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Legal Glossary H – M
This glossary is not intended to be a substitute for a good legal dictionary. It is being provided solely to assist you in reading some of our blog posts and in listening to our shows.
Hearsay can be a confusing term as we use it as more or less a synonym for juicy gossip in ordinary speech. In the law, it’s just an unsworn statement used to prove its own veracity. I’ll explain. If I say, “I’m over five feet tall,” it does not prove anything to do with my height, even though it just so happens to be a true statement. However, it’s just fine for proving lots of other things, such as:
- I am a fluent English speaker.
- I have a particular accent (if you can hear it in that short statement).
- and I speak with a more or less alto-level pitch.
- I have working vocal chords.
- I am within earshot of you.
- or I am conscious at the particular moment in time I am speaking.
In testimony, we consider something to be hearsay if it was overheard by the witness and is then being repeated by the witness under oath. E. g. Shanna overhears me say I am over five feet tall, and then Shanna is sworn in and testifies, “I heard Janet say she’s over five feet tall.”
Impleader is a procedural means of bringing third parties into a case, e. g. Shanna sues me and then I, in turn, sue someone else. In some American states, you have to sue the insurance company if you get into a car accident, so impleader is one way that could happen. See: impleader.
Originally an equitable-style activity, inspecting potential evidence in camera just means to look at it in chambers. This can happen if corporate evidence includes trade secrets, or personal information contains social security numbers. Sometimes the result of an in camera inspection leads to an order to have the evidence partially redacted in order to cover up the too-personal yet irrelevant information and then allow the resultant altered document or item into evidence and made available to the jury. See: in camera.
An indictment means really just a written accusation of a crime, handed down by a grand jury. This necessary element of criminal cases in America has been replaced in some states by a prosecutor’s information. If a grand jury fails to indict a person (or there is no prosecutor’s information on them), then that person cannot be tried for that particular crime. See: indictment.
Infant is one of those words which has a common ordinary parlance meaning but a different connotation in the law. Therefore, in the law, an infant is a minor (the words work as synonyms). Hence your 6’9″ 17-year-old child is considered an ‘infant’ under the law. See: infant.
Information (Prosecutor’s Information)
Because grand juries cost a lot and they consume a lot of time, and they often rubber stamp whatever the prosecutor sends them anyway, indictments in some American states have been supplanted by a newer method, the creation of a prosecutor’s information. It is virtually identical to an indictment but bypasses the need for a grand jury. On the Federal level, a grand jury indictment is still required. See: prosecutor’s information.
Infra just means below; we use it when referencing a statement on a subsequent page. See: infra.
Intellectual property is the intangible rights protecting the products of human thought, such as inventions, songs, books, and films. Furthermore, these intangible rights are just as real as your rights to your possessions, and they are only transferable via purchase of the rights, not of the products (e. g. buy my album and you get a copy of my songs but you don’t get the rights to my songs). See: intellectual property.
Intent is a somewhat murky word in the law. While it does mean that you mean to do something, it’s generally that you mean to commit the act, not give rise to the consequence of said act. E. g. if I shake hands with you, then my intent is to do that. But what if my limp handshake breaks your all-too fragile hand bones? Did I mean to injure you? Of course not, but my act still resulted in your injury. But I did mean to make contact with your hand. The fact that I did not know what would happen can go toward damages, but it won’t absolve me of guilt. See: intent.
An interlocutory appeal constitutes an appeal from an interlocutory order, e. g. “a temporary order issued during the course of litigation.” Hence an interlocutory appeal happens when a party appeals that order but the case has not yet resolved by verdict or settlement. See: interlocutory appeal and interlocutory appeals.
As you might expect, interrogatories are just written questions. In addition, in some American states, you get a choice of either a deposition or a set of interrogatories with one witness, but not both. However, most lawyers will want to go with a deposition, as you can attempt to gauge demeanor and truthfulness. So why would you want interrogatories instead? You might prefer them if the witness lives in a remote area and it’s the only way to get anything out of them. See: interrogatory.
Being intestate (not interstate!), i. e., in the state of intestacy, means you died without having a will. See: intestate.
We often use the term as a synonym for prison. However, more often jail has a local aspect and has more minimal security. Whereas a convicted felon goes after verdict to a prison. See: jail.
Jurisdiction refers to both a court’s authority to hear a case and the court (or its location) itself. See: jurisdiction.
A jury is a panel of citizens tasked with deciding the verdict in a case. Furthermore, they are also called the trier of fact, whereas the judge is the trier of law (in non-jury cases, the judge assumes both roles). See: grand jury, petit jury, jury.
A kangaroo court means a court without authority which takes the law into its own hands. See: kangaroo court.
A minor is a person under the age of majority. And in the United States, that generally means age 18. See: minor.
A misdemeanor refers to a less serious crime, in contrast to a felony. Because felonies require the possibility of a year or more of jail time (even if the verdict, sentence, or practicable serving thereof is for less time), misdemeanors have to, by definition, not have the possibility of so much jail time. See: misdemeanor.
Moral turpitude refers to a crime of depravity and intentional evil, considered to be indecent. In addition, this somewhat antiquated term refers to not only rape and the solicitation of prostitutes, but also forgery and robbery. See: moral turpitude.
Motion in Limine
Finally, attorneys make this motion made at the start of trial, in order to keep inadmissible items out. See: motions in limine.