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  • Criminal and civil law glossary of common legal terms.


Common Legal Terms

Note: Totally capitalized words are defined elsewhere in the glossary.

Criminal Law Glossary


ACCESSORY: Someone who helps or encourages another person to commit a crime. An accessory is considered guilty of the same crime as the person the accessory helps or encourages.

ACQUITTAL: A decision that the DEFENDANT is not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

ADJUDICATORY HEARING: A hearing in a DELINQUENCY prosecution in which the CHILDREN'S COURT decides whether the CHILD is delinquent.

ADMINISTRATIVE SEARCH WARRANT: A WARRANT directing an administrative agency to search the records or premises of a business the agency oversees.

ADVISEMENT: A JUDGMENT, used mainly in the METROPOLITAN, MAGISTRATE, and MUNICIPAL COURTS, by which after CONVICTION, no sentence is imposed and often no judgment of conviction is entered, sometimes on condition of PROBATION. The only mention of it in the STATUTES occurs in a few instances where advisement is specifically forbidden.

ALFORD PLEA: See "Plea."

ALIBI: See "Defenses: (1) Alibi."

ALLOCUTION: The right of a CONVICTED DEFENDANT to address the judge before being sentenced, or the JURY in the sentencing phase of a CAPITAL case.

ALTERNATIVE CHARGE: A charge that the DEFENDANT committed one offense or another, or that the defendant committed an offense in any of several ways.

APPEAL: A procedure by which a case is transferred from one court to another court (the appellate court) either to review the legality of rulings made by the original court or for a new trial (TRIAL DE NOVO). Appeals from district court are to the New Mexico Supreme Court if a life sentence was or may be imposed. Other appeals from district court are to the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Appeals to the New Mexico Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are for review of the legality of rulings only. Appeals from the MUNICIPAL COURT, MAGISTRATE COURT, or METROPOLITAN COURT are to the district court, and in criminal cases, are for TRIAL DE NOVO, except for DWI and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE cases from METROPOLITAN COURT.

ARGUMENT: An effort to persuade the judge or JURY by discourse. See "Legal argument," "Jury argument."

ARRAIGNMENT: A hearing at which the DEFENDANT is told the charges and enters an initial PLEA to the charges. This is usually the FIRST APPEARANCE in the court with jurisdiction over the charges. Generally, CONDITIONS OF RELEASE are reviewed or set at the same time. Cf. "Bond arraignment."

ARREST WARRANT: A WARRANT directing a law enforcement officer to arrest someone and bring the person before the court to answer charges. It is issued by a judge or MAGISTRATE, only after being presented either with an INDICTMENT, or with an affidavit showing probable cause to believe that the person committed a crime.

CUSTODY on criminal charges by commissioned law enforcement personnel - usually municipal police, county sheriff's deputies, or state police.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: A person elected statewide to be a law enforcement officer and, with assistants, to help prosecute crimes within the state courts and to represent the state, counties and cities in criminal APPEALS.


BAILIFF: A court official in charge of keeping order and custody and care of the JURY.

BENCH TRIAL: A trial in which the judge hears the EVIDENCE without a PETIT JURY and decides the VERDICT. In FELONY trials or MISDEMEANOR trials in which the sentence might be more than six months in jail, both the prosecutor and the defendant must agree to a bench trial if one is to be held. Cf. "Jury waiver." In MISDEMEANOR trials in which the sentence might be between ninety days and six months, the defendant may demand a jury trial. Cf. "Jury demand." If the sentence cannot be more than six months and no jury demand is made, a bench trial is held.

BENCH WARRANT: A WARRANT to ARREST someone for failing to follow a previous court order.

BILL OF PARTICULARS: See "Statement of Facts/Bill of Particulars."

BIND OVER: (1) The process by which a district court imposes CONDITIONS OF RELEASE to appear for trial on FELONY charges, or by which a MAGISTRATE COURT or METROPOLITAN COURT transfers FELONY CHARGES to district court for trial. (2) See "Transfer Hearing" with regard to DELINQUENCY proceedings.

BITCH: See "Habitual offender."

BOND ARRAIGNMENT: See "First appearance."

BOOKING: The jail record that someone is being taken into custody for holding at a jail.

BRADY MATERIAL: Information the prosecutor possesses that would help the DEFENDANT to defend against the charges. The prosecutor has to supply this information to the defendant.


CAPITAL FELONY: A Felony for which capital punishment is authorized.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: A death sentence.

CASH BOND: See "Conditions of release."

CEASE AND DESIST ORDERS: An order of an administrative agency or court prohibiting a person or business from continuing a course of conduct.

CERTIORARI: The title of a WRIT directing a lower court to transfer the records of a case for review. It is the writ used by the New Mexico Supreme Court when it agrees to review a decision of the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

CHILD: Someone less than 18 years old.

