Frequently Used Terms

Below is a list of phrases crime victims may hear when trying to get their legal needs met.

Adjudicated: The outcome (disposition) of a juvenile criminal case.

  • “Adjudicated” can mean that a juvenile has been convicted.
  • “Adjudicated” can also mean the court decided a child was abused and/or neglected.

1st Advisement: A hearing when the judge tells a defendant of the charges against them.

2nd Advisement: A hearing when the judge tells the defendant of the formal filing of charges against them.

Arraignment:  A hearing when the judge tells the defendant the criminal charges and the defendant’s rights. Also, the defendant enters a plea. The defendant may plead guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity. 

Bond: The reason for a bond is to make sure that a person set free from custody (for example, jail) will appear for all future court dates. The bond may require the defendant to post (give) cash or property. The cash or property is sometimes called “bail”. The defendant may lose the cash or property if they do not appear for a court date. A Personal Recognizance (PR) bond allows the person to leave custody based on that their word that they will return to court.

Bench warrant: An arrest warrant issued by the court for a person who violated the judge’s orders.

CA or CAO: The City Attorney's Office Prosecution and Code Enforcement Section prosecutes most traffic infractions and all violations of Denver's city laws (ordinances). Violations of city laws include some cases involving Domestic Violence, wrongs to minors (people under age 18), and public nuisances.

Change of venue: The transfer of a case from a court in one location to a court in another location (for example, to a different county).

Civil Protection Order: People who are threatened or physically harmed can ask a civil court for a civil protection order. Protection orders are also called “restraining orders”.

Colorado Open Records Act: Crime victims may want copies of information about their case, such as the police report. Crime victims may request information through the Colorado Open Records Act.

Community corrections (ComCor): People convicted of a felony, on parole, or moving out of the Department of Corrections (DOC) may be placed in community corrections programs. Community corrections programs can include residential facilities (half-way houses) and community supervision.

Concurrent sentence: When a person serves more than one sentence at the same time.

Consecutive sentence: When a person serves one sentence after the end of a previous sentence.

Contempt citation: A judge can issue a contempt citation to a person who does not come to court after receiving a subpoena to do so. A contempt citation is the court’s way of saying the person has to come to court. If the person does not appear at that new court event, an arrest warrant may be issued.

Continuance: When a judge agrees to postpone or reschedule a court hearing.

Court trial: A trial with a judge, but no jury. The judge decides factual and legal questions. The judge makes the final judgment.

Credit time served: A convicted person is given time off a sentence equal to the time already served in custody (for example, in jail).

Critical stages in a criminal case:

  • filing of charges
  • decisions to not file charges
  • preliminary hearing
  • bond reduction or modification*
  • arraignment
  • hearings on motions
  • disposition/plea*
  • trial
  • sentencing*
  • a subpoena for records about the victim’s medical history, mental health, education or crime victim compensation*
  • appellate review; modification of sentences*
  • decision to conduct DNA testing, the results of the testing and court proceedings based on the results; attack on judgment or conviction
  • petitions by sex offenders to cease (end) registration
  • any hearing about a petition for expungement of juvenile records*

*indicates a stage where a victim has a right to be present and heard. To learn more about the Victims’ Rights Act, click here.

DPD: Denver Police Department.

DSD: Denver Sheriff’s Department.

Defendant: A person who is formally charged with a crime.

Disposition: The court’s final determination (decision) of a case or issue. A disposition hearing happens after a defendant enters a “not guilty” plea.  This hearing allows a defendant to consider a plea agreement.

Discovery:  The process of one side of a case getting information about the other side of case.  In a criminal case, the prosecution must give the defense the information they have about the facts of a case. This includes information that victims have shared with the Victim Advocate in the City and/or District Attorney’s Office.

Department of Corrections: The Colorado department that oversees prisons and parolees.

Dismissed without prejudice: The judge dismisses criminal charges, but charges can be re-filed if new evidence or information is found.

Dismissed with prejudice: The judge dismisses criminal charges, and charges cannot be re-filed.

District Attorney (DA): The attorney who represents Colorado in a criminal case. The DA prosecutes the case against a defendant.

Division of Youth Corrections (DYC): The Colorado department that oversees juvenile detention facilities and programs as well as juvenile parole.

Dropping charges: Only the prosecutor can drop charges.  Denver has a “no-drop policy” on crimes that involved Domestic Violence. This means that once the Denver Police Department has filed charges that involve Domestic Violence, the defendant must follow the normal legal process. Sometimes people think that victims can drop charges, but this is not true.

Electronic monitoring: A requirement (condition) of bond or probation to monitor and track defendants.

  • GPS monitoring tracks a defendant’s location.
  • SCRAM tracks a defendant’s alcohol level.

Enhanced Supervision: Pre-trial services puts in place requirements (conditions) that a defendant must follow while released on bond.

Eviction: A person is kicked out of a property by legal action. Evictions are civil legal actions. Evictions are handled by the landlord and tenant in civil court. District and City Attorney’s Offices do not prosecute eviction cases.

