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Legal Glossary

We’ve included some basic definitions of common terms that we see every day, but which are new to most of our clients. Our website also covers detailed information about specific topics unique to the court system under our blog. Use this post for researching helpful terms — including an explanation of each court date — by type of case!

General Legal Glossary

  • Pleading—any document filed with the court with the appropriate caption and served on the other party.
  • Entry of Appearance—the pleading that we file letting the court and the other party know that we will be handling your case. It is unethical for the court or the other side to speak with you directly without our permission to do so.
  • Discovery—the evidence in the case, often in the form of police reports, medical records, videos, etc. For family law cases, this can include a list of questions and requests for production of documents requested by either side.
  • Docket—the list of cases that a particular courtroom will handle at any given time.
  • Motion to Continue or Appear via WebEx—a pleading we will file if there is a conflict in calendaring or if we need more time to handle your case. It is a routine document and often we will include WebEx as an alternative to going to the courthouse in person.

Criminal Defense Legal Glossary

  • Mandatory Protective Order (MPO, Restraining Order)—every case other than traffic cases have restraining orders put in place at the first hearing requiring you not to harass witnesses or victims, at minimum. Sometimes, these are full no-contact orders requiring Motions to Modify the MPO before you may return home. Often, the  MPO requires that the defendant relinquish all firearms, and
  • Complaining Witness (Victim)—in most domestic violence (DV) situations we see the alleged victims being placed on restraining orders as the “protected party.” We will use the words victim, alleged victim, and complaining witness interchangeably throughout the case.
  • Felonies vs. Misdemeanors—describes the level of the offense charged
  • Prosecutor/ Prosecution (District Attorney, DA)—the State of Colorado chooses whether to prosecute and each county has a local prosecutor’s office. Municipal prosecutors act on behalf of the City where charges are brought and their role as a CA is similar to that of a DA.
  • Types of Court Dates:
    • Arraignment—the initial court hearing where one is informed of their rights under the law and the charges against them. A person will often sign a “First Appearance Advisement” form indicating they’ve read and understood their rights. However, if we’re involved early enough on a misdemeanor, we can sometimes waive arraignment on your behalf because we will provide this information to you so the court does not have to. In felonies, continued arraignments are used to indicate that the case has not proceeded to Preliminary Hearing.
    • Dispositional Hearing (Disposition, Dispo, Pretrial Conference)—a court date where we meet with the prosecutor to discuss possible plea deals and sentencing outcomes. If we can reach an agreement, we can usually execute plea paperwork quickly (see pleas below).
    • Preliminary Hearing (PH)—a hearing where the Court will determine whether officers had probable cause to either arrest you or to seek a warrant. In rare cases, a complaining witness or victim will have to testify at this proceeding, but most of the time a single officer will testify. A PH is only available in certain types of felony cases, and must be held within 35 days only if you are in custody.
    • Motions Hearing (Motions)—Constitutional Motions and procedural Motions will be heard and decided by the judge at this hearing. Most of the time, officers are the only folks that testify. The judge will determine if your rights have been violated at this hearing and make appropriate rulings.
    • Pre-trial Readiness Conference (Readiness)—this is a procedural court date where the prosecution and the defense will need to tell the judge whether they are ready to proceed to trial at a later date or if they are requesting a continuance. Any continuance must be within speedy trial deadlines (6 months from the date you pled not guilty) or be accompanied by a waiver of speedy.
    • Jury Trial—this can be a single day trial in front of different numbers of jurors. It begins with voir dire (jury selection) and will conclude with the reading of a verdict form finding you guilty or not guilty. Your attorney will thoroughly prepare you in person for upcoming trials. You will finally have the chance to testify at your trial, but keep in mind it may not be in your best interest to do so.
  • Pleas:
    • Plea offer–what the DA is prepared to offer you to resolve the case without going to trial. This may or may not be a “lesser” offense. In some cases, it is an entirely unrelated charge that you would plead guilty to “for the benefit of the bargain.” Most pleas involve some sort of note to the judge about the recommended sentence.
    • Rule 11–this is an advisement form that will accompany most, if not all, plea agreements. This form is the outline of the rights that you have as a Defendant in a criminal case and confirmation that you know you are waiving those rights by pleading guilty. It will most likely include advisements about collateral consequences such as those with the DMV and/or immigration.
  • Sentencing
    • Presentence Investigation Report (PSIR, PSI)–this report is prepared by the probation department after a client pleads guilty and prior to sentencing. It is required in nearly all felony matters, and available if the parties or the court request it. Testing for the PSI can include mental health and substance abuse questionnaires, among other things.
    • Mitigation–we will commonly recommend you take classes, complete community service, or even write apology letters in your cases to show the DA that you’re taking the case seriously and are willing to do things in advance to make the plea deal better. Sometimes, we will prepare a sentencing memo using the pre-trial mitigation to present a resume-like packet to the judge for leniency.
    • Consent of Surety–if you are not able to make a court date/we need a continuance, you need to travel out of state, or you want to remain out of custody pending the PSI prior to sentencing, we will need to contact your bondsman to provide this form directly to the court. It’s their ok that your bond continues.

Family Law Legal Glossary

  • Opposing Party (OP) or Opposing Counsel (OC)–in most cases the opposing party is represented, but not all. In situations where they don’t have a lawyer, we call that a “pro se” party.
  • Initial Status Conference (ISC)–the fist court hearing in most family law cases
  • Temporary Protective Order (TPO, TRO, Restraining Order)—this is a restraining order that can be requested by either party at the beginning of the case or any time thereafter. It can also be requested as a separate case (outside of the family law matter)
  • Injunction—when a new family law case is filed there is an automatic injunction put on all parties not to steal assets from each other, not to take the kids out of state without permission, etc. Read the initial paperwork carefully!
  • Types of Hearings:
    • Mediation—an out of court meeting with an independent mediator who may or may not be an attorney. Mediation can be done remotely via phone or zoom, but rarely will all parties be in the same room. Rather, the mediator goes back and forth to different rooms with offers and counteroffers on various issues to resolve the case.
    • Temporary Orders Hearing (Temp Orders)—a court date after the ISC and before Permanent Orders, which is held early on in the case if immediate issues need to be determined such as who pays for what car payment, who has possession of the house, and even how to do the visitation schedule with children.
    • Permanent Orders Hearing (Permanent Orders)—this is the final court date where the Judge will enter a decision outlining all remaining issues not previously resolved by the parties in negotiation or mediation. It’s the “trial” at the end of the case.
  • Types of Experts:
    • Certified Family Investigator (CFI)—When parties cannot agree on parenting time and/or decision making, a CFI may be requested by the parties or appointed by the Court. Usually, they are a licensed attorney or mental health professional with knowledge of child development. They will conduct an investigation and write a report for the court to use as a guideline. Most judges give great deference to a CFI’s opinion.
    • Parental Responsibility Evaluator (PRE)—for complex cases when there are safety concerns or other major issues involving children, the parties may opt for a PRE instead of a CFI. Although much more expensive, the PRE must e a mental health professional and must have training outlined by statute in Colorado.
    • Financial—often we need to value businesses or other assets. Financial experts will review assets and issue an opinion and may even be needed to testify in court as to that valuation.
    • Real Estate—we regularly will need an appraiser to do appraisals on the real estate assets in question in family law cases. A broker’s preliminary letter of value is usually not enough. Appraisers and other experts are regulated by the Division of Real Estate.
  • Parenting Plan—a document that will outline all aspects of co-parenting for the foreseeable future. This is way more than just who gets the kids when. It also includes medical and insurance issues, school and religion decision making, even what to do in case of emergencies and new relationships.