Chapter 15

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Term Definition
common law a system of law based on precedent and customs
precedent a ruling that is used as the basis for a judicial decision in a later, similar case
statute a law written by a legislative branch
plaintiff a person or party filing a lawsuit
defendant an individual or group being sued or charged with a crime
felony a serious crime such as murder, rape, kidnapping, or robbery
misdemeanor a relatively minor offense such as vandalism or stealing inexpensive items
larceny the unlawful taking away of another person's property with the intent never to return it
robbery the taking of property form a person's possession by using force or threats
burglary unlawful entry into any dwelling or structure
lawsuit a legal action in which a person or group sues to collect damages for some harm that is done
tort wrongful acts for which an injured party has the right to sue
libel written untruths that are harmful to someone's reputation
constitutional law branch of law dealing with formation, construction, and interpretation of constitutions
stare decisis the practice of using earlier judicial rulings as a basis for deciding cases
writ of habeas corpus a court order that requires police to bring a prisoner to court to explain why they are holding the person
bill of attainder a law that punishes a person accused of a crime without trial or a fair hearing in court
ex post facto law a law that would allow a person to be punished for an action that was not against the law when it was committed
due process of law procedures established by law and guaranteed by the Constitution
search warrant a court order allowing law enforcement officers to search a suspect's home or business and take specific items as evidence
double jeopardy putting someone on trial for a crime of which he or she was previously acquitted
grand jury a group of citizens that decides whether there is sufficient evidence to accuse someone of a crime
plea bargaining negotiation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor
bail a sum of money used as a security deposit to ensure that an accused person returns for his or he trial

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