Acquittal: Freeing a person from the charge of an offense by means of a decision, verdict or other legal process. In other words, declaring a defendant “not guilty.”

Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD): A legal device that allows a case to be suspended (adjourned) for six months to a year.  Charges are automatically dismissed at the end of that time if the defendant is not rearrested in the interim. In the alternative, the case may be restored to the court calendar.

Alternative to Incarceration (ATI): Any kind of punishment other than time in jail that can be given to a person who commits a crime. These programs may fall under the authority of governmental or non-profit agencies. They operate in conjunction with the criminal justice system in all New York State counties and the City of New York. Examples include: time-served, fines, community service, conditional discharge, social services, drug and mental health treatment programs, probation, and alternative-to-incarceration programs.

Arraignments: The court proceeding during which a person is informed of the charges against him or her.

Arrest: When the police take a person into custody on probable cause, with or without a warrant.

Bail: The money a defendant pays as a guarantee that he or she will show up in court at a later date.  Typically, a judge or magistrate sets it during arraignment.

Booking: When the police create an administrative record of someone who has been arrested.

Community Service: A sentencing option for people convicted of crimes in which the court orders the defendant to perform a certain amount of unpaid work for the benefit of the public.

Conditional Discharge: A sentence in which a person is released from custody with certain conditions attached that he or she must follow in order to avoid possible incarceration.

Dismissal: Ending a proceeding for a procedurally prescribed reason.

Dispose: The act of ending a judicial proceeding, either favorably or unfavorably for a defendant. The court’s final determination of a criminal charge.

Felony: An offense for which a person can be sentenced to more than one year in prison. Felonies are divided into five categories or classes: A, B, C, D and E felonies. Class A felonies are divided into two sub-categories: A-I and A-II felonies. Class A felonies carry the longest sentences and class E felonies carry the shortest sentences for felony cases.  

Fine: A sentence that requires the payment of money to the court.

Incarceration: Confinement in a jail or prison; imprisonment.

Jail: Different from state and federal prisons, jails are generally operated at the local city or county level. Jails hold a variety of people, including those being detained before trial who were not granted bail or are unable to afford bail. Jails house people convicted of felony criminal charges who are awaiting sentencing of more than one year in a prison, as well as people found guilty of misdemeanors sentenced to serve one year or less. Jails also hold people convicted of felonies awaiting transfer to a state prison.

Misdemeanor: A specific type of offense for which a person may be sentenced to more than 15 days but not more than one year in jail.

Plea Bargain: An agreement between the defendant, a judge, and a prosecutor in which the defendant admits guilt, usually in exchange for a promise that a particular sentence will be imposed.

Pretrial Detention: When someone is confined in jail before his or her trial.

Prison: Institutions designed for the confinement of people convicted of felonies, who have been sentenced to more than one year of incarceration. Prisons are distinct from jails in that prisons typically confine only sentenced people serving more than one year, while jails hold pretrial detainees as well as misdemeanants serving shorter sentences. 

Probation: A sentence whereby a convicted person is released from confinement but is still under court supervision; a testing or a trial period. Probation can be given in place of a prison term or can suspend a prison sentence if the person has consistently demonstrated good behavior.  

Release on Recognizance (ROR): To be released from custody without bail while a case is pending. This is often referred to as parole.

Remand: To send an accused person back into custody to await further proceedings, or to send a case back to a lower court. 

State holds: Includes individuals who have been sentenced to prison and are awaiting transfer to a state facility. 

Time-Served:  Often a judge will give a defendant “credit for time served” (particularly when sentencing for misdemeanors), releasing a defendant out on account of the time he or she already spent in jail while awaiting bail or trial.

Trial: A court proceeding during which a judge or jury decides whether a person is guilty or not guilty of the charges against him or her. 


Source(s): Office of Court Administration (OCA) | John Jay College of Criminal Justice | NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives