Criminal cases that are presented in television dramas have little to do with the average criminal cases that most people may come across in their lives. For example, if you are sued as a cook for causing one of your patrons to get food poisoning, you cannot afford nor do you need a high-priced, celebrity attorney. On the other hand, you do need to understand the options at your disposal. An understanding of at least a few legal terms can help you intelligently participate with your lawyer in preparing your case.
One of the first things you will need to decide is how you will plead in your case. This will often depend on the facts that the opposing attorney can use to prove your guilt. If there is a strong case against you, and you plead not guilty, your efforts to maintain your innocence can come across as a lack of remorse. Thus, if you are in fact guilty of a crime, pleading guilty may help you to receive a lesser punishment than what otherwise may be handed down. There are other options bedsides guilty and not guilty; you should discuss all of your options with your lawyer, such as no contest or a plea bargain.
Another key term in criminal law is mens rea, which is Latin for guilty mind. Let's say that you accidentally caused a patron to get food poisoning, but you had no idea that you were doing so. In some states, you cannot be convicted of a crime unless you meant to commit the crime. Thus, proving your state of mind will be key in building your defense.
If you took every reasonable step to prevent a crime but ended up hurting other people anyway, your punishment will likely be less than if you omitted steps. For example, if you failed to come to a full stop and look both ways at a stop sign before pulling into traffic and slamming into another car, you failed to perform your due diligence as a driver and are guilty of, at the least, reckless driving. Proving that you did your due diligence will help you in building a case of not guilty.
While a legal dictionary could have tens of thousands of terms, these few terms will help the average person to contend with the type of cases that could be leveled against them. On the other hand, rather than feel like you are now fully prepared to mount your own legal defense, you should always work with a knowledgeable attorney from a law firm like Abom & Kutulakis LLP to prepare the best defense possible.