect committed the crime.

Property offenseDirect link to this item

Category of crime relating to the theft or destruction of another's property. The full offense crosswalk is available on the NACJD website.

Proxy MeasureDirect link to this item

A variable that is not itself a direct measure of a phenomenon, but operates in place of another, immeasurable variable. It should, however, have a strong correlation, or relationship, with the outcome of interest.

Public DefenderDirect link to this item

A court-appointed attorney for defendants unable to afford legal counsel on their own.

Public Order offenseDirect link to this item

Category of crime that does not require or identify any single victim, but interferes with the social norm or is considered harmful to the community. The full offense crosswalk is available on the NACJD website.

RORDirect link to this item

Released on Recognizance (requiring no payment)

ROR RevocationDirect link to this item

If, at any time, the accused violates the conditions of his/her pre-trial release, the judge can revoke the release and place him/her back in custody.

Rated jail bedsDirect link to this item

Maximum number of beds assigned by a rating official to a facility, excluding separate temporary holding areas. (Minton, T.D. & Z. Zeng (2016). Jail Inmates in 2015. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice, p.2. Retrieved on December 2016).

RecidivismDirect link to this item

Recidivism refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior after they have been sanctioned or received treatment for a previous crime.

Referred ChargeDirect link to this item

A charge recommended for prosecution by law enforcement.

Relative disparityDirect link to this item

Shows the disparity between two groups of defendants using a ratio between their measure values.

Sentence creditsDirect link to this item

Defendants can earn credits, or time, against their sentence for good behavior.

Sixth AmendmentDirect link to this item

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

Split sentence (aka bifurcated sentence, extended supervision)Direct link to this item

Defendants serve part of their sentence in prison or jail confinement, and the remainder on some form of supervised release, such as probation.

Summary ConvictionDirect link to this item

Some minor and petty crimes can receive judgement without a jury trial.

SuretyDirect link to this item

Person who agrees to pay the amount of money specified in a written agreement (surety undertaking) if the accused fails to appear in court. This is sometimes a requirement before a defendant is released on bail.

SuspectDirect link to this item

A suspect is someone who is being investigated by law enforcement in connection with the commission of a crime.

TrialDirect link to this item

A criminal trial is a judicial examination and determination of facts and legal issues arising in a case. The prosecution represents the people and is responsible for presenting evidence proving that the defendant committed the crime. The defense attorney represents the accused. In jury trials, the jury decides whether the evidence proves that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the judge decides on a sentence. In a bench trial, the judge decides both on guilt and punishment.

UCR program (Uniform Crime Reporting)Direct link to this item

The FBI created the Uniform Crime Report in order to meet the need for consistent crime statistics across the country. The UCR is collected and published annually, showing data for city, college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Valid dataDirect link to this item

Values that were provided by the original source data and were capable of being standardized to the common codebook.

Violent offenseDirect link to this item

Category of crime in which force, or the threatened use of force, is used against a victim or their property. The full offense crosswalk is available on the NACJD website.

WaiverDirect link to this item

A waiver is when a party in the case, usually the defendant, voluntarily forgoes or relinquishes a right (e.g., right to a speedy trial).

With or Without PrejudiceDirect link to this item

When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it is permanently dismissed and charges cannot be refiled. A case dismissed without prejudice can be refiled at a later date.

Zero Tolerance PolicingDirect link to this item

Strategy that focuses on the strict, non-discretionary policing of minor crimes with the hope of further reducing more major, violent crimes.