CHILDREN'S COURT: A division of the district court which has jurisdiction over many matters relating to children, including allegations that a CHILD is a DELINQUENT CHILD, one in need of supervision, neglected or abused.

CITATION: An order issued by law enforcement officers to appear before a MAGISTRATE, or judge at a later date to answer minor criminal charges, usually of violating traffic or municipal ORDINANCES.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS: See "Jury arguments."

CO-DEFENDANTS: People accused of crimes in the same case.

COMMITMENT: A court order directing officials to take someone and confine him in a penal or mental health facility.

COMPETENCY: (1)Mental capacity of a DEFENDANT to understand the nature and object of the prosecution, consult with a lawyer, and assist in preparing a defense. A defendant who is incompetent cannot be tried. This is not the same as INSANITY. Cf. "Defenses: (2) Insanity;" "Defenses: (3) Incapacity to form specific intent;" "Pleas: Guilty but mentally ill."

(2) The qualification of a person to be a WITNESS.

COMPLAINT: A document charging the DEFENDANT with a crime, consisting of a sworn written statement of the facts, the common name of the offense, and the section number of the STATUTES defining the offense. Cf. "Information;" "Indictment;" "Citation."

CONDITIONS OF RELEASE: The conditions under which someone who is charged with a crime may be released from CUSTODY pending resolution of the charges. The normal types are:

(1) Release on own recognizance (ROR) - release on a promise to return to court when necessary and to comply with any other conditions set;

(2) Third party custody - release on the promise of someone other than the DEFENDANT to return the defendant to court when necessary and to assure compliance with any other conditions set;

(3) Unsecured appearance bond - a promise to return to court when necessary and to comply with any other conditions set or be liable for a money judgment in the amount of the bond;

(4) Cash bond - a promise to return to court when necessary and comply with any other conditions set or forfeit a sum of money which has to be deposited with the COURT CLERK before release. If the defendant always appears and complies, the money is returned;

(5) Percent bond - a promise to return to court when necessary and comply with any other conditions set or be liable for a money judgment in the amount of the bond, a specified percent of which (usually 10%) has to be deposited with the COURT CLERK before release. If the defendant always appears and complies, the money is returned;

(6) Property bond - a promise to return to court when necessary and comply with any other conditions set or be liable for a money judgment in the amount of the bond, secured by a lien on specific property granted to the court. If the defendant always appears and complies, the lien is dissolved; and

(7) Surety bond - a promise of a paid professional bondsman to return the defendant to court when necessary and assure compliance with any other conditions set or be liable for a money judgment in the amount of the bond.

CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT (CI): A person who has furnished information on a possible crime to a law enforcement officer, but whose identity the government wishes to keep secret. There are special rules determining when the identity of a confidential informant must be given to the DEFENDANT.

CONSTITUTION: The supreme written law of the federal government or of the state.

CONTEMPT: Misbehavior which hinders the court from administering justice or disobedience to a court order.

CONVICTION: A decision that the DEFENDANT is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

COUNT: A portion of a COMPLAINT, INFORMATION or INDICTMENT which charges a separate offense.

COURT CLERK: A person employed by the court to keep and index the records of the court and to issue PROCESS from the court at appropriate times.

COURT OF RECORD: A court in which an official transcript of verbal proceedings is made.

COURT REPORTER/MONITOR: A person certified to make an official transcript of the proceedings (reporter) or to make an official tape-recording of the proceedings (monitor).

CROSS-EXAMINATION: The initial EXAMINATION OF A WITNESS by a PARTY which did not call the witness to the stand.

CUSTODY: A "deprivation of liberty" by law enforcement agents. Not necessarily a full ARREST.


"D" HEARING: See "Detention hearing."

DEFENDANT: A person accused of a crime.

DEFENSES: (1) Alibi: A claim that the DEFENDANT was in a place where the defendant could not have committed the crime. If the prosecutor files a written demand for it, then before the trial the defendant must file a written notice that he/she will claim alibi.(2)Insanity: A condition which renders the DEFENDANT not criminally responsible for otherwise criminal acts because the defendant has a mental disease which caused him/her to (a) not know what he/she was doing or understand the consequences of his/her act, (b) not know that his/her act was wrong, or (c) not be able to refrain from committing the act. A notice that the defendant is claiming insanity at the time of the offense must normally be given before trial.(3)Incapacity to form specific intent: A claim that, under the circumstances, the DEFENDANT was not capable of forming the particular intentions required for the defendant's acts to be a crime. A notice that the defendant is claiming incapacity to form specific intent must normally be given before the trial.Cf. "Competency;" "Plea: Guilty but mentally ill."

DELINQUENT CHILD: A CHILD other than a SERIOUS YOUTHFUL OFFENDER who has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult.

