Common Legal Terminology You Should Know

When entering into the legal arena, be it court, jail, bail bonds, and other such legal proceedings, it’s important to know the necessary terminology involved in these critical matters. A lot of people who have never experienced the court system before are ill-equipped to communicate about their options initially because they haven’t been acquainted with legal terminology before. We thought it would be helpful to outline and define some of the most crucial and relevant terminologies you or a loved one may need to know throughout the judicial process.


Widely defined as “the action of giving someone back a position they have lost” or “the restoration of something such as law or custom”, when it comes to court, the definition takes on a similar meaning. Reinstatement is a legal process, of which refers to a defendant who has missed their court date, either intentionally, or through unavoidable circumstances. In these cases, the defendant can have their bench warrant (failure to appear in court warrant) removed and therefore have the bail bond re-activated, commonly known as “reinstated” with the court. The court will then set a new court date by working with the bail bond agency and the defendant to reach an agreeable date. While this is essentially a “second chance” for the defendant, there are likely to be additional fees for the defendant or their co-signer for the inconvenience caused by their failure to appear.


This is a key term in a legal proceeding, and hopefully, one you will come to hear. Meaning to “release someone from a duty or obligation” or “absolve someone from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case”. In simple terms, to be exonerated means the defendant is considered free, discharged from crime or liability. This can also refer to a person who was previously convicted of a crime, and was later proven to be innocent and therefore released from their sentence.

Summary Judgement

Summary Judgement or “Summary Disposition” is a judgment entered by a court for one party and therefore against the opposing party, without a full trial. This may occur and relate to the entire case, or just within certain details and discrete issues in the case. Typically, in a court hearing, the defendant will move for summary judgment to effectively settle or reach a streamlined settlement.

Bench Warrant

A bench warrant, as previously stated, is a warrant issued by a judge when the defendant violates the rules of the court. Typically, this simply refers to the defendant missing their court date. If the police catch the defendant when they have a bench warrant out, they can bring them in and hold them in jail until their court hearing- without the option for bail. This is because they have already exhibited risky behaviour by failing to appear, and are considered to be a liability to a bonds company and the court system.


An arraignment simply refers to a court hearing or court procession. At an arraignment, the court will formally make a decision, and inform the defendant of their charges in an indictment if it applies. The court will then take the defendant’s answer to the listed charges if they wish to formally plea. In terms of felony cases, following the arraignment, if the case doesn’t settle or get dismissed the judge will then hold a preliminary hearing. The judge will then decide if there is enough information and necessary evidence to convict the defendant.

All of these legal terms and definitions are exceptionally important to familiarize yourself with if you find yourself or a loved one in any sort of legal situation. Knowing your rights, due process, and the language to define these proceedings will help make the entire experiece smoother and less stressful.