Glossary: The Criminal Justice System in Texas

assigned counsel: private lawyers appointed by judges to provide legal representation for indigent defendants in serious criminal cases; the lawyer's fee is determined by and paid by the county

bail: a payment of money allowing the accused to be freed pending trial

civil laws: rules and regulations which govern transactions and grievances between individual citizens.

civil liberties: limitations on the power of government, designed to ensure personal freedoms

civil rights: guarantees of equal treatment by government authorities

criminal justice: the enforcement of criminal law.

criminal law: division of the law concerned with actions which are dangerous or harmful to society as a whole, in which prosecution is pursued not by an individual but by the state. The purpose of criminal law is to 1) provide the specific definition of what constitutes a crime and to 2) prescribe punishments for committing such a crime. No criminal law can be valid unless it includes both of these factors.

constitutional law: the body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of dierent entities within a state, including the executive, legislature, and the judiciary; as well as the basic rights of citizens and the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments. In Texas, constitutional law includes the national constitution and the Texas state constitution.

double jeopardy: a prosecution pursued twice at the same level of government for the same criminal action

due process clause: provisions of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that limit government power to deny people “life,  liberty, or property” on an unfair basis; it is a guarantee that people will be treated fairly and impartially by government ocials when the government seeks to fine or imprison them or take their personal property away from them.

economic liberty: the right of individuals to obtain, use, and trade things of value for their own benefit

eminent domain: the power of government to take or use property for a public purpose after compensating its owner; also known as the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment

exonerate: clears of conviction based on evidence of innocence.

grand jury: jury that determines whether sucient evidence is available to justify a trial; grand juries do not rule on the accused's guilt or innocence

indictment: ocial charges against an accused individual

Miranda warning: a statement by law enforcement ocers informing a person arrested or subject to interrogation of his or her rights

plea bargain: an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor in which the defendant pleads guilty to the charge(s) in question or perhaps to less serious charges, in exchange for more lenient punishment than if convicted after a full trial

public defender: a salaried lawyer who is funded by the government or by grants who represents indigents in Texas in some counties or for some types of cases

prison: a facility in which inmates are forcibly confined and denied a variety of freedoms under the authority of the state. Prisons are most commonly used within a criminal justice system: people charged with crimes may be imprisoned until their trial; those pleading or being found guilty of crimes at trial may be sentenced to a specified period of imprisonment.

probation: a suspension of the jail or prison sentence.

selective incorporation: the gradual process of making some guarantees of the Bill of Rights (so far) apply to state governments and the national government

self-incrimination: an action or statement that admits guilt or responsibility for a crime