DELINQUENT OFFENDER: A Delinquent Child who is subject to juvenile sanctions only and who is not a Youthful Offender or a Serious Youthful Offender.

DEPOSITION: Testimony responding to questions, taken under OATH and recorded in preparation for a hearing or TRIAL. Depositions are usually not filed in court unless introduced into EVIDENCE as EXHIBITS.

DETAINER: A request filed by a criminal justice agency with the institution in which the prisoner is incarcerated, asking the institution either to hold the prisoner for the agency or to notify the agency when release of the prisoner is imminent. Detainers generally are based on outstanding criminal charges, outstanding PAROLE or PROBATION-violation charges, or additional sentences already imposed against the prisoner. Under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers, a prisoner on whom an out-of-state detainer has been filed based on outstanding criminal charges may demand transportation and TRIAL on the out-of-state charges within 180 days after the demand, subject to extension if there is good reason for one.

DETENTION HEARING/"D" HEARING: A hearing in a DELINQUENCY prosecution in which the court decides on CONDITIONS OF RELEASE for the CHILD accused of being delinquent.

DIRECT EXAMINATION: The initial EXAMINATION OF A WITNESS by the PARTY which called the witness to the stand.

DISCOVERY: The process by which the prosecutor and DEFENDANT exchange information they have about the case before TRIAL.

DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE: A dismissal of charges with an order that they may not be refiled. 

DISMISSAL WITHOUT PREJUDICE: A dismissal of charges without ordering that they may be refiled.
DISPOSITIONAL HEARING: A hearing in a DELINQUENCY prosecution in which the court decides what to do with a delinquent CHILD.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: A person elected in a judicial district to be a law enforcement officer and, with assistants, to be in charge of prosecuting crimes against state or local laws in state courts within the district on behalf of the state and the counties within the district.

DOCKET: A list of the cases to be heard by a judge or by the court.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: An assault or battery against a spouse, former spouse, other relative, child, co-parent, or person with whom the DEFENDANT has had a continuing personal relationship. Cohabitation is not necessary for the violence to be domestic for this purpose.


EVIDENCE: Testimony, documents or objects presented to the judge or JURY to prove the facts of the case.

EX PARTE: A communication between the judge and either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer which the other lawyer is not present at or told about at the same time. Ex parte communications are permitted only in limited circumstances.

EXAMINATION OF A WITNESS: Asking the WITNESS questions. See "Direct examination;" "Cross-examination;" "Redirect Examination;" "Re-cross-Examination."

EXCUSAL OF A JUDGE: The process by which each DEFENDANT or the prosecutor may require the court to replace the judge in the case one time without giving any reason by filing a proper document called an "election to excuse" or "provisional election to excuse" within a short time after the judge enters the case. A new judge is then appointed for the case. Cf. "Recusal."

EXHIBIT: A document or object introduced or offered into EVIDENCE.

EXPERT WITNESS: A WITNESS allowed to give the witness's opinion on certain matters because specialized training or experience makes the witness's opinion potentially helpful. Normally, witnesses are allowed to testify only to what they themselves have seen, heard or observed, but are not allowed to give their opinions on what it means.

EXTRADITION: The process by which a person is ARRESTED and transferred to another state where the person faces criminal charges.


FELONY: A crime for which the sentence can be a year or more in prison or death, or which the STATUTES call a felony.

FIRST APPEARANCE: The first hearing at which the DEFENDANT appears in a court. For MISDEMEANORS, the ARRAIGNMENT will normally occur at this hearing. For FELONIES, a "BOND ARRAIGNMENT" will be held, which is not really an arraignment, but at which the defendant will be told the charges and at which CONDITIONS OF RELEASE will be reviewed or set.

FOUNDATION: Preliminary EVIDENCE establishing that further evidence is admissible.

FUGITIVE: (1) For EXTRADITION purposes, someone who is charged with a crime in one of the states and has left the state. (2) For PROBATION purposes, someone on probation on whom a BENCH WARRANT cannot be served.


GAG ORDER: An order of the court directing the attorneys and WITNESSES not to discuss the case with the news media or others, in order to assure a fair TRIAL.

GOOD TIME CREDIT: An allowance of credit toward a sentence for good behavior while in the jail or prison. Prisoners may earn up to 2/3 off their sentences in the local jails, and 1/2 off their sentences for good time.


HABEAS CORPUS: The title of a WRIT directing an official holding someone in custody to bring the person before the judge and explain why the person is being held.

HABITUAL OFFENDER: The status of someone found to have been CONVICTED of a FELONY committed after previous convictions for felonies. The sentence of such a person is increased, and service of the increased part is mandatory. Such a sentence is sometimes called a "bitch."

