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Legal Dictionary



Click one of the letters above to search the legal dictionary for terms beginning with that letter.




Absolute Discharge: The lowest level of sentence an adult offender can receive. Even though they are found guilty, no conviction is registered and they do not have to follow any conditions. The discharge will stay on their criminal record for a year and then will be automatically removed.

Abuse: emotional, financial, physical, psychological, sexual or verbal maltreatment of a person or animal.

Access: is a term from the federal Divorce Act which refers to the visits of a child with the parent who doesn't have the child's primary residence. See also: Parenting Time and Contact.

Access to Justice: Can mean different things from the simple ability to appear in court, to providing legal representation to those who cannot afford it, to creating a more just system overall.

Accountable: Taking responsibility for an action or decision.

Accused: The accused is the person charged with a criminal offence. Also known as the Defendant.

Acquittal: An acquittal is a criminal court finding of not guilty.

Act: An act is a law that has been passed by the federal or provincial legislature.

Action: A lawsuit; a legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a remedy or specific relief.

Actus Reus: From the Latin, guilty act, actus reus refers to the actual physical doing of the criminal act which must coexist with mens rea (mental state) which refers to the intent to commit the act or knowledge of wrongdoing.

Adjournment: A temporary delay or postponement of court proceedings, usually at the request of one of the parties, but at the discretion of the presiding judge.

Adjudication:Adjudication includes any of the forms of dispute resolution in which the parties present proofs and arguments to a neutral third party who has the power to deliver a binding decision.

Administrative Tribunal: Specialized government agencies or professional bodies that make decisions and adjudicate disputes between people and the government or professional organization.

Admissible Evidence: Facts and things that an adjudicator can consider when making a decision about a case.

Admissions of Fact: Parties can agree to certain facts which means that those facts will not have to be proved in trial. This procedure will often speed up the trial process by eliminating the need to call a witness.

Adoption: In family law, the act or process of taking another person's natural child as one's own. The child then becomes the adopting parent's legal child as if the child were the adopting parent's natural child, while the natural parent loses all rights and obligations with respect to the child.

Adultery: The act of a married person voluntarily engaging in sexual intercourse with a person other than his or her spouse. (Infidelity/Cheating). Proof of adultery is grounds for an immediate divorce, providing that the other spouse has not consented to nor forgiven the adulterous act.

Affidavit: A written statement made by a person under oath to a lawyer, a commissioner of oaths, or a notary public, to be used as evidence. Affidavits must be notarized by a lawyer or notary public who takes the oath or affirmation of the person making the affidavit about the truth of its contents.

Affirmation:To promise that a statement is true. When someone "swears" to tell the truth, they are considered to be taking an oath on their faith in a god. Affirming is a substitute for taking an oath, and is most often employed where the person making the statement is an atheist or under a religious proscription from making oaths.

Age of Majority: The age at which a person legally becomes an adult, which means they can do such things as vote and enter into a binding contract. In BC, the age of majority is 19.

Agent: Person who represents another person and can act in their place. (An agent who is not a lawyer can represent a party at a court appearance. A lawyer representing a party is called a counsel.)

Alternative Measures: Alternative or extrajudicial measures are used most often for young offenders and provide an opportunity for a person charged with a crime to avoid the formal justice system. They may include victim/offender reconciliation, community service, or payment of fines. Such programs are usually reserved for first time, non-violent offenders.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Alternative Dispute Resolution is the use of arbitration, negotiation, mediation and out-of-court settlements as opposed to litigation in the resolution of legal disputes, especially those under civil law. The purpose of ADR is to offer a less conflict-oriented and/or less expensive way to resolve a dispute than litigation. See also Arbitration and Mediation.

Amend, amendment: Changing a legal document such as an application, pleading, contract, or a law.

An Information: The formal document charging criminal offences at the Provincial Court level.

Annulment: A proceeding one can take to end an invalid marriage (For example, if one spouse was already married, or if the husband and wife found out they were brother and sister).

Appeal: An appeal is an application to have a lower court's decision reviewed by a higher court. Either party can apply if they are unhappy with the decision, however in some cases you need permission before you can appeal a matter.

Appellant: Party who appeals a decision.

Appearance: When you attend court to appear in front of a judge, master, or justice of the peace on a matter relating to your case.

Appearance Notice: An Appearance Notice is a document asking someone to go to Court. It may be given to the accused by the officer at the scene, when the accused has not been arrested, requiring the accused to appear before the Court on a certain date. It may also be given to a witness, asking them to come to court to testify in a trial.

Appellant: The party who has initiated an appeal to a higher court. The other party is known as the Respondent.

Applicant: The party who makes an application.

Application: A party’s request made to a tribunal, asking the tribunal to order something. The document contains a party’s request to a tribunal. Applications usually deal with matters that need to be resolved before trial such as asking the other party to disclose documents.

Application to Obtain an Order: In Provincial Court, family litigation is started with this application. In the Supreme Court, litigation is started with the Notice of Family Claim.

Appoint: To select a person or a group of people for an official position or to do a job. Provincial Court judges are appointed by the Provincial Government.

Arbitration: A dispute resolution process in which the parties pick the person who will resolve their dispute (called the Arbitrator) and agree to be bound by the arbitrator's decision.

Argument: Presentation to convince the court or tribunal to make a certain decision. Can involve presenting case law and a review of the facts of the case to show why the adjudicator should make a finding in their favour. Also known as submissions.

Arraignment Hearings: A hearing in which criminal charges are formally read, the accused enters their plea and a trial date is set.

Arrears: In family law, arrears refers to spousal and/or child support that has not been paid (the payor - the person paying maintenance - has fallen behind in making his or her support payments).

Arrest Without Warrant: Before a charge is laid, the police have the power to arrest. For most indictable offences, a police officer can arrest without warrant if the officer on reasonable grounds believes that the person has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence. For all other offences, an officer can only arrest if s/he finds the accused committing the offence, the public cannot be served without arresting the individual and/or has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the arrest is necessary to ensure that the accused will appear in court.

Assault: Assault is a crime in which a person hits or physically hurts another person without consent, or threatens to hit or physically hurt them, and that person believes that he or she can or will do it.

Asset: Any item worth money that is owned by a person, especially if it could be converted to cash.



Bad faith: Bad faith can mean many things: acting dishonestly, tricking a person, deliberately not doing what should be done, committing fraud, deliberately discriminating against a person, abusing power given by the government or the law, being unfair or unreasonable.

Bail: Bail is the temporary release of someone charged with a crime until their trial date. Depending on the circumstances, the accused person may need to follow certain conditions or pay a deposit into court inorder to be released. You can be charged for failing to follow your bail conditions. Also known as Judicial Interim Release.

