Glossary of US Legal Terms

Glossary of US Legal Terms

Replacement — reduction of the sentence, starting from the death penalty to life imprisonment.

Co-defendants — multiple people arrested and charged for the same criminal incident.

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine in New Mexico whereby the actions of opposing parties in a sensitive case are compared for determining the responsibility of each party, with each party being responsible only for its percentage of fault. See also contributory negligence.

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Compensatory Damages — Damages awarded as compensation to the non-defaulting or injured party.

Right to Stand Trial — To be competent to stand trial, a person must have the ability to understand the nature and purpose of the proceeding, consult with counsel and help prepare your defense.

Due process prohibits the government from prosecuting defendants who cannot stand trial.

Competent Witness — Every person is considered a competent witness. When a party questions the competence of a witness, the judge must determine the witness's ability to observe, recall and report what he or she testified, and that the witness understands his or her duty to be truthful.

Complainant — the party who files the complaint or sues; one who goes to court for legal protection. Also called plaintiff.

Complaint — [civil] The initial documents filed in a civil action stating the claim for which compensation is sought; In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges offenses allegedly committed by the defendant. [Criminal Law] A written statement under oath showing that the person filing the complaint has reason to believe that the accused has violated a criminal law.


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Conciliation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties convey their dispute to a neutral third party who helps reduce tensions, improve communication, and explore possible solutions. Conciliation is similar to mediation, but may be less formal.

Concurrent jurisdiction — the authority to hear and resolve specific types of disputes lies in more than one court.

Concurrent sentences are prison sentences for conviction of more than one crime that must be served concurrently rather than one after the other.

Conviction is the legal process by which the government takes private land for public use by paying owners a fair price determined by the court.

Conditions of release — conditions under which the arrested person is released before trial.

Consecutive sentences are consecutive sentences of imprisonment, one of which begins after the other, imposed on a person convicted of two or more crimes.

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Guardianship is the legal right given to a person to manage the property and financial affairs of a person who is considered incapable of doing so for themselves. (See also guardianship. Guardians have somewhat less responsibility than guardians.)

Consideration is a benefit or right that we have agreed upon. Consideration may be a promise to do a certain act — such as a promise to deliver goods, a promise not to do something, a payment, or a promise to pay money, among others. Whatever its specifics, the consideration must be something of value to the people entering into the contract.

Consolidation is the joining of two or more separately filed criminal or civil complaints so that the charges can be tried together.

Contempt of court is behavior aimed at belittling the dignity of the court. As well as willful disobedience to an oral or written order of a judge. There are two types of disrespect: direct and indirect. When offensive (contemptuous) behavior occurs in front of a judge, the contempt is direct and can be punished through disciplinary action. Any other behavior not witnessed by the judge is indirect contempt. Before punishing for indirect contempt, the court must give notice to the accused party and give him an opportunity to be heard. See also Civil Contempt and Criminal Contempt.

Continuation — adjourning a trial or hearing to a later date.

Contraband — items the possession of which is prohibited by law.

A contract is an agreement between two or more people that creates an obligation to do or not to do a certain thing. The contract must promise or give something of value, and there must be a reasonable agreement between the parties about what the contract means. The parties must be legally capable of entering into binding agreements.

Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that prevents a plaintiff in a civil action from recovering from the defendant for his/her negligence if the plaintiff was also negligent. New Mexico has abandoned the doctrine of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence.