IN THE COURTROOM

EXPLAINER: Commonly used legal terms and their meanings

Bail is the same as bond but involves payment of cash to the court to secure release.

In Summary

• Bond: This is an undertaking with or sometimes without sureties or securities that is entered into by an accused person charged with an offence in form of a title deed, logbooks or payslips or houses that will be deposited in court to ensure they appear in court after being released.

• Abscond: This is when an accused leaves the country or disappears to avoid prosecution after depositing bail or bond.

The Milimani Law Courts.
The Milimani Law Courts.
Image: FILE

 

  1. Suspect: This is a person who under investigation by police and has yet to be charged with any offense.
  2. Accused: This is a person who has been formally charged in court with any offense and has pleaded to the charges.
  3. Bond: This is an undertaking with or sometimes without sureties or securities that is entered into by an accused person charged with an offence in form of a title deed, logbooks or payslips or houses that will be deposited in court to ensure they appear in court after being released.
  4. Bail: This is the same as bond but involves payment of cash to the court to secure release. The difference with a bond is that money is paid in cash while bond has to be tangible property.
  5. Surety: This is a person who appears in court on behalf of the accused and has promised the court that they will deposit their property to make sure that they do not skip court.
  6. Offence: It is a crime that contravenes the law and can be criminal or civil.
  7. Abscond: This is when an accused leaves the country or disappears to avoid prosecution after depositing bail or bond.
  8. Magistrate: A judicial officer who sits in the lower courts.
  9. Judge: A judicial officer who sits at the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
  10. Pretrial: In criminal cases, it’s meant to confirm whether the defence has been supplied with copies of all witness statements and exhibits.
  11. Defence: Lawyers representing the accused and demonstrate to the court that they were innocent of the crime they are accused of.
  12. Prosecutor: State counsel who works with police investigators to ensure that justice is done. They are under the office of the DPP and their work to prove that the accused is guilty by using available evidence .
  13. Mention: When a case is slated for mention that means the case will not proceed for hearing but mention for compliance to know whether parties are ready for hearing of any other directions.
  14. Hearing date: The day when the prosecution presents evidence and the defence gets to defend themselves.
  15. Mitigation: In criminal law these are conditions that do not justify the accused conduct but will help the court lessen the penalty issued to the person due to the nature of their alleviation
  16. Conviction: This is when the court finds the accused guilty.
  17. Acquittal: This is when the court finds the accused not guilty and sets him free. 
  18. Sentence: This is a punishment against an accused convicted of a crime that can be some time in jail or a fine. Depending with the offense and particulars of the charge the court will consider the penal code and mitigation while delivering sentencing the accused.
  19. Miscellaneous application: This an application brought to court by investigating agencies seeking particulars orders from the court relating to different cases. In most cases, the police are the ones who make the application often to get more days to detain the suspects if they are not ready to charge them.
  20. Re-sentencing: This is an application for a reduction of a sentence by the same court that sentenced the accused. For example, if an inmate had been sentenced to death, the court might review it to life or even five years.
  21. Plea Bargain: This is an arrangement between the prosecutor and an accused whereby the accused pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges.
  22. Case withdrawal: This is where the prosecution or the complainant decides after evaluating the case that there is no need to continue with the trial and they may ask the court to withdraw the case and if the court allows the application, then the case is usually terminated.
  23. Witness: This is a person who appears in court to give testimony of what they know about that particular case in question. They might be the victim or sometimes expert witnesses who will help the court to make a determination.
  24. Fine:  This is a sum of money imposed by the court to an accused person after they have been found guilty and should be paid to secure freedom. In some instances, they may be fined and also sentenced to serve time in jail. However, in most cases, the court gives an alternative of a fine and most people opt to pay the fine.