Bail Hearing: A bail hearing is the process by which an accused person is released on bail pending his / her trial. Also known as a Show Cause hearing or Judicial Interim Release hearing.

Balance of Probabilities: In civil cases, the judge or jury weigh the evidence from both parties and make a decision that one side of the case is more probable than the other.See Burden of Proof or Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

Best Interests of the Child: The test that judges use when they make decisions about parenting and children in family cases. The needs and well-being of the children are the most important factors. The judge must decide what is best for the children rather than what is best for the parents.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: In criminal cases, the Crown has to meet a standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt inorder for the judge or jury to make a finding of guilt. It is a higher standard than required for civil cases but less than absolute certainty. The Crown must show that the evidence is so complete and convincing that the judge/jury has no reasonable doubts regarding the guilt of the accused.

Builder's Lien: Builder’s legal claim on somebody's property as security for a debt. While there is a lien on the property, it cannot be sold. A builder’s lien is often made when there is a dispute over contractors or subcontractors pay.

Burden of Proof: In criminal law, the burden of proof usually refers to the onus on the Crown to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the burden is on the person making the claim to prove that the other party is legally responsible for the damage or injury.



Case Law: The law based on past decisions by judges. Case law reflects how the courts interpret laws. In common law legal systems, judges are required to follow decisions of other judges from higher courts in their own province as well as the Supreme Court of Canada.

Causal connection: When one thing makes another thing happen.

Certified true copy: Document guaranteed to be an exact copy of an original document.

Certificate of Divorce: A document that proves the date of your divorce.

Chambers: A name for a Supreme Court courtroom where applications (not trials) are heard.

Chambers Application: Pre-trial matter heard before a judge or master of the court.

Change of Venue: If the court is satisfied that it is expedient to the ends of justice and/or an accused may not have a fair trial in the original venue (usually the courthouse nearest to where the alleged incident occurred), then upon application the Court may order that the trial be moved to another location. Often, pre-trial publicity will be advanced as a reason to change the venue.

Charge: The charge is the particular criminal offence alleged to have been committed by an accused which is contained on a sworn Information. The person remains charged with the offence until either conviction or acquittal or until the charges are stayed by Crown counsel.

Charge Approval: The Crown Counsel's decision on whether or not to lay charges.

Charge to The Jury: During a Supreme Court judge and jury trial, the charge to the jury is the instructions given to the jury by the judge which summarize the case and explain the law, enabling the jury to apply the law to the facts of the case.

Chief Judge/Justice: Each level of Court has a Chief Judge or Justice. They are responsible for the judicial administration of their respective courts.

Child: In BC, a person under the age of 19.

Child Support: Child support is the legal right of a child to receive financial support from his or her parents. That right exists whether or not the child's parents were ever married and whether or not they ever lived together. Step parents may also be required to pay Child Support. See also In Loco Parentis and Child Support Guidelines.

Child Support Guidelines: The Child Support Guidelines are the rules for calculating the amount one parent must pay to the other parent to help support their child or children. The Guidelines apply to all parents who are not together - whether they were married, lived in an opposite-sex or same-sex common-law relationship, or never lived together at all. The Guidelines also apply to step-parents who meet the legal requirements for being responsible to pay child support. The guidelines include a special rule for calculating the amount a step-parent must pay.

Child/Children of the Marriage: Someone who is less than 19 years old (the age of majority in BC), or a child who is 19 and older if the child cannot support him- or herself.

Civil Law: Laws that deal with the rights of private individuals or organizations. Civil cases deal with unresolved conflicts or disputes between individuals or groups.

Claim: A demand for something somebody has a right to or owns.

Claimant: The person who starts the family law action by filing a Notice of Family Claim. Under the old Supreme Court rules, the person who started the action was called the Plaintiff.

Closing Argument: Argument made by a party to a decision-maker at a hearing after the parties have presented their evidence.  In its closing argument, a party argues how the law and the evidence show that it is right and the other party is wrong. The party also states the decision it would like the tribunal to make.

Collaborative Law: In collaborative family law, a person, their lawyer, and their former spouse and their lawyer, make a formal commitment to resolve disagreements outside the court process in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. The goal of a collaborative lawyer is to settle the case fairly, without going to court. The lawyers are hired to reach a settlement, not to go to court. If the process breaks down, the lawyers must withdraw from the case.

Collusion: An agreement or conspiracy between the spouses to lie or deceive the court in order to get a divorce. To get a divorce, you must swear that there has been no collusion.

Common Law: This phrase has a number of different meanings: 1) a legal principle under which courts are bound to follow the principles established by previous courts in similar cases dealing with similar facts; 2) the system of justice used in all provinces except Quebec; and, 3) the legal status of an unmarried couple who have cohabited for longer than two years in a marriage-like relationship.

Common Law Peace Bond: Similar to 810 Peace Bond, except that the complaint does not need to have an ongoing fear of the other person in order for a judge to make the order. There does need to be a reasonable basis to believe that the other person may “breach the peace”. It is not a conviction but meant as a preventative measure. A peace bond may include conditions that will help maintain the peace.See Peace Bond and 810 Recognizance.

Common-Law Relationship: A same-sex or opposite-sex unmarried couple who live together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years under BC family law (and at least one year for the purposes of various Canadian federal laws).

Conditional Discharge: A type of sentence a judge can give, usually reserved for more minor offences and for those who do not have a significant criminal record. It is not a conviction, and the matter will be removed from their criminal record after 1 or 3 years as long as the offender successfully completes probation. Probation may include a number of conditions that they must follow.

Conditional Release: A police officer who arrests a person may release him/her from custody conditionally on the person's giving a promise to appear or entering into a recognizance. The recognizance may contain conditions limiting the accused's liberty and may require a cash deposit to ensure compliance. Also see Recognizance.

Conditional Sentence: A conditional sentence is a sentence of incarceration that is served by the offender in the community. The offender remains in the community under supervision, and is required to abide by a number of conditions, typically including a form of house arrest.

Condonation: Forgiving the wrongful or harmful act of another. In family law, this usually refers to the forgiving of an act of adultery or cruelty and the continuation of the parties' relationship as it had been before. The courts will not grant a divorce on the basis of adultery or cruelty if there is obvious or implied condonation.

Confidential: Private or secret information.

Conflict: A disagreement between two parties.

Conflict of interest: When a person has a personal connection to the dispute or the people involved in the dispute and may not be able to make a neutral and fair decision.

Consent Order: A court order made by a judge when both parties or (former) partners agree to the terms of the order.

Contempt of Court: The crime of deliberately failing to obey or respect the authority of a court of law or legislative body.

Contested Wills: A challenge or disagreement about the terms of a will.