HEARSAY: Generally, a statement made by someone else or by the WITNESS at another time, offered into EVIDENCE to prove the truth of the statement. A few things which the witness previously said or which the defendant said are not hearsay. As a rule, hearsay is not admissible into evidence. There are specified exceptions to this rule, however.

HUNG JURY: A PETIT JURY which cannot reach a unanimous VERDICT. It results in a MISTRIAL.


IMMUNITY: A guarantee that someone will not be prosecuted for a crime, or that the person's TESTIMONY or EVIDENCE which results from the person's testimony will not be used in a prosecution against the person. See "Use Immunity;" "Transactional Immunity."

IMPEACHMENT OF A WITNESS: The process of trying to produce EVIDENCE that a WITNESS is unreliable.

INCAPACITY TO FORM SPECIFIC INTENT: See "Defenses: (3) Incapacity to form specific intent."

INDICTMENT: A written statement returned by a GRAND JURY and signed by the foreman, containing the essential facts constituting the offense, common name of the offense, the section number of the STATUTES defining the offense, and the names of the WITNESSES upon whose testimony the indictment is based.

INFORMATION: A document charging the DEFENDANT with a crime, consisting of a written statement, signed by the district attorney, containing the essential facts, common name of the offense, the section number of the STATUTES defining the offense, and the names of the WITNESSES on whose testimony the information is based. Cf. "Complaint;" "Indictment;" "Citation."

INSANITY: See "Defenses: (2) Insanity."

INSTRUCTION: A statement made by the judge to the JURY telling them the law they must apply to the case in reaching their VERDICT.

INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL: An APPEAL taken immediately from an order entered before the final JUDGMENT in the case. The allowance of interlocutory appeals must be approved by both the district judge and by the appellate court. They are not available from METROPOLITAN, MAGISTRATE, or MUNICIPAL COURTS.


JOINDER:(1) Of offenses: The combining of two or more charges against someone into one prosecution or TRIAL.

(2) Of defendants: The combining of charges against two or more people into one prosecution or TRIAL. Cf. "Severance."
JUDGMENT: The final and formal decision of the court on the issue of ACQUITTAL or CONVICTION.

JURISDICTION: The legal right by which judges exercise their authority.

JUROR, ALTERNATE: An extra PETIT JUROR who hears the evidence with the other jurors, but does not help decide the VERDICT with them unless one of the others has to be excused. The alternate jurors are not told which ones they are until the jury is sent to decide the verdict.

JURY: A group of people selected from among the citizens of a district to decide questions in court. Usually refers to a PETIT JURY.

JURY ARGUMENTS: Arguments addressed to the JURY on what their VERDICT should be, following the presentation of EVIDENCE by the PARTIES and INSTRUCTIONS by the judge. Generally the prosecutor is allowed to make the first OPENING ARGUMENT, followed by the DEFENDANT's argument, followed by the prosecutor's REBUTTAL ARGUMENT. Also called "Closing arguments."

JURY DEMAND: An official request for a JURY TRIAL.

JURY FOREMAN: A JUROR selected by the jury to preside over their deliberations and speak for them in court.

JURY PANEL: A group of potential JURORS, drawn at random from the JURY WHEEL of the district, who will be questioned by the judge and/or, for PETIT JURIES, by the lawyers, and from which the final GRAND JURORS or PETIT JURORS will be chosen.

JURY POLL: The act of asking the PETIT JURY whether their verdict is unanimous. The jury may be asked either individually or collectively. Either the prosecutor or the DEFENDANT may ask to have the jury polled by the judge.

JURY TRIAL: A TRIAL in which a PETIT JURY hears the EVIDENCE and decides the VERDICT.

JURY WAIVER: A written agreement that a BENCH TRIAL may be held.

JURY WHEEL: A group of names of citizens of the district from which the JURY PANELS or the GRAND or PETIT JURY will be chosen at random.


LEADING QUESTION: A question which suggests the answer desired. Usually a PARTY is not allowed to lead the party's own Witnesses.

LEGAL ARGUMENT: An argument, addressed to the judge, on how a legal question should be decided.

LINEUP: A police identification procedure in which a group of mostly innocent people are shown to witnesses to a crime to see if they think the criminal or criminals are among them.


MAGISTRATE COURT: A court with JURISDICTION to hold INITIAL APPEARANCES and PRELIMINARY EXAMINATIONS in FELONY cases, hear MISDEMEANOR cases except for violations of city ordinances, and hear civil cases when small amounts of money are in dispute. It is a COURT OF RECORD for MANDAMUS: The title of a WRIT directing another official to do something.

MANDATE: An order from an APPELLATE court directing the court whose decision it is reviewing to follow its opinion.

