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This vocabulary will be useful if you plan on becoming a lawyer, for reading the newspaper in English, or especially for any number of English language exams you may take. Here we will look at the most commonly used words related to law, along with their French translations.


a jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction

The acquittal is the first setback for prosecutors in the inquiry.



a term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a jury or judge in civil and criminal cases

The home test, however, is not admissible in court.



a written or printed statement made under oath

Affidavits show he was sentenced to 150 days in jail.



a claim that you cannot be guilty of a crime because you were somewhere else when the crime was committed

A tight alibi weighs heavily in the husband’s favor.



a request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that a higher court review the decision to determine if it was correct

Whether such appeals are finding their mark is an open question.



a proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty

An arraignment usually signals the start of a trial is near.

la lecture de l’acte d’accusation


to use the power of the law to take and keep someone, such as a criminal

Of the 165 arrests, 45 resulted from assaults on officers.



the release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person’s appearance in court when required

Cowlings was arrested, but posted $250,000 bail.

la caution

case file

a complete collection of every document filed in court in a case

The current case file now amounts to 70,000 pages.

le dossier à charge


a judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant

A misdemeanor conviction to most law-abiding citizens is devastating.

la condamnation


government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes

He has the versatility to play any position on the court.

le tribunal


a person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code

Right now America is the world’s greatest debtor nation.

le débiteur/la débitrice


an individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit is filed; the person accused of a crime

Apart from the one defendant charged, no others were named.

le défendeur/la défenderesse


an oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths

They’re taking hundreds and hundreds of depositions.

la déposition provisoire


information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the judge or jury to decide the case in favor of one side or the other

Five pieces of evidence were admitted on behalf of the defense.

la preuve


a serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison

It is a federal felony to pirate cable and satellite signals.

le crime


the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable from another person

Cellphone fraud is relatively easy to commit but hard to stop.



responsible for committing a crime or doing something bad or wrong

Whether Simpson is guilty or not has yet to be determined.



not allowed by the law

It is against the law to harbor and hide illegal aliens.



the formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial

The indictment does not provide any details about the other tipsters.



in America, an official of the Judicial branch with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts

A judge must rule on whether a wiretapping request is valid.

le juge


the group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact

The jury verdict found no malice against either of these officers.

le jury


a legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff

He said he thought long and hard before filing the lawsuit.

le procès


a person whose job is to guide and assist people in matters relating to the law

This approach has created lots of work and opportunity for lawyers.



an offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less

In 1986 he was convicted for misdemeanor receipt of stolen property.

le délit mineur


an invalid trial, caused by fundamental error

A mistrial was declared, and the charges were later dropped.

l’annulation de procès


a formal and serious promise to tell the truth or to do something

The witnesses were under oath; the jury was off camera.

le serment


the release of a prison inmate after the inmate has completed part of his or her sentence in a federal prison

His parole date is in 2005, barring further behavior problems.

la liberté conditionnelle


in a criminal case, the defendant’s statement pleading “guilty” or “not guilty” in answer to the charges

Lezin said Trapp indicated he would consider a voluntary manslaughter plea.

la défense


a building where people are kept as punishment for a crime or while they are waiting to go to court

The prison holds locally sentenced felons serving one to six years.

la prison


sentencing option in the federal courts in which the individual is released to the community and ordered to complete a period of supervision monitored by a US probation officer

Von Feldt was fined and placed on three years of probation.

la liberté conditionnelle


to charge someone with a crime

Wilson should be prosecuted, just like any other common criminal.

intenter une action

restraining order

a legal order saying that someone is not allowed to go near a particular person

Just obtaining a restraining order is legally more difficult for a teenager.

l’interdiction de domicile


the punishment given by a court of law

He was given the maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.

le verdict


a command, issued under a court’s authority, to a witness to appear and give a testimony

The subpoena didn’t identify possible targets of the investigation.

la citation


something that someone says, especially in a court of law, while formally promising to tell the truth

The glasses were placed in an envelope, according to testimony.

la déposition


the decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case

The jury verdict found no malice against either of these officers.

le verdict


a person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury

Expert witnesses on each side try to prove the other wrong.

le témoin

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