Contract: A formal or legally binding agreement. 

Conviction: A conviction is registered when a person, charged with an offence, enters a guilty plea or is found guilty following a trial, and that person is not discharged. 

Costs: In Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, a master or judge's order that the losing party in a lawsuit pay the legal expenses (which may include court fees, disbursements, and legal fees) of the successful party. These orders may be made after an interim hearing but are usually made at the end of a trial or appeal.

Counsel: The lawyers involved in the court proceedings.

Counterclaim: A person who is sued may respond by filing their own claim against the party that started the lawsuit. The claims are usually related, for example a builder may sue a homeowner for unpaid work but the homeowner may counterclaim for damages done to their property by the builder. The court will then deal with both these claims at the same time. 

Court Clerk: The assistant to the judge who swears in witnesses and supervises the exhibits during the trial.

Court of Appeal for British Columbia: Hears appeals of indictable offences from trial courts. Also hears appeals from decisions of Supreme Court on summary conviction appeals. This is not a trial court.

Court Order: A legally binding decision made by a court of law. A Court Order will usually be written down in a document and include directions given by a judge in court. There are legal consequences for disobeying a court order.

Court Registry: Place where the pleadings and documents for a court case are filed.

Criminal Law: Law which sets out crimes or acts which the government has decided are illegal. The parties to a criminal case are the alleged offender and the Crown, which represents the public or state. 

Cross Examination: When a witness who is called by one party is asked questions by another party, after the witness has been questioned by the party who called him or her, to test if the witness is telling the truth. See Direct Examination. 

Crown Counsel: Lawyers who work for the government. It is their job to present the Crown's (or state's) case. They are also known as prosecutors. In Canada, crimes are dealt with as wrongs against society as a whole and therefore, Crown counsel acts on behalf of all members of the public and do not represent the victim specifically.

Cruelty - Mental or Physical: Cruelty includes the physical, verbal, emotional or mental abuse of one person by another. See also Grounds for Divorce.

Custodial Parent: The parent with the legal right and responsibility for raising a child and personally supervising the child.

Custody: If a party has Custody of children, that means that the party has rights and responsibilities to make decisions for those children and the children live with that party at least part of the time. 

Custody and Access Assessment: A report to the court intended to help the court assess the needs and views of a child involved in a family dispute, as well as who is best able to meet the needs of the child. Section 211 of the Family Law Act allows the court to order an assessment by a family justice counsellor, social worker, or another approved person such as a psychologist. 



Damages: Monetary award ordered in a civil case as compensation for a wrong done. Damages can be awarded for a number of reasons including for direct compensation for a quantifiable loss or to punish a party for continued bad behaviour. See also Remedy.

Dangerous Offender: A dangerous offender is an offender who has been convicted of a serious personal injury offence and the court has found him or her to be a danger to society. If the court finds an offender to be a dangerous offender, a jail sentence will be given for an indeterminate period of time.

Debt: An amount of money, a service, or an item of property that is owed to somebody.

Decision: A ruling on a legal issue or a question about evidence. May also refer to the court hearing in which the judge will give his or her ruling about the issue at hand. 

Decision-maker: Person responsible for making decisions that end disputes between people; includes members of tribunals, judges at courts, and arbitrators.

Defence Counsel: The lawyer representing the person charged.

Defendant: The accused in a criminal case.

Deliberation: The formal or official discussion or debate of something. For example, the jury would deliberate on the verdict in a court case.

Desk Order Divorce: An undefended (uncontested) divorce. The parties can ask for a divorce order by filing a Requisition with other documents and they do not have to appear before a judge in the Supreme Court.

Detention Order: When a detention order is given, the accused is denied bail and remains in custody until the conclusion of the trial, subject to bail reviews in Supreme Court. A detention order may also contain conditions not to contact the victim, witnesses, or other named persons.

Direct Examination: The questioning by the lawyer or party who called the witness is called the direct examination. This may also be referred to as examination-in-chief.

Direct Indictment: With the written consent of the Attorney General an accused may be tried on an indictable matter in Supreme Court without a preliminary inquiry preceding the trial.

Disclosure: The act of making the Crown's case known to defence by providing information on the evidence or circumstances of the case. The Crown must disclose, or share, with the accused all the relevant information gathered in the investigation so that the accused can fully defend him or herself against the charges. See also Particulars. 

Disclosure: In family or civil law, the process of exchanging necessary information, such as financial statements, with the other party.

Dispute: A disagreement or argument about something.

Division of Property: After a relationship breakdown, a decision needs to be made on how property owned by the couple is divided. This can be done by agreement or by a judge. 

Divorce: An ending of a marriage by an official decision in a court of law. Only married couples can divorce.

Divorce Act: Federal law that gives the Supreme Court the authority to grant divorces and, as part of the divorce, to deal with child support and spousal support, child custody and access. Only married couples are covered under the Divorce Act. Support, parenting arrangements, guardianship and contact as well as property division for unmarried couples is covered under the Provincial Family Law Act.

Divorce Judgement: A document issued by a court which says that a marriage is over. If the judgement has not been appealed within thirty days, the divorce will become final. 

Divorce Order: Court Order granting a divorce.

Documents: A formal piece of writing that provides information or acts as a record of events or arrangements. They can be used as evidence in trials.

Domestic Violence (Family Violence): The term includes violence or the threat of violence by an intimate partner and by other family members, wherever this violence takes place and in whatever form. It may occur during, at the end, or following a relationship. Domestic violence includes violence against children.

Domicile: A domicile could be where one has a permanent home, where one lives most of the time or where one intends to have a permanent home. A party's domicile may have an impact on the jurisdiction of the court to hear an action or deal with certain claims made in an action.

Duress: Forcing someone to do something by psychological or emotional pressure; a defence to the enforcement of a contract. If, for example, a separation agreement was entered into under duress, that may be a ground to dispute or set aside that agreement.



Elder Abuse (Senior Abuse): Elder Abuse is the abuse of seniors. It is the deliberate mistreatment of seniors that causes physical, mental or emotional harm; or damage to, or loss of, their assets. Elder abuse includes intimidation, humiliation, physical assault, sexual assault, overmedication, lack of medication, censoring of mail, invasion of privacy, and denial of access to visitors. Economic/Financial abuse is the most common type of elder abuse.

Election: For most indictable offences (with the exception of a charge of murder and some offences which must be tried in Provincial Court), the accused is entitled to elect, or choose, how to be tried: by a Provincial Court judge, a Supreme Court judge, or a Supreme Court judge and jury. After the accused has elected his/her mode of trial, s/he may re-elect (i.e.: change his/her mind) subject to some legal restrictions set forth in the Criminal Code.

