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Important legal and criminal terms defined

Criminal law is complex and extensive. There are a wide variety of offenses one can commit against people and property. Local, state and federal government entities establish and enforce laws and punish those who commit them. Each offense can involve an enormous amount of detail.

If the police ever arrest you for a crime, it is ideal for you to know some important legal terms. Here is a brief glossary of criminal terms.


An accessory is a person who requests, commands, solicits or helps another individual to partake in an illegal action. 

Aiding and abetting

Aiding and abetting refers to an individual commissioning a crime.


Criminal assault occurs when a person intentionally acts to cause another individual to become afraid of immediate bodily harm. 

Beyond a reasonable doubt

This term means a prosecutor must have strong evidence, proven facts and established guilt to convict a defendant of a crime.


A burglary happens when someone unlawfully enters a structure with the intent to commit an illegal offense. 


A conviction occurs when a defendant receives a judgment of guilt.

Credit card fraud

Someone commits credit card fraud when he or she uses a credit card to make purchases without payment or conducts unauthorized withdrawals. 

Drug possession

Possession happens when an individual willfully possesses an illicit controlled substance. 


An individual commits embezzlement by misappropriating property or cash.


A felony is a crime that comes with at least one year of imprisonment as a punishment.


Kidnapping refers to a person moving and/or confining another individual against his or her will. 


A misdemeanor is a lesser crime than a felony that is punishable by less than one year of jail.


Perjury happens when someone lies under oath. 

Public intoxication

Someone may face public intoxication charges for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs in a public location. 


A shoplifter steals merchandise from a business or retail store.

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