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An initial trial court appearance, at which the accused is read the charges, advised of his or her rights, and asked to enter a plea.

avertable recidivist

A person whose crime would have been prevented if he or she had not been given discretionary release and instead had been kept behind bars.


The monetary amount required for pretrial release, normally set by a judge at the initial appearance. The purpose of bail is to ensure the return of the accused at subsequent proceedings.


A sworn written statement addressed to a court or judge by the police, prosecutor, or individual alleging that an individual has committed an offense and requesting indictment and prosecution.


The process whereby each party to a case learns of the evidence the other side will present.

exculpatory evidence

All information that is material and favorable to the accused defendant because it casts doubt on the defendant's guilt or on the evidence the government intends to use at trial.


A written accusation returned by a grand jury, charging an individual with a specified crime after determination of probable cause.


A formal charging document, similar to an indictment, based on probable cause as determined at a preliminary hearing.

no bill

The action by a grand jury when it votes not to indict an accused suspect.

nolo contendere

A plea of "no contest"—the defendant submits to sentencing without any formal admission of guilt that could be used against him or her in a sub sequent civil suit.

preliminary hearing

Hearing before a magistrate to determine if the government has sufficient evidence to show probable cause that the defendant committed the crime.


The report of a grand jury investigation, which usually includes a recommendation of indictment.

pretrial detainees

People who are either denied bail or cannot afford to post bail before trial and are kept in secure confinement.

pretrial procedures

Legal and administrative actions that take place after arrest and before trial, including grand jury indictments, preliminary hearings, bail, and plea negotiation.

preventive detention

The statutory authorization to deny bail to a particular individual who is considered dangerous or a flight risk.

release on recognizance (ROR)

A pretrial release in which a defendant with ties to the community is not required to post bail but promises to appear at all subsequent proceedings.

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