Evidence: Evidence is the information presented by Counsel or defence. It includes the testimony of witnesses as well as objects and documents known as exhibits. Admissible Evidence is evidence that may be received by a trial Court to aid the judge or jury. Inadmissible Evidence is evidence that may not be received by a trial Court, generally because it is not allowed by some specific rule of exclusion.

Examination for Discovery: The cross-examination of a party under oath about the matters at issue in the action conducted, prior to trial. An examination for discovery is held outside court, with no one in attendance except for the parties, the parties' lawyers and a court reporter. The court reporter produces a transcript of the examination, which may, under certain circumstances, be used at trial.

Exhibit: A document referred to in an affidavit, which may be attached to the affidavit.

Ex Parte Order: Done or made for the benefit of one party only and without notice to, or hearing from, any person who is opposed. Usually for temporary or emergency relief. 

Expert Evidence: Opinion or information given by an expert witness about something proven to have happened in a case, based on the expert’s special knowledge or skill.

Expert Witness: Someone with special knowledge, training, skill, or experience who can help a decision-maker understand the evidence in an area in which they are expert.

Extrajudicial Measures: See Alternative Measures.





Fact Pattern: A series of facts that are presented in a story form.

Facts: Something that can be shown to be true, to exist, or to have happened. In a legal case it is based on or concerned with the evidence presented. Matters of fact are issues for a judge or a jury to decide.

Failure to Appear: A term used when an accused does not attend a scheduled court appearance.

Family Case Conference: A conference is a meeting between the parties, in the presence of the trial judge to discuss the case before the trial begins.

Family Home: The place where the family lives together. 

Family Justice Counsellor: A person who helps the parties involved in a family dispute.

Family Law Proceeding: Term used in the Supreme Court for a legal action to settle family law issues, such as custody, guardianship, access, support and the division of property.

Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP): The Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) is a service of the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General. They are responsible under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act for monitoring and enforcing all maintenance orders and agreements that are filed with them. They will: calculate arrears, receive, record and forward payments to the person receiving maintenance (called the recipient), and take action, if and when necessary, to try to ensure the person who is supposed to pay maintenance (called the payor) makes the required maintenance payments.

Family Property: The family home and other property owned by one or both spouses at the date of separation, unless it is excluded property. Family property is shared equally between spouses, regardless of their use or contribution to the property. 

Federal Government: The central government of Canada - based in Ottawa.

Fees: Charges collected by an institution. For example, money paid to file a claim in court.

Filing Documents: This is the process of adding documents to a court file by giving the original and one or more copies to the court registry. There is a fee to file some documents. 

Final Order: An order or judgment of the Court that finally disposes of the rights of the parties. Also known as a final award or a final judgment. A final order can only be overturned by a higher court. However, in family cases, if the circumstances significantly change, then parties can apply for a new order. 

Financial Statement: A court form (Form F8 in the Supreme Court and Form 4 in the Provincial Court) used to set out a party's income, expenses, assets and debts on the party's oath or affirmation.

Fine: A fine is a sentence, or one aspect of a sentence, involving a monetary sum to be paid to the court.

First Appearance: A first appearance describes the first time the accused is asked to come to court. 





Garnishment: The seizing of a person's property, credit or salary, on the basis of a law which allows it, and for the purposes of paying off a debt. The person who possesses the assets of the debtor and is the subject of the seizure is called a garnishee. This is frequently used in the enforcement of child support where delinquent debtors will be subjected to salary garnishment.

Grounds for Divorce: The justification for a divorce. The sole ground for divorce is the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage may have broken down due to separation for not less than one year; adultery, or mental or physical cruelty.

Guardianship: The collection of rights and responsibilities a guardian has towards a child. A guardian makes day-to-day decisions over a child’s care and upbringing. Under the Family Law Act, only guardians can have parenting responsibilities and parenting time. 

Guilty: A person found guilty of a criminal charge, either as a result of an acknowledgment of it by pleading guilty, or as a result of a trial at which the accused was found guilty of the offence changed.



Habeas Corpus: Habeas Corpus is an extraordinary remedy made by application to Supreme Court that challenges the validity of a person's detention in jail.

Hearing: In law, a proceeding before a judge to determine questions of law and/or questions of fact, whether the hearing of an application or the hearing of a trial. A Court Hearing is a hearing in court before a judge. A case conference is a less formal meeting with the judge at the courthouse to determine certain issues.

Hearsay: When a witness gives information about something that she did not see herself and she only knows that thing because someone else told her about it or because someone else wrote about it.

Hybrid Offence: The Criminal Code categorizes two types of offences, Indictable and Summary Conviction. Hybrid offences (sometimes known as dual offences) are those which Crown can proceed with under either category. The decision will be based on the seriousness of the circumstances, when the offence occurred, whether or not the accused has been previously convicted of a similar offence and the likely sentence to be incurred. Once the Crown decides and advises the Court, the offence is treated as the kind the Crown has chosen. See Indictable Offence and Summary Conviction Offence.



Illegal: Something that is against a specific law such as those found in the Criminal Code of Canada.

Impartial: Being fair and neutral and not biased or prejudiced; tribunals must have no opinion before they hear the evidence and arguments of both parties to make a decision.

Imputed Income: Imputed Income is income attributed to a person rather than the income actually earned or claimed. If a judge feels that the amount of income a parent claims is not a fair reflection of his or her income, he or she can attribute (impute) income to that person.

In Loco Parentis: A person, usually a step-parent, who acts in place of the parent towards a child of the other spouse.

Independent: Free from the authority, control, or domination of somebody or something else. A person is capable of thinking or acting without consultation with or guidance from others.

Indictable Offence: Indictable offences are a category of criminal offences that are usually more serious crimes and carry greater maximum sentences than summary offences. Because these offences may have a more significant consequence to the accused if convicted, the accused has a choice about what level of court will hear the trial. The accused can choose to have the trial held in Provincial Court before a Provincial Court judge. If that is the accused's choice and the accused is found guilty, the potential maximum sentences are the same as if they were tried in a federal court. See Summary Conviction Offence and Hybrid Offence.

Indictment: An indictment is the process of dealing with more serious (indictable) offences, allowing the accused to elect the mode of trial. In Supreme Court the document containing the formal list of charges is also called the "Indictment."

Indigency (Indigent Status): Having so little money that one cannot afford to pay court fees. To apply for indigent status, a person must be receiving benefits under the Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disability Act. The person must also provide financial information to prove that their income is low as well as information about employment, education, and workplace skills.

Initial Appearance (Criminal): A first appearance describes the first time the accused is asked to come to court. 

Innocent until proven guilty: A right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it means that a person accused of a crime is innocent until the judge or the jury decides that the evidence presented at the trial proves that he or she committed the crime. This is an important principle in the Canadian justice system and is a protection against wrongful conviction.

Interim Order: It is an order made by the decision-maker that serves as a temporary measure until something more complete and permanent can be decided.

Intermittent Sentence: An intermittent sentence allows the offender to serve his or her time of incarceration in intervals.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a pattern of abusive behaviours of one or more partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating or cohabitation and is a form of domestic violence. Intimate partner violence includes acts of physical aggression, psychological abuse, forced intercourse and other forms of sexual coercion, as well as various controlling behaviours such as isolating a person from family and friends or restricting access to information and assistance. See also: Domestic Violence.

Issues: Legal matters in dispute between the parties in a case.



Joint Guardianship: A situation in which both parents together have guardianship of their children. Should one parent die in such circumstances, the other parent becomes the sole guardian of the children. See also: Guardianship.

Judge: A person appointed by either the federal or provincial government with the authority to hear and decide legal actions in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the government or agents of the government, whose decisions are binding upon the parties to an action.

Judge Alone Trial: The accused, charged with an indictable offence, has elected to be tried in Supreme Court by a judge without a jury.

Judge and Jury Trial: The accused, charged with an indictable offence, has elected to be tried in Supreme Court by a Judge and jury.

Judgment: A decision arrived at and pronounced by a court of law.

Judicial Case Conference (JCC): A confidential meeting that both parties usually must have with a judge/master before any contested court application can be made. The purpose is to clearly identify the issues to be decided, review different ways to resolve the issues (such as settlement conferences, mediation or other ways), and manage the flow of the case in court (for example, the timing of court hearing, or exchanges of information.) Either party may request a JCC at any time.

Judicial Independence: A judge has a responsibility to listen to both sides of a case and then to make an impartial, fair decision based on the evidence and the law.  They have the freedom to make that judicial decision without interference or influence from any source.  This is called judicial independence.

Judicial Interim Release: See Bail Hearing. 

Judicial Review: When a court checks over a decision made by a tribunal to make sure the tribunal did not go beyond what it is allowed to do under the law or did not fail to do what it should have done.

Jurisdiction: Power of a court or tribunal to deal with a dispute based on the type of dispute and the geographical area where the dispute happens.  

Jury: In criminal cases, juries are composed of twelve people who will listen to the evidence, follow the Judge's instructions regarding how to apply the law, make findings of fact and decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty.

Jury Selection: The process by which Crown and defence choose a jury from a panel of eligible jurors.

Justice of the Peace: An officer of the court who has some of the powers of a Judge.



Law: The rules made by the government or courts that govern society and give rights   and obligations to people

Leading question: Type of question asked to a witness by a party that suggests or contains the answer that the party wants the witness to give and can usually be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”

Leave of the Court: The court's permission to proceed with certain types of applications or to proceed in a certain way. 

Legislation: Type of law made by the government; statutes and regulations. 

Liability: When someone has an obligation to do something or to not do something under the law.  

Liable: When the law says that someone is responsible to another person for a loss or injury to that person, because of something they did or did not do.

Libel: A false and malicious published statement that damages someone's reputation.  Libel can include pictures and any other representations that have public or permanent form.

Litigant: A party in a lawsuit.



Maintenance: Money paid as child support or as spousal support

Malicious Prosecution: A prosecution begun in malice without probable cause to believe the charges can be sustained. Malice means the intentional doing of a wrongful act without just cause or excuse, with the intent to inflict harm or pain to another.

Mandatory: When something is required to be done.  

Marriage License: A license you need for a legal marriage in Canada. 

Master: A master hears cases in Supreme Court. A master has the same powers as a judge to make interim or temporary orders for custody, access, guardianship and support, but cannot make final orders or divorce orders.

Mediation: An attempt to solve a dispute by working with a third party (a Mediator) to help both sides reach an agreement.

Mediator: A neutral person, with no decision-making power, who acts as a facilitator assisting the parties in communicating, especially by negotiation.

Mens Rea: From the Latin, guilty mind, mens rea indicates the intent to commit a criminal act. Mens rea (mental) must coexist with actus reus (physical), the doing of the criminal act.

Mischief: Injury or damage caused by the actions of somebody or something.

Mistrial: A mistrial is a trial that ends without a final judgement, caused by a fundamental error. After a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury if it is a jury case.

Mitigate: Reducing or limiting harm or a loss.

Municipal By-Law: A law passed by a municipal government.



Negotiate, negotiation: When people talk and compromise to settle a dispute or solve a problem.

Neglect: Neglect is the failure (whether intentional, careless or due to inadequate experience, training or skill) to provide basic care or services when agreed to by legal, contractual or otherwise assumed responsibility. Neglect is a common form of mistreatment and includes the neglect of a child, elder, or other person with whom one has a caregiver relationship.

No Contact Orders: An order in which a Judge orders one person to stay away from another person. The judge will usually prohibit both direct and indirect contact (such as getting another person to pass a message) between the two people as well. 

Non-Custodial Parent: Under the Divorce Act, the parent who does not have custody of the child.

Not Guilty: "Not Guilty" is a plea made by an accused person to argue that they did not commit the crime. This plea places the burden on Crown Counsel to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Also the finding of a judge or jury following a trial in which Crown Counsel was unable to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Notarize: To certify something such as a signature on a legal document as authentic or legitimate by affixing a Notary Public’s stamp and signature.

Notary Public (Notary): A professional legal or public officer (includes all lawyers) with the authority to administer or commission oaths and affirmations; certify affidavits, declarations, or other documents; take acknowledgements; take depositions or testimony; commission an Affidavit of Personal Service or an Affidavit of Ordinary Service; and prepare wills, mortgages, and other legal documents. They also officially authenticate/witness signatures; certify documents as true copies; provide affidavits of lost documents, name changes, and notarial certificates; and duplicate original notarizations.

Notice of Claim: The court form the claimant uses to make the claim.

Notice of Family Claim: In Supreme Court, the document that starts a family law case. It sets out information about the claimant and respondent, their relationship, and the final orders the claimant wants. If applying jointly with a spouse for a divorce, a Notice of Joint Family Claim is used. 

Notice of Motion: A form used for a type of application to the court. It sets out what the party who prepares the Notice of Motion is asking for and the reason for the request. 



Oath: Solemn promise: a formal or legally binding pledge to do something such as tell the truth in a court of law, made formally and often naming God or a loved one as witness.

Objection: When a party opposes certain evidence presented by the other party or the way in which the other party is proceeding with its evidence.

Obligation: A duty created by the law or something that has to be done.

Offence: An official crime.