Intensive Supervision: While out on bond, defendants are monitored by Pretrial Services. Defendants often have to: do court reminder calls, check in in-person after court appearances, do telephone check-ins 1-4 times a month, be on electronic monitoring, follow a curfew, do substance abuse testing (if ordered), and notify Pretrial Services of any new arrests.

Jurisdiction: The power a court has over a case based on the type of case and geographic location. For example, the county where a child lives in a custody case or where a crime happened.

Jury Trial: A trial where the case is heard by a jury. The jury decides the factual questions and the final judgment.

Juvenile Status Hearing: When a juvenile is told of charges, their rights, and enters a plea (guilty, not guilty). This is like “arraignment” in the adult system.

Mandatory criminal protection order: A Mandatory Protection Order happens in a criminal case and is also sometimes called a restraining order or “MPO”.  When a defendant has been charged with a crime, the court always enters an MPO to protect the victim.  The MPO says the defendant cannot “harass, molest, intimidate, retaliate against, or tamper with any witness to or victim of the crime charged”.

Parole: After a person has been released from the custody of the Department of Corrections, they are supervised for a period of time in the community

Plea agreement: In a criminal case, when the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge(s) in return for something from the prosecutor (such as a less serious charge). With a plea agreement, a defendant can be convicted without the case having to go to trial.

Plea and setting: A hearing when a defendant pleads (guilty, not guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity) and the case is set for trial.

Post-conviction notification: Victims can register to be told about the offender’s status after sentencing (for example, when the offender gets out of prison). If victims register, they can receive notices from probation, Department of Corrections, parole and state hospitals, and the VINE system ( 

Prelminary Hearing: A Preliminary Hearing is a proceeding where the judge decides whether or not the prosecution has enough evidence to support the charges and for a trial. There may be testimony required during this hearing, including from victims and witnesses. The preliminary hearing is a “critical state” defined in the VRA which means a victim has a right to be informed (told this is happening) and be present.

Pre-trial Services: The program that monitors whether the offender is following the conditions (requirements) set by a judge for bond. The conditions may include electronic monitoring, monitoring of alcohol/drug use, a curfew, and enhanced supervision.

Probable cause: A finding that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a crime happened and that the person charged committed that crime.

Pro bono: Legal representation without charge to the client.

Pro se: When someone represents themselves in a case and does not have an attorney.

Pre-sentence investigation: Probation investigates a defendant before the sentencing hearing. The victim is also contacted to describe the impact of the crime and give input on the sentence. The judge uses the information from the investigation to decide a sentence.

Probation: A sentence in a criminal case that requires a defendant meet specific conditions (for example: drug testing, classes, paying fines) instead of going to jail.  Probation can be supervised by a probation officer or unsupervised.  The level of probation supervision is decided by the probation department. Violation of probation terms will usually lead to the person being sent to jail. Probation is not the same as "parole" (parole is the supervised release of someone from the Department of Corrections (prison)).

Probation revocation: A court hearing to decide if a defendant has violated the terms and conditions of probation. At the end of the revocation hearing, the judge decides if probation should be restored or if the defendant should be sentenced to jail. 

Public Defender (PD): A defense attorney who is assigned to represent a defendant in a criminal case at no cost because defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to an attorney. A defendant has to meet certain income levels to be eligible for a Public Defender.

Restitution: When a victim can document financial loss during the crime, the defendant can be ordered to pay those losses as part of their sentence in a criminal case.  Restitution is paid into the court registry and then given to the victim.  

Setting Over: Moving a hearing or trail to a new date.

Sequestration: A court order in certain hearings and trials. This order forbids witnesses from talking to each other about testimony and/or stops witnesses from being in the courtroom while others are testifying.  

Speedy trial: In a criminal case, a defendant has the right to a trial within a short period of time. This is because being held in jail without trial is a violation of the "due process" provision of the U.S. Constitution. Charges must be dismissed if the period ends without trial. In Denver, speedy trial is 91 days. Defendants often waive (give up) the right to a speedy trial in order to prepare a stronger defense. If the defendant is free on bail, they will not be hurt by the giving up the right to a speedy trial.

Status Conference: A Status conference is any kind of hearing scheduled by the court to check in on a case and decide what should happen next.They can happen for many reasons and in many types of cases. Usually another court date is scheduled at a status conference.

Subpoena: An order of the court for a witness to appear at a particular time and place to testify and/or produce documents. Failure to appear as required by the subpoena can be punished as contempt of court.

Victim: The person against whom a crime has been committed.

Victim Impact Statement: A statement prepared by a victim that the judge will consider before sentencing.  The statement can give information about the financial and emotional impact of the crime on the victim. The victim may also make a written or oral statement to the judge at the time of sentencing.

Youthful Offender System: A program of the Department of Correction for the secure supervision of and programming for juvenile offenders who have been adjudicated as adults.