METROPOLITAN COURT: A court combining the functions of a MAGISTRATE COURT, a small claims court, and a MUNICIPAL COURT. The judges of the court are required to be lawyers. It is a COURT OF RECORD in civil proceedings and in DWI and domestic violence cases, but not in other criminal cases. Only counties with more than 200,000 people are allowed to have one. Right now, Bernalillo County is the only county that does.

MIRANDA RIGHTS: The right of a person being questioned by law enforcement officers while in CUSTODY to be warned (1) that the person has a right to remain silent; (2) that any statement the person makes may be used as EVIDENCE against the person; (3) that the person has a right to the presence of an attorney before making any statement; and (4) that if the person cannot afford an attorney and wants one, one will be appointed before questioning.

MISDEMEANOR: A crime for which the maximum sentence is less than one year in prison and which is not called a FELONY by the STATUTES.

MISTRIAL: A TRIAL which had to be ended without reaching a VERDICT or other final decision on the case.

MOTION: A formal request directed to the judge.

MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL: A MOTION, after a VERDICT of guilty, to set the verdict aside and hold a new TRIAL.

MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF SENTENCE: A MOTION asking the judge to set aside a sentence previously entered and impose a different one. For felonies, motions for reconsideration of sentence may be made only within 30 days after the sentence is filed or after an APPELLATE MANDATE is received by the district court.

MOTION IN LIMINE: A written MOTION made before trial requesting a ruling on the admissibility of EVIDENCE or other matters expected to arise at trial.

MOTION TO DISMISS: A MOTION asking the judge to end the prosecution without further trial.

MOTION TO SUPPRESS: A MOTION asking the judge not to allow testimony, documents or objects into EVIDENCE, made before the evidence is offered.

MUGSHOT: The picture taken of someone's face when the person is BOOKED at a jail or received for incarceration at a prison.

MUNICIPAL COURT: A court with JURISDICTION to hear cases involving violation of city ORDINANCES and, sometimes, college campus traffic violations. It is not a COURT OF RECORD. The judges do not have to be lawyers.


NCIC: National Crime Information Center. A federal agency, monitored by the FBI, that acts as a computer-based archive of information on criminals or suspected criminals. The archive is available to law enforcement agencies.

NO BILL: A document filed by the GRAND JURY stating that the EVIDENCE before it regarding a possible crime did not justify filing an INDICTMENT. Cf. "True Bill."

NO CONTEST: See "Plea."




OATH: A solemn promise to tell the truth or be subject to penalties for PERJURY.

OBJECTION: A statement to the judge that something being or about to be done is legally improper and should not be allowed.

OBJECTION OVERRULED: A ruling by the judge that the matter to which OBJECTION was made will be allowed.

OBJECTION SUSTAINED: A ruling by the judge that the matter to which OBJECTION was made will not be allowed.

OFFER OF PROOF: A statement on the RECORD of what EVIDENCE that is excluded would have been. The record is made so that an APPELLATE court may review the correctness of the exclusion.

OPENING ARGUMENT: The initial JURY ARGUMENT by the prosecutor.

OPENING STATEMENT: A description by each PARTY, presented to the JURY at the beginning of the TRIAL, of what the party expects the EVIDENCE to show. The prosecutor generally makes the first opening statement, followed by each DEFENDANT.

ORDINANCE: A law enacted by a county or local government.


PAROLE: The conditions on which the Corrections Department will allow an inmate to serve the last year or so of his sentence outside the prison. Parole is one year for 4th degree felonies and two years for 1st through 3rd degree felonies and at least five years for Capitol Felonies, and is served after the sentence of imprisonment imposed. Parole is imposed only if the defendant is sentenced to prison, rather than just a local jail. It is not imposed on MISDEMEANOR sentences.

PARTY: Either a person bringing a suit ("plaintiff"), a person against whom the suit is brought ("defendant"), or someone whom the suit affects and who is allowed the same rights in court as the plaintiff or defendant. In a criminal case, the plaintiff is always either the state government or a county or city government; and the only parties are the plaintiff and the defendants.

PASS THE WITNESS: To tell the judge that a PARTY has finished EXAMINING THE WITNESS and that another party may begin his examination.

PERCENT BOND: See "Conditions of release."

PERJURY: A FELONY consisting of making a false statement under OATH, material to an issue involved in an official proceeding, knowing the statement is false. PETIT JURY: A group of six citizens (for MISDEMEANORS) or twelve citizens (for FELONIES) who hear the EVIDENCE and decide the VERDICT.

PETITIONER: Someone filing a petition in court. In DELINQUENCY petitions against children, the petitioner is the state government represented by the district attorney.

PHOTOGRAPHIC ARRAY: A set of pictures of mostly innocent people shown to witnesses to a crime to see if they think the criminal or criminals are among them.

