Words You Need to Know

Glossary of Terms

Because your path to freedom involves legal processes, you will hear a lot of new words, as well as familiar words being used in new ways.

Use this list to help you understand some of the key terms that will be used during the process.

Remember to ask questions. Whenever there are terms or parts of the process you don’t understand, ask someone to explain it to you.


To give evidence under oath in a legal proceeding.


The process through which a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney both have the opportunity to prove their sides of the case.

Tribal justice system

The term ''tribal court'', ''tribal court system'', or ''tribal justice system'' means the entire judicial branch, and employees thereof, of an Indian tribe, including, but not limited to, traditional methods and for a for dispute resolution, trial courts, appellate courts, including inter-tribal appellate courts, alternative dispute resolution systems, and circuit rider systems, established by inherent tribunal authority whether or not they constitute a court of record.


To cancel or set aside.


The decision made by the jury in a trial as to the guilt or non-guilt of the defendant.


An act that is against the law for which the state can imprison an individual for up to 15 days, but not more.


an act of aggression (as one against a person who resists)

Voir dire

The process through which the prosecution and defense attorneys question and select jurors for a trial.


To give up certain rights or responsibilities. (Examples: To "waive" your right to an attorney means you are giving up that right. You can also ask the court to "waive" any fees if you can't pay them. The court then gives up its right to collect fees from you.)


A person who testifies as to his or her knowledge of the facts related to a particular case.


The entry of a decree or an order by a court. The legal process of resolving a dispute.


Money or other financial support awarded to a spouse in a divorce action for his or her separate support. lt is usually awarded only where one spouse has been dependent on the other or has less earning power than the other and for a temporary period of time. Also called spousal support.


A court declaration that a marriage is invalid or nonexistent. Courts annul marriages where fraud bigamy, impotence, or other serious problem has occurred. It means that the marriage never occurred legally. Church annulments are not the same as legal annulments.