Terms A Defense Attorney Might Use And What They Mean

dreamstime_xxl_2715598The legal system of the United States is constantly changing…so why do we use so many archaic terms from a dead language that’s thousands of years old?

Well, since it’s constantly changing is a good reason to have strong roots, and that’s where a lot of the Latin terms we use come into play. While it might seem very confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with the legal system, it’s important for lawyers and judges to have this shorthand in order to speak to each other. Here are a few that you might hear:

De facto – This means “in fact.” It’s used to establish the idea of “for all intents and purposes,” to suggest that something is true in practice, even if it hasn’t been legally established.

Pro se – Literally “for himself.” We call it Pro Se Legal Representation, which is when someone represents themselves in court. Even if a person has a legal background (or is even a lawyer themselves) it isn’t recommended.

Habeas Corpus – “may you have the body.” Habeas Corpus is a written document that challenges whether or not it’s even legal that you’re being detained?

Affidavit – While it might seem like a common english word, affidavit comes directly from the Latin. It is a formal statement of fact and means “he has sworn.”

Pro Bono – Pro bono doesn’t directly translate to “for free” as many people think it does. It actually means “for good.” In practice, this is any professional work done for free.

These are some of the most common words and phrases that can help you understand your defense attorney even better. We’re sure you’ll learn some more if you need to navigate the legal system…and when that happens, we hope you’ll give us a call.