PLEA: The DEFENDANT's response to a criminal charge. Three pleas are generally allowed: (1) A plea of guilty admitting the charge; (2) a plea of not guilty, denying the charge; and (3) a plea of no contest, also called NOLO CONTENDERE, not admitting or denying the charge, but agreeing to be subject to a JUDGMENT of CONVICTION and to SENTENCE for it. In addition, (4) "ALFORD" PLEAS are sometimes allowed, which is a plea of guilty in which the defendant denies the charge, but admits that he/she would be CONVICTED, if there were a TRIAL. (5) Pleas of "guilty but mentally ill" are also allowed in appropriate cases, by which the DEFENDANT admits the charge and to being mentally ill but not insane when the offense was committed. If the plea is accepted and the defendant is sentenced to prison, the Corrections Department must consider treatment for the mental illness.

PLEA AND DISPOSITION AGREEMENT: An agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, subject to approval by the judge, about the outcome of the case. Usually the agreement is that the defendant will be CONVICTED of some charges, but that other charges will be dismissed or not filed, or that less than the maximum sentence will be imposed. Also sometimes called a "plea bargain."

PLEA BARGAIN: See "Plea and Disposition Agreement."

PLEADING: A formal written statement by the prosecutor of his charges, or by the DEFENDANT of his defenses. Usually it consists of the CITATION, COMPLAINT, INFORMATION or INDICTMENT. Sometimes the term also refers to other written MOTIONS filed in the case.

PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION/HEARING: A hearing held shortly after the defendant's INITIAL APPEARANCE on FELONY charges at which the court hears WITNESSES and receives other EVIDENCE to decide whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed an offense. If no probable cause is found, then the defendant is discharged. If probable cause is found, the defendant is BOUND OVER for TRIAL in the district court and an INFORMATION is filed. Preliminary examinations are not usually held in Bernalillo County. Instead, the defendant is either INDICTED by a GRAND JURY or released from CUSTODY within 10 days after the INITIAL APPEARANCE.

PRESENTENCE CREDIT: An allowance of credit toward a sentence for time spent in custody prior to sentence as a result of the charges on which sentence was imposed.

PRETRIAL HEARING/CONFERENCE: A usually informal hearing, held before the TRIAL, in which the judge and the lawyers try to agree on scheduling and simplifying the trial of the case.

PRIVILEGE: A right not to TESTIFY or not to have someone else testify about a matter.

PRO SE: "For himself." The description of a person who proceeds in court without a lawyer.

PROBATION: The conditions on which a sentence is deferred or suspended. See "Sentence, deferred;" "Sentence, suspended."

PROCESS: The documents on which a court bases or exercises its JURISDICTION over people or objects. It includes SUMMONSES, ARREST WARRANTS, WRITS, SUBPOENAS, and sometimes orders.

PROHIBITION: The title of a WRIT directing another official not to do something.

PROPERTY BOND: See "Conditions of Release."

PUBLIC DEFENDERS: Lawyers who are salaried members of a public agency whose mission is to represent people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire a private lawyer.

Q - R

ROR: See "Conditions of Release."

RE-CROSS-EXAMINATION: EXAMINATION OF A WITNESS by a PARTY which did not call the witness to the stand, after a REDIRECT EXAMINATION.

REBUTTAL ARGUMENT: The JURY ARGUMENT by the prosecutor following and responding to the DEFENDANT's jury argument.

RECORD: The documents in the court file, any exhibits filed in court, and the official transcript of proceedings.

RECUSAL: The process by which a judge removes him/herself from a case because the judge's impartiality may reasonably be questioned or because the judge is disqualified from hearing it by the New Mexico CONSTITUTION.

REDIRECT EXAMINATION: EXAMINATION OF A WITNESS by the PARTY which called the party to the stand, after a CROSS-EXAMINATION.

REGULATION: A law enacted by an administrative agency.

REHABILITATION OF A WITNESS: The process of trying to produce EVIDENCE that a WITNESS who has been IMPEACHED is reliable.

RELEASE ON OWN RECOGNIZANCE (ROR): See "Conditions of release."

REPARATION: A payment from the Crime Victims Reparation Commission to someone injured or to a surviving dependent of someone killed or to someone who paid the funeral or medical expenses of someone injured or killed by an act or omission of another person which is one of a list of serious crimes. Payment is limited in amount, is only for actual losses, and is not available to accomplices, close relatives of the criminal, to people confined in jails or prisons, or to people who failed to cooperate with police.

RESPONDENT: Someone against whom a PETITION has been filed. In DELINQUENCY petitions against CHILDREN, the child is the respondent.

REST: During a TRIAL, a PARTY rests by indicating that the party has produced all the EVIDENCE the party intends to offer at that stage of the trial.

