Criminal Law – Definitions


one of the first appearances before the Court when charged with a crime where the Judge will advise as to the charges against you, potential penalties and your legal rights.

Arrest Warrant

an order issued by a Judge commanding the arrest of an individual for investigation of or charging with a criminal violation of the law. Most arrest warrants set forth a bond amount to be paid for release from custody. Some arrest warrants, such as for domestic violence charges, require a Court appearance prior to a bond amount being set. Arrest warrants for serious crimes such as murder do not have a listed bond amount to be paid and the issues must be litigated after significant preparation.

Domestic Violence

criminal violations involving past or present domestic or intimate partners. Crimes of this nature include assaults, harassment, threats, destruction of property, stalking and burglary. Domestic violence charges require no bond holds upon arrest until the individual is brought before a Judge who will set bond. A protective order is usually entered at the first Court appearance preventing the individual from having contact with the alleged victim in the case. If the parties have children, parenting time maybe provided for in the protective order. Domestic violence convictions required anger management therapy and prohibit those convicted from possessing firearms.


serious crimes including drug cases, assaults with serious bodily injury, many sexual assault cases, theft over $500.00, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, attempted murder and cases that may result in a Department of Corrections sentence up to life in prison without parole or the death penalty. Theses cases are initially filed in County Court where a preliminary hearing or dispositional conference is held and then the matter is transferred to District Court.


crimes that generally may result in six months to two years of jail time, versus prison time, that include such violations as third degree assault, theft under $500.00, possession of less than eight ounces of marijuana, harassment, more serious driving offenses, such as DUI, and most crimes that are usually charged as a result of domestic violence, without seriously bodily injury. These crimes are prosecuted in Municipal and County Courts instead of District Court.

P. R. Bond

Personal recognizance bond; after being arrested for a criminal violation an individual signs an agreement to appear at all of their court dates, without having to post bail money prior to being released. These bonds may include agreeing to pay cash, for instance a $5,000.00 P.R. bond, if the individual fails to appear at required court appearances, even if they need not pay anything to initially be release from jail after arrest.

Petty Offense

generally subjecting an individual to a fine without possibility of jail time although some petty offenses carry up to a six month jail sentence, such as for disorderly conduct or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.

Preliminary Hearing

if charged with a class 1, 2 or 3 felony or if charged with a class 4, 5, or 6, felony and the individual is in jail, the accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing where the District Attorney must present sufficient evidence to show that there is a good likelihood that an individual is guilty of the charges filed and the matter should be transferred from County Court to District Court for trial.


an order to appear in Court to answer criminal charges which generally does not result in the arrest of an individual for any length of time. A summons is issued commanding the individual to appear in Court at a later date, without the necessity of posting a bond of any type.