Offender: A person who has been determined by a court to be guilty of an offence, whether on acceptance of a plea of guilty or on a finding of guilt. In an informal context it can also refer to a person who is suspected of committing a crime.

Onus: The burden of proof or responsibility for acting in a legal proceeding.

Open question: Style of question asked to a witness, one that does not suggest or contain the answer that the party wants the witness to give.

Opening statement: What a party says at the beginning of a hearing, before giving their evidence, to explain the issues in dispute and the evidence that they will have.

Oral decision: A decision that is spoken aloud by a decision-maker at the end of a hearing, instead of being written out later.

Oral evidence: Answers given by a witness in testimony at a hearing.

Order: How a tribunal or court declares that something must be done.  An order can be final or interim.

Order Without Notice (Ex Parte): An ex-parte order is an emergency order that is provided by the judge without the other party having been notified in advance of the application or the hearing. There must be compelling reasons why a hearing is urgent and why the other party should not be notified.

Outcome: The result or the way that something turns out in the end.

Overturn: To reverse a previous decision, ruling, or law by using legal or legislative procedures.




Pain and suffering: A type of damages that is money given to a party for experiencing emotional problems (pain, fear, etc.) after being harmed by the respondent.

Parenting Arrangement: The arrangements made by the guardians for the care of the children, including where the child lives and who is responsible for their upbringing.

Parenting Plan: A plan developed by parents who have separated. The plan is a document which sets out the decisions the parents have made about their children including such issues as support, parenting responsibilities, and parenting time.

Parking Violation: A crime or infringement of a law or rule with respect to parking regulations.

Particulars: Particulars are information about the alleged offence, which is contained in the Crown file and is disclosed to the defence and/or accused person (i.e. police narrative, witness statement). This is vetted to ensure no confidential material is disclosed. Also called Disclosure. 

Parole: Parole is the early release of an offender from incarceration (jail) in which he or she serves the remainder of his or her sentence in the community under supervision and specific conditions.

Party (Parties): Person or organization, company, or government agency in a dispute that a tribunal or court will handle, including the defendant, the Crown, applicant or a claimant, a complainant or appellant and respondent.  Other participants such as witnesses, lawyers, or agents are not parties.

Payor: The term used to describe the spouse who pays support or maintenance.

Peace Bond: A protection order made by a judge in court to help protect one person from another. Peace bonds list certain conditions, based on individual needs, that the person named in it must follow. Peace bonds are made in criminal court and may be made against anyone. Police will apply for a peace bond and Crown counsel will handle the matter in court. Peace bonds may be either made pursuant to section 810 of the Criminal Code or Common Law. Those made pursuant to Section 810 of the Criminal Code include a Finding or Admission of Fact and can have effects on future family matters. They may be called an 810 Recognizance. Common Law Peace Bonds are made when the judge exercises his inherent common law jurisdiction to keep the peace and may have a lesser effect on family matters. Peace bonds differ from Restraining Orders in several elements as the latter are used in Civil matters.

Perjury: Perjury occurs when a person gives evidence in court that he or she knows is false. As outlined in the Criminal Code, anyone who commits perjury is guilty of an indictable offence and may be liable to imprisonment for a term not more than fourteen years.

Perpetrator: A person who commits an offense or crime.

Personal Items: Items typically used exclusively by one person, such as jewellery, that are not included in family assets.

Personal Property: Somebody’s tangible moveable property such as automobiles, boats and money. It does not include land.

Petition: A pleading in a civil action by which the plaintiff or person suing sets down the cause of action and invokes the court's jurisdiction to make a decision in the case.

Petitioner: The person who petitions the court to take action in a civil case.

Plaintiff: Former term for the person who begins a lawsuit in civil court. Now called the Claimant.

Plea: A plea is the answer given by an accused when charged with a criminal offence. If the Accused enters a “not guilty” plea, they will have a trial. If they enter a “guilty” plea, they will go straight to sentencing. 

Pleading: Initiating documents filed in a lawsuit. A legal document setting out either a claim or a defence to a claim. Usually, in Supreme Court the pleadings consist of the Notice of Family/Civil Claim, Response to Family/Civil Claim and Counterclaim.

Pre-Sentence Report: A pre-sentence report is a report prepared by a probation officer that the judge may use in determining a sentence for a person who pleads guilty or is found guilty. The pre-sentence report may include information regarding the accused's background such as their family, education and employment.

Pre-Trial Conference: A pre-trial conference is a meeting between Crown and defence, in the presence of the trial judge to discuss the case before the trial begins. It is used to check to make sure everyone is ready to proceed with the trial as scheduled. 

Precedent: The requirement of a court to follow earlier decisions of a superior or previous court. For example, following a decision that can be used subsequently for a similar type of case.

Preliminary Hearing/Inquiry: A preliminary hearing is a court proceeding that is held before the trial to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with the charges. During the preliminary hearing the Crown prosecutor can call witnesses to convince the judge that there is sufficient evidence against the accused to proceed with a trial. 

Pre-Trial Conferences: If the parties are unable to agree on a resolution, and the case has to go to trial, then there may also be a pre-trial conference so that everyone is clear in advance about the legal issues and how the trial is to proceed.

Presiding: The presiding judge is the judge who has been selected to hear the case in question.

Probable: Something that is likely to exist, occur, or be true, although evidence is insufficient to prove or predict it with certainty.

Probation: Probation is a sentence, or portion of a sentence in which the offender is released into the community under the supervision of a probation officer and must follow certain conditions such as being of good behaviour, abstaining from alcohol, not contacting the victim, etc.

Proceeding: In law, the whole of the conduct of a legal action, from beginning to end, and all steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial.

Promise to Appear: The accused may be arrested and then released by a police officer after promising to appear in court on a specific date. The document signed by the accused is called a "Promise to Appear".

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: It is the responsibility of Crown counsel to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before the court can convict. Therefore, after hearing all the evidence, if the court has reasonable doubt about whether the accused is guilty, the accused receives the benefit of that doubt and is acquitted. Also see Burden of Proof.

Proof of service: An affidavit or receipt that confirms that another document was served to a witness or a party and tells when and how the document was served.

Property: Includes everything a person owns, such as a car, house, television, appliances, and furniture. It also includes bank accounts, pension benefits, insurance policies, stocks, bonds and other investments.

Prosecution: Prosecution is when legal proceedings are started against a person charged with a criminal offence.

Prosecutor: A legal officer who represents the federal, provincial or municipal government in legal proceedings. Also called Crown Counsel.

Protection Order: An order (either a Peace Bond or a Restraining Order) made by a judge to protect one person from another. The order lists certain conditions the person named in it must follow – usually that he or she can have no direct or indirect contact with the other person.