RESTITUTION: Full or partial payment of actual damages, not including pain, suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, or punitive damages, by the DEFENDANT to the VICTIM of the crime as part of the sentence for the crime.

RULE ON EXCLUSION OF WITNESSES/"THE RULE:" A rule that any PARTY or the judge may have all prospective WITNESSES excluded from the courtroom except when testifying, so they cannot hear the other witnesses. The rule does not exclude the DEFENDANT or any person whose presence is shown by a PARTY to be essential to the presentation of the party's case.


SEALING: An order that some court RECORDS may not be examined except by order of the court or by designated officials.

SEARCH WARRANT: a WARRANT to search a specified place for described items or people and seize and arrest them. It is issued by a judge or MAGISTRATE only after being presented an affidavit showing probable cause to believe that the items are connected with a crime or that the people should be arrested, and that the items or people will be in the place to be searched.

SENTENCE, CONCURRENT: A sentence which is served at the same time as another one.

SENTENCE, CONSECUTIVE: A sentence which follows another one.

SENTENCE, DEFERRED: A JUDGMENT of CONVICTION in which no sentence is imposed, but in which conditions of PROBATION may be imposed for a period of time. If the defendant complies with the conditions, the defendant is entitled to dismissal of the charges (except for habitual offender and a few other purposes). If the defendant does not comply and the probation is revoked, then a sentence is imposed, with credit for the time the defendant has been on probation, unless the defendant has been a FUGITIVE.

SENTENCE, SUSPENDED: A JUDGMENT of CONVICTION in which a sentence is imposed, but in which all or part of the sentence is ordered not to be served, often on conditions of PROBATION. If the DEFENDANT complies with the conditions, the defendant is entitled to a certificate of satisfactory discharge from the probation. If the defendant does not comply and the probation is revoked, then all or part of the remainder of the sentence may be required to be served, with credit for the time the defendant has been on probation, unless the defendant has been a FUGITIVE.

SERIOUS YOUTHFUL OFFENDER: A person 15, 16, or 17 years old who is charged with and INDICTED or BOUND OVER for TRIAL for first degree murder. Children charged with being serious youthful offenders may be held pending hearing in either juvenile detention facilities or the county jail.

SERVICE: The delivery, in a specified manner, of official documents to other people.

SEVERANCE: An order that charges or DEFENDANTS previously JOINED will be tried separately. Cf. "Joinder."

SIX MONTH RULE: A court rule providing that the charges should be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE if the TRIAL of the defendant is not started within six months of the ARRAIGNMENT or certain other events.

SIXTY (60) DAY EVALUATION: A COMMITMENT to the Corrections Department after CONVICTION for not more than 60 days for preparation of a report on what sentence the Corrections Department recommends.

SPECIAL MASTER: Someone appointed by the judge to hear EVIDENCE and make findings or recommendations to the judge.

STATEMENT OF FACTS/BILL OF PARTICULARS: A document filed by the prosecutor giving the DEFENDANT information about the charges in addition to what is in the COMPLAINT, INFORMATION, or INDICTMENT.

STATUTE: A law enacted by the legislature.

STRIKING EVIDENCE: A statement by the judge in a BENCH TRIAL that the judge will not consider EVIDENCE, or an order by the judge to the JURY not to consider it.

SUA SPONTE: "On its own motion." The description of a ruling made by the judge without anyone asking the judge to make it.

SUBPOENA: A court order to appear at a hearing to give testimony or to bring documents or objects.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM: A SUBPOENA to bring documents or objects.

SUMMONS: A court order to appear in court to answer criminal charges.

SUPERINTENDING CONTROL: The title of a WRIT directing a lower court to do or not to do something.

SURETY BOND: See "Conditions of release."


THIRD PARTY CUSTODY RELEASE: See "Conditions of release."

TRANSACTIONAL IMMUNITY: The IMMUNITY of a WITNESS from being prosecuted at all for a crime about which the witness testifies. Transactional immunity is rarely granted. Cf. "Use immunity."

TRANSFER HEARING: A hearing in a DELINQUENCY prosecution in which the court decides whether an older CHILD accused of acts that would be FELONIES if committed by an adult should be prosecuted in a criminal proceeding as if the child were an adult. The child must have been 16 years old or more when the acts were committed to be transferred. Sometimes also called a "BIND OVER hearing."

TRIAL DE NOVO: An APPEAL in which a new TRIAL is held.

TRIAL: A hearing in which the judge or JURY hears EVIDENCE to decide the VERDICT.



UNSECURED APPEARANCE BOND: See "Conditions of release."

USE IMMUNITY: The IMMUNITY of a WITNESS from having the witness's testimony or EVIDENCE which results from the testimony used in a prosecution against the witness. Cf. "Transactional immunity."


