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11 Legal Terms You Should Know

11 Terms You Should Know-1

Legal jargon can be intimidating, but understanding some key terms is essential for navigating the complex world of law. Whether you're just watching a courtroom drama on TV or facing a real-life legal situation, knowing these 11 legal terms can make a big difference in your ability to understand and talk about the law.

1. Affidavit

An affidavit is a written statement made under oath. This means someone has sworn that the information they provide is true. If found untrue, the person can be charged with perjury and face up to five years in prison.


2. Appeal

After a trial, the losing party can make a request for a higher court to review the decision. This is known as an appeal. It's a way to seek a second opinion and challenge the initial judgment.

3. Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is the responsibility to prove disputed facts. In civil cases, the plaintiff (the person filing the complaint) carries this duty. In criminal cases, it's the government's responsibility to prove the defendant's guilt.


4. Defendant

In a civil case, the defendant is the person or organization being sued. In a criminal case, it's the person accused of committing a crime. Understanding this term clarifies who is on the receiving end of legal action.

5. Deposition

A deposition is an oral statement made before an authorized officer. This is often done to examine potential witnesses, gather information (discovery), or use the statement as evidence in a trial.


6. Habeas Corpus

This Latin term translates to "you have the body." A writ of habeas corpus forces authorities to justify why they're holding a prisoner. It ensures that a judge reviews the legality of the detention.

7. Hearsay

Hearsay refers to evidence presented by a witness who didn't directly witness the incident but heard about it from someone else. Generally not admissible in court, hearsay has exceptions depending on the circumstances.


8. Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction is the legal authority of a court to hear and decide specific types of cases. It's also used to describe the geographic area over which a court has the power to decide cases.

9. Plaintiff

The plaintiff is the person or business filing a formal complaint with the court. They are the party bringing the case to seek a legal remedy.


10. Standard of Proof

The standard of proof is the degree of evidence required. In criminal cases, guilt must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt." Civil lawsuits usually require proof "by a preponderance of the evidence" (more than 50%), with some cases requiring "clear and convincing" proof.

11. Writ

A writ is an order issued by a court, instructing someone to do or not do a particular act. For example, a writ of habeas corpus compels law enforcement to bring a prisoner to court.


Understanding these legal terms can empower you to better understand legal discussions and situations. While there are dozens of valuable legal terms it's helpful to know, this list serves as a great starting point for anyone seeking a grasp of fundamental legal concepts — because knowledge is power, especially when it comes to the law.

Reference: Glossary of Legal Terms

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