Provincial Court: Provincial Court is the first level in the BC court system, dealing with criminal, quasi- criminal (Provincial Statute Violations), family, youth, small claims, and traffic and municipal matters. This Court also conducts preliminary hearings.

Publication Ban: A publication ban is a Court order that prohibits the publication or broadcasting of trial information.



Quasi-Criminal Offences: Quasi-criminal means a lawsuit or equity proceeding that has some, but not all, of the qualities of a criminal prosecution.



Real Property: Land together with all the property on it that cannot be moved, together with any attached rights.

Reasonable Doubt: A reasonable doubt is based on common sense. A reasonable doubt is not frivolous, or imaginary, and is not based on sympathy or prejudice. The doubt must be logically connected to the evidence presented. 

Reasons for Judgment: When a judge explains why they made a certain ruling. They will explain what they based their decision on, their reasons for making that decision, and the decision itself. Reasons for Judgment may be written or oral. If they are oral, the parties may order a transcript of them from the Court.

Re-Examination: Questioning a witness again, after cross-examination of that witness, about new things talked about during cross-examination.

Recipient: The term used to describe the spouse who receives child support or spousal support/maintenance.

Recognizance: Recognizance refers to a promise, made by an accused who is pending trial, to appear in court and answer to the criminal charges that have been brought against him/her.

Reconciliation: For some couples, a period of separation does not mean the end of the relationship. In family law, reconciliation means that a couple who have been separated resume their relationship. Under the Divorce Act it is the duty of the court, before considering the evidence, to satisfy itself that there is no possibility of the reconciliation of the spouses. Spouses have up to 90 days of attempted reconciliation without affecting the provision of a year of separation as a ground for the breakdown of the marriage.

Regina: Latin for Queen. Used for charging a person with a criminal offence. The charge would read Regina v. Jones.

Registrar's Certificate: A form signed by Supreme Court registry staff to show a judge that they have checked the documents filed in a family law proceeding, and they are satisfied everything is procedurally correct. The certificate is only required if you are asking for a divorce; the judge will not make a final order for a divorce unless there is a signed registrar’s certificate on file.

Registry: The office in the court where pleadings and other documents are filed when a court action is filed.

Regulations: Practice information and procedures in relation to a Statute.

Remand: Remand can mean that an offender is to be held in custody until the next court date. It can also mean to postpone a criminal proceeding to another date, like an adjournment.

Remedy: The way the court addresses a wrong. Depending on the issue, the court may enforce a right, impose a penalty, or order the wrongdoer to pay monetary damages to the wronged party as compensation for the harm done. 

Report to Crown Counsel: A report to Crown counsel is a document completed by a police officer that details the circumstances of an alleged crime. The report will contain the date and time of the incident, information about the victim and witnesses, the person accused of the crime, a written description of the circumstances surrounding the crime and witness statements, if any were obtained.

Represent: To act or speak for another in an official way. For example, your lawyer will represent you in a legal case.

Residential Tenancy: Relating to the rental of private housing or living accommodations.

Respondent: The party in a lawsuit that defends or responds to a claim, application, or appeal. 

Response to Civil/Family Claim: In Supreme Court proceedings, forms that the Respondent must complete and file if they want to respond to the Claimant’s Notice of Civil/Family Claim.

Restitution: The Court may order the offender, on application of the Crown, or on its own, to pay monetary compensation (restitution) where loss, damage or injury has resulted from the offence to the victim.

Restraining Order: A protection order made by a judge in court to help protect one person from another. Restraining orders list certain conditions based on individual needs that the person named in it must follow. Restraining Orders are made in civil (family) court and there must be a family connection. They differ from Peace Bonds in several elements. See Peace Bonds, (Common Law and 810 Recognizance) No Contact Orders, Protection Orders

Reverse Onus: In bail hearings, it is usually the responsibility of the Crown to "show cause" why an accused should be detained while awaiting trial. In very limited circumstances, this responsibility (onus) shifts to the accused and it is set forth in Section 515(6) of the Criminal Code. When section 515(6) applies, the accused must "show cause" why s/he should not be detained.

Robes: A long loose garment worn as a symbol of authority especially by judges or members of the clergy.



Safety Plan: A means to ensure the safety of an adult or child in a potentially dangerous situation. They can help by preparing people to reduce the potential for violence, get help in an emergency, get away safely, keep children safe, and safely get clothes, pets and other personal items.

Search Warrant: A court order authorizing entry to somebody's property to look for unlawful possessions or for evidence of the commission of a crime.

Second Stage Housing: Second-stage housing helps people who have left abusive relationships make plans for independent living. Individuals and their children usually stay in a second-stage house for 6-18 months.

Section 7 Expenses: See Special or Extraordinary Expenses.

Sentence: A sentence is the judgment pronounced by the Court upon the accused, after a finding of guilt. The type of sentence a judge will give will depend on the circumstances the accused, the seriousness of the offence

Sentence Hearing: A sentence hearing is the date is set to hear arguments by the Crown and defence to help the judge to sentence the offender.

Separation: When two people who have been living together in a marriage, or marriage-like relationship, decide not to live together any more with the intention of living separate and apart. There is no such thing as a “legal” separation. If a couple is living apart, they are separated. Sometimes a couple may be separated but living under the same roof. 

Separation Agreement: A document that separating or separated spouses can draw up to put in writing those matters that are settled between them. Some of the matters the spouses might deal with in this document include custody, access, guardianship, child support or spousal support, or division of assets or debts. There is no official form to use for drawing up a separation agreement.

Serving: Getting a court document to another person in whatever way the law requires.

Settle: To come to a decision or agreement about something in order to solve a problem or a dispute.

Sheriff: The Sheriff's responsibilities are to make sure the Courtroom is safe, and to look after witnesses, juries and prisoners.

Show Cause Hearing: See Bail Hearing. 

Special or Extraordinary Expenses (Section 7 Expenses): Special expenses are extra expenses for a child over and above the regular cost of living, such as child care expenses while the recipient works or goes to school or is ill or disabled, medical and dental insurance premiums specifically for the child, health-related expenses that exceed insurance reimbursement by at least $100 annually, and expenses for post-secondary education. Extraordinary expenses are expenses for education, programs, or extracurricular activities that meet the child's needs, such as tutoring or private school, or, possibly, for other activities in which the child excels and is shown to be particularly gifted.

Specific Performance: A court order compelling somebody to carry out an obligation, often something stipulated in a contract.

Specified Access: The court order or agreement under the Divorce Act which states exactly when and for how long the children will be with their other parent. See Access.

Sponsorship Agreement: When one spouse sponsors another spouse to come to Canada, that person will usually sign a "sponsorship agreement" with the government. That agreement requires the sponsor to support the person coming to Canada, whether they stay married or separate or divorce. This agreement is only binding between the sponsor and the government. If the person coming to Canada needs spousal support, for example, he or she will have to ask the court for an order that spousal support be paid.

