Glossary of legal lingo


The law is like an invisible force that makes its way into almost every decision that we make, either because we want to uphold it, or because we wish to break it.

Some even call it an art, with lawmakers perpetually walking the fine line between allowing too much freedom for the people with the abuses that might entail, and igniting the spark of civil unrest by tightening the grip far too much.

There is no such thing as a universal law that applies to every human and every nation, as cultural differences will often prove to be too great, but there is a certain glossary of legal jargon that runs across the western world creating the illusion of a common set of values, with the blindfolded Lady Justice lighting the way.

Whether we love courtroom dramas, or engage in our own dealings with the law (positive ones, of course!), these are widespread terms that we have all heard quite often but we probably don’t really know what they mean. Time to fix that.

Lady Justice


When a judge or jury decides the defendant (the individual accused of the crime) is deemed not guilty. Being not guilty does not mean that the defendant is innocent though. It just means that there was not enough evidence to rule a guilty verdict. 


An affidavit is a verified statement made voluntarily under oath, which means that its veracity is assumed, and contradicting or retracting this statement further down the line comes with a whole set of legal consequences (i.e. another full season of 20 episodes).


When the losing party gets a verdict they don’t agree with, they have the choice to reject the decision and have the case reviewed by a higher court. For certain cases, this can go all the way up to the Supreme Court or the national equivalent. Many high profile cases seen on the media devolve into legal battles that can span decades, largely due to appeals.

Class Action Lawsuit

When multiple people are negatively affected by something, usually due to some type of scam or environmental hazard, they can band together and initiate legal proceedings against a party with a class action lawsuit. Commonly used to hold businesses accountable for false advertising and other malpractices, these lawsuits are becoming more common as consumer rights are increasingly protected.


A crime that is considered serious and can lead to prison sentences or significant fines. Things like murder, arson, kidnapping, blackmail, extortion, and pretty much everything that went on in The Sopranos is considered a felony. 


The lighter version of a felony is a misdemeanor. Reckless driving, vandalism, public intoxication, and all of the colorful behaviors that aren’t eligible for severe punishment fall into this category. Some legal systems might punish repeating offenders, even if they are only in court for misdemeanors, with harsher sentences.

Plea Bargain

When a defendant sees that the chances of avoiding a sentence are slimming, they can choose to enter a plea bargain. This means that the defendant declares him or herself guilty early in the trial, thus saving the legal system from weeks, months, or even years of legal proceedings, and as a reward gets a lighter sentence. Perhaps not the ideal vision of justice we would like to see, but when resources are limited and the cases are piling up, it seems like a reasonable price to pay.


A pretty easy one for the last, as it always is a part of any trial. A verdict is the determination of guilty, not guilty, or innocent made by the judge or jury. Courtroom dramas usually end here, either with celebration or indignation, but we’re sure that when the next one comes pops up on your streaming platform, you’ll know your way around it a bit better!

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