Office of the Prosecuting Attorney

Legal Terminology Definitions


An affidavit is a signed and notarized statement. An affidavit is typically used when someone wants to make a statement but is unable to attend court.


An appellate decision is a court decision decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals or the Michigan Supreme Court.


A criminal defendant's first appearance before a judge. The primary purpose is to inform defendants of what charge they are facing. At that time, the judge will set bond and any conditions of the defendant's release.


Michigan's highest level trial court, with the broadest range of powers (including hearing appeals from District Court). Circuit Court has three divisions:

  • Criminal (the trial court for all felony crimes)
  • Civil (civil law suits over $25,000.00), and
  • Family (every aspect of family law, including divorce, child custody, parenting time, paternity, adoption, child and spousal support, domestic violence, PPOs, juvenile delinquency neglect and abuse, as well as emancipation of minors.)


Double jeopardy occurs when someone is tried twice for committing the same crime.


A court order entered without advance knowledge to one of the parties. This order is usually entered immediately and the person who is not notified will have a chance to object to the order at a later date.


A crime carrying a possible punishment of more than one year incarceration.


A crime carrying a possible maximum jail time of one year or less. Exception: a high court misdemeanor carries the possibility of up to 2 years in prison, but is not labeled a felony. High-court misdemeanors are handled procedurally like a felony.


A court hearing to answer legal questions.


The person who files to have a Personal Protection Order entered by the Court


A District Court evidentiary hearing for felonies where the Prosecutor must present evidence amounting to at least probable cause that the charged felony crime(s) in fact occurred and that the defendant committed it (them). Generally, the Prosecutor presents just a fraction of their total evidence and witnesses. The defendant (or their attorney) can cross-examine the prosecutor's witnesses, and present their own proofs to refute the prosecutor's evidence. If the prosecutor meets their burden of proof, the case is sent to Circuit Court for arraignment on the charge and possible trial.


A scheduled meeting between the Prosecutor and defendant (or defendant's attorney) generally weeks before the trial date, to discuss possible plea dispositions, trial issues, etc. The judge does not actively participate in misdemeanor pretrial conferences in District Court, unless the meeting results in a plea. A Circuit Court judge may participate in a felony pretrial conference.


A discretionary sentencing option for most misdemeanor and felony convictions where the defendant avoids some or all incarceration, and is released back into the community under the supervision of a probation officer for a specific time period, with many rules to follow. Some rules are standard (i.e., to not violate any more laws), while others are specific to the defendant or crime (i.e., alcohol counseling when convicted of Operating Under the Influence Liquor). If the defendant violates any term of probation, the assigned probation officer (or the Prosecutor) can ask the sentencing judge to impose additional penalties.


A Proof of Service for a Personal Protection Order includes written documentation showing how, when, and who served the respondent with the Personal Protection Order.


When an application for a Personal Protection Order or a Personal Protection Order is entered by the court, this is the person the court has ordered to be restricted from some kind of activity.


A Restraining Order is a court order restraining one person(s) from doing certain things to other people. The restrictions are listed in the court order.


A Show Cause is a hearing the court holds to determine if a violation of the Personal Protection Order has occurred. The hearing means that the petitioner must show a cause for the Personal Protection Order violation.


A court order requiring a person to appear in court and give testimony as a witness, and/or to produce documents. An employer cannot act upon or threaten to discharge or discipline a witness for missing work to testify in court when subpoenaed.


A minor who is still under the authority and control of their parent(s).