A grand jury's purpose is to investigate alleged
crimes, examine evidence, and issue indictments if they believe that
there is enough evidence for a trial to proceed. They are an impartial
panel of citizens who must determine whether reasonable cause or
probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed exists. The
grand jury acts as a check on the prosecutorial power of the state.
A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury
after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor. The formal
charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence
that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it
is used primarily for felonies.
The initial appearance before a judge in a criminal
case. At an arraignment, the charges against the defendant are read, a
lawyer is appointed if the defendant cannot afford one, and the
defendant's plea is entered.
Criminal Law Practice. Signifies the calling of the defendant to the bar
of the court, to answer the accusation contained in the indictment. It
consists of three parts.
Calling the defendant to the bar by his name, and commanding him to
hold up his hand; this is done for the purpose of completely
identifying the prisoner, as the person named in the indictment; the
holding up his hand is not, however, indispensable, for if the
prisoner should refuse to do so, he may be identified by any admission
that he is the person intended.
The reading of the indictment to enable him fully to understand, the
charge to be produced against him; The mode in which it is read is,
after' saying, 'A B, hold up your hand,' to proceed, 'you stand
indicted by the name of A B, late of, etc., for that you on, etc.' and
then go through the whole of the indictment.
After this is concluded, the clerk proceeds to the third part, by
adding, 'How say you, A B, are you guilty or not guilty?' Upon this,
if the prisoner, confesses the charge, the confession is recorded, and
nothing further is done till judgment if, on the contrary, he answers
'not guilty', that plea is entered for him, and the clerk or attorney
general, replies that he is guilty; when an issue is formed.
A civil or criminal trial in which a jury decides any
disputed issues of fact. The number of jurors is usually 12 in a
criminal trial; the number varies from state to state in a civil
In a jury trial, the jury is selected by the parties through a process
called voir dire, where the judge or parties ask jurors questions in
order to determine their biases and opinions. (Each side gets to
reject a certain number of potential jurors.) After the jury is chosen
and sworn in, the parties give opening arguments, present their
evidence and give closing arguments. The jury then deliberates; when
it reaches a decision, it returns to the courtroom and announces the
The role of the jury is to decide issues of fact. Parties are entitled
to a jury trial by the federal constitution in those types of cases,
such as breach of contract, which existed in 1789, the effective date
of the constitution. Kinds of cases that have come into existence
since then, however, such as divorce (which in 1789 still fell under
the religious courts) and actions in juvenile courts, are not
guaranteed jury trials. States are free to make jury trials available
for such actions, but few have. In fact, only Texas and Georgia permit
jury trials for divorces.
A Court is a body, often a governmental institution,
with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes and dispense civil,
criminal, or administrative justice in accordance with rules of law.
In common law and civil law states, courts are the central means for
dispute resolution, and in generally understood that all persons have
an ability to bring thei claims before a court. Persons accused of a
crime have the right to present their defense before a court.
A court has jurisdiction to try and punish offenders
against criminal law.
An order directed to an individual commanding him to
appear in court on a certain day to testify or produce documents in a
A process to cause a witness to appear and give testimony, commanding
him to lay aside all pretences and excuses, and appear before a court
or magistrate therein named, at a time therein mentioned, to testify
for the party named, under a penalty therein mentioned. This is
usually called a subpoena ad testificandum.
On proof of service of a subpoena upon the witness, and that he is
material, an attachment way be issued against him for a contempt, if
he neglect to attend as commanded.
chancery practice. A mandatory writ or process, directed to and
requiring one or more persons to appear at a time to come, and answer
the matters charged against him or them; the writ of subpoena was
originally a process in the courts of common law, to enforce the
attendance of a witness to give evidence; but this writ was used in
the court of chancery for the game purpose as a citation in the courts
of civil and canon law, to compel the appearance of a defendant, and
to oblige him to answer upon oath the allegations of the plaintiff.
A legal document that notifies a party that a lawsuit
has been initiated and states when and where the party must appear to
answer the charges. A notice to the defendant requiring him to serve
an answer to the complaint.
The act by which a defendant is notified by a competent officer, that
an action has been instituted against him, and that he is required to
answer to it at a time and place named. This is done either by giving
the defendant a copy of the summons, or leaving it at his house; or by
reading the summons to him.
A paper issued by a court informing a person that a complaint has been
filed against her (that is, that she has been sued) is called a
summons. The summons tells her that she is being sued, by whom, for
what, and that she must file a response with the court within a
certain time or will lose.
The name of a writ commanding the sheriff, or other authorized
officer, to notify a party to appear in court to answer a complaint
made against him and in the said writ specified, on a day therein
Definitions above were taken from Merriam-Webster's
Online Dictionary and Wikipedia Encyclopedia Online.