VENUE: The judicial district in which a case is heard.

VERDICT: The decision of a PETIT JURY, or the judge in a BENCH TRIAL, that the DEFENDANT is either ACQUITTED or CONVICTED of a charge. In criminal cases, a jury verdict is required to be unanimous. Cf. "Hung jury."

VICTIM: For purposes of RESTITUTION, a person who has suffered actual damages as a result of criminal activity.

VOIR DIRE: (1) Questioning of the JURY PANEL by the lawyer or the judge about whether they can be fair and competent JURORS, as a guide to picking the PETIT JURY. (2) Questioning of a WITNESS by one of the parties in the middle of another party's EXAMINATION of the witness, to test whether the witness is COMPETENT to testify or whether a proper FOUNDATION has been laid for the witness's testimony.


WARRANT: An order from a judge or MAGISTRATE to a law enforcement officer. See "Administrative Search Warrant," "Arrest Warrant," "Bench Warrant," "Search Warrant."

WITNESS: A person who testifies to what the person has seen, heard or otherwise observed.

WRIT: A court order commanding another official to do something.

X - Y - Z

YOUTHFUL OFFENDER: A DELINQUENT CHILD who is (1) 14 to 18 years old and who either committed one of several specified very serious offenses (second degree murder, kidnapping, etc.) or who was found four separate times within three years to have committed felony offenses; or (2) 14 years old and found to have committed first degree murder. Youthful offenders are subject to either adult or juvenile sanctions.

Civil Law Glossary

Note: Best guide as to explanations and rules are The Rules of Civil Procedure located at the University of New Mexico Law Library. Most attorneys also have copies.

ANSWER: States Defendant's defenses to Plaintiff's claims.

COMPLAINT: States Plaintiff's claims against Defendant.

COUNTERCLAIM: May be included in Defendant's answer and sets forth claims Defendant may have against Plaintiff. If Defendant's counterclaims arise out of same transaction or occurrence that is subject matter of Plaintiff's claim(s), then it is a COMPULSORY COUNTERCLAIM. If Defendant's counterclaim does not arise out of same transaction or occurrence, but is against the same Plaintiff, it is a PERMISSIVE COUNTERCLAIM.

CROSSCLAIM: In cases where there are multiple Plaintiffs and/or multiple Defendants, a Plaintiff can file a crossclaim against another Plaintiff and a Defendant can file a crossclaim against another Defendant.

DEFAULT JUDGMENT: If a party fails to plead or defend a claim against them, the judge can give a default judgment against them. Default judgments can be set aside for reasons stated in Rule 1-055.

DEFENDANT: Person who is being sued.

INJUNCTION: Injunctions require that notice be given to the other side. Injunctions also restrain a party from certain actions or permit certain acts, but are for a longer time than a TRO.

JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS: After the pleadings are closed a judge may give a judgment based on the pleadings. The pleadings are the written allegations of the parties such as the complaint, answer, etc. The judge assumes all facts pled by the party opposing judgment are true and determines if the facts state a valid legal claim. If not, judgment on the pleadings is granted. (Rule 1-012).

JURY INSTRUCTIONS: Instructions given to the jury by the judge instructing them on the law of the case. Each party submits proposed instructions to the judge and the judge decides which ones he/she will give to the jury or writes his/her own instructions. Denial of a requested instruction is a common reason for appeal. Instructions state the law of the case.

MOTION IN LIMINE: A request made by a party to the judge either prior to trial or outside the hearing of a jury, asking the judge to determine in advance whether certain evidence will be admitted or not allowed at trial in front of the jury.

MOTION FOR DIRECT VERDICT: Commonly used in jury trials when all evidence and testimony is finished and prior to jury deliberations. The motion is a request by a party to the judge for the judge to direct a verdict for that party and not allow the jury to decide the issue. Usually requested because one party feels that the other party has not proven their claim or defense. (Rule 1-050).

MOTION FOR JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT (JUDGMENT N.O.V.): Can be done only if the requesting party has first requested a directed verdict. Requesting party asks the judge to give them a favorable verdict setting aside an unfavorable judgment or jury verdict already given against them. (Rule 1-050).

MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL: A party requests a new trial based upon some error in the original trial or that the judge erred in not granting a judgment N.O.V.

PLAINTIFF: Person who files the lawsuit.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT: If there are no genuine issues of material fact (i.e. crucial facts are undisputed), the judge can give judgment based upon the law. If crucial or material facts are at issue, summary judgment will be denied. (Rule 1-056).

TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS (TRO): An order temporarily restraining a party. If obtained without notice to the party being restrained (i.e. an ex parte TRO), order expires in 10 days unless the judge extends for good cause. See Rule 1-066 for requirements as when you can get a TRO without notice to other party. Security or bond may be required.