Spousal Abuse: Spousal abuse is the violence or mistreatment that a woman or man experiences at the hands of a marital, common-law or same sex partner. Spousal abuse may include physical abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, emotional abuse, criminal harassment or stalking, economic/financial abuse, spiritual abuse or other.

Spousal Support: Financial support paid to a former spouse under a court order or agreement. Sometimes called maintenance; sometimes referred to as alimony in other locations outside BC. Spousal support is distinct from Child Support or Special or Extraordinary Expenses.

Spouse: People who are married or who live in a marriage-like relationship for a specified period of time are spouses under the Family Law Act

Statute Law: The body of law that has been enacted by a legislature.

Statutory Release: By law, most federal inmates are automatically released after serving two-thirds of their sentence. This is called statutory release.

Stay of Proceedings: A stay of proceedings might be called by Crown or the Court. This is when the court proceedings are halted. When the Crown enters a stay of proceedings, they have up to a year to restart the proceedings. Also referred to as a Stay. 

Subpoena: A subpoena (pronounced sub-pena) is an official court document, which orders a witness to come to Court to give evidence.

Suing: To take a legal action against somebody to obtain something, usually compensation for a wrong.

Summary Conviction Offence: A summary conviction is generally considered for less serious offences. Many summary offences have a maximum jail sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $5,000.00. The trial for summary offences is held in Provincial Court before a provincial court judge. See Hybrid Offence and Indictable Offence.

Summary Trial: A Summary Trial is a quicker and less expensive alternative to a trial, and does not usually include oral evidence. Evidence is provided by way of affidavit. It is intended to result in a final court order.

Summons: A summons sets out the charge as well as the time and place at which the accused is to appear in court. It is issued by a Justice of the Peace after an Information has been sworn, as a way to notify the accused of the charge and require his or her attendance to court on the date set forth in the summons.

Supernumerary Judge: A judge of the Supreme Court that sits for at least half-time.

Supervised Access: The parent can only spend time with the children with another adult present. 

Support: Payments made from one person to another to help pay the living costs of that person or of a child. See Spousal Support and Child Support.

Support Order or Agreement: Specifies the amount one former spouse must pay to the other for spousal and/or child support. It may be a separate order or agreement, or may form part of a larger divorce order or separation agreement. 

Supreme Court of British Columbia: Conducts civil and criminal jury and non-jury trials. Criminal trials relate to all indictable offences. This court also hears summary conviction appeals.

Supreme Court of Canada: The highest court in Canada. It hears appeals from the Appeal Courts of each of the provinces and territories, and the Federal Court of Appeal.

Surety: Surety is the person who vouches for the accused while he or she is on bail awaiting trial or appeal. The surety will provide assets to the Court which they risk losing if the accused does not abide by his or her bail conditions or fails to attend Court.

Suspended Sentence: A suspended sentence can be given by the Court with directions that an offender be released under the conditions of a probation order. Someone who receives this sentence will have a conviction recorded on their Criminal Record.  

Swear/Affirm: These words are used when any party or witness swears on a holy book (like the Bible) to tell the truth, or makes a solemn affirmation (a promise) that he or she will tell the truth to the court. 



Testify: To declare or say something that can be taken as evidence under oath in a court of law.

Testimony: Testimony is the evidence given by a witness who is under oath or affirmation.

Tort: A civil wrong, other than breach of contract, for which a remedy may be obtained, usually in the form of damages.

Trademarks: A name or symbol used to show that a product is made by a specific company and legally registered so that no other manufacturer can use it.

Trafficking: Trafficking means the buying and selling of something, particularly if the trade is illicit. Trafficking may include drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and other illicit goods. Trafficking in humans includes, but is not limited to, domestic and international trade and transportation of individuals for the purposes of labour and prostitution.

Transcript: It is the written record of the trial.

Transition Houses: Transition houses are safe, temporary shelter provided by BC Housing. They provide emotional support and crisis intervention, help in accessing housing, child care, schooling, parenting support, and financial, medical and legal assistance. They are staffed round the clock, every day. See also Safe Houses and Second Stage Housing.

Treason: A violation of the allegiance owed by somebody to his or her own country, for example, by helping an enemy.

Trial: A formal examination of the facts and law in a civil or criminal action before a court of law in order to determine an issue.

Trial Conference: A formal meeting of the parties with a judge to prepare for trial.

Trial Court: A court in which a case is first decided, as opposed to a court of appeals.

Trial Statement: A form which includes a statement of facts in the order in which the events occurred, a calculation of the amount claimed, copies of the relevant documents, and a list of witnesses with a brief summary of which each witness will say.

Trier of Fact: The person or people who hear testimony and review the evidence on a factual matter. In a criminal case, the trier of fact refers to the jury who listens to the evidence and decides on the guilt of the accused based on the facts of the case against him or her.



Undefended Divorce (Desk Order Divorce): Also referred to as an Uncontested Divorce. An uncontested divorce is one in which no response is filed. This is one way to obtain a divorce when the parties agree about the divorce and related issues such as custody, access, support, and guardianship.

Undue Hardship: Circumstances that allow a payor to avoid paying the full amount of Child Support under the Child Support Guidelines. The payor must prove that the payments would be "undue" or exceptional, excessive, or disproportionate.



Vary (Variation, Variation Order, Change Order): To change an existing Order.

Verdict: A verdict is the judge or jury's decision (or finding) of a case. In criminal cases, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.

Victim:The victim is an individual who suffers physical or mental injury, or economic loss as a result of a crime. 

Victim Impact Statement: A Victim Impact Statement is a written account of the personal harm suffered by a victim of crime. In some cases, the statement may be read by the victim in person or on video. The statement may include a description of the physical, financial and emotional effects of the crime. Where victim impact information has been presented, it must be taken into consideration by the judge or parole board.

Voir Dire: A voir dire is a trial within a trial. It is a hering held, without the presence of the jury, to determine whether an issue of fact or law would be admissible. For example, a voir dire may be used in order to decide whether certain aspects of an expert witness' testimony will be allowed.



Warrant: After an information has been sworn, a Justice of the Peace can issue a warrant for the arrest of the accused. The Justice of the Peace must have reasonable grounds to believe that the arrest is in the public interest. An endorsed warrant has been signed by a Justice of the Peace and a person arrested on such a warrant can be released from custody by the police. An unendorsed warrant has not been signed by a Justice of the Peace, indicating to the police that the person arrested is to be held for court.

Weighs the Evidence: The process of looking at all the evidence to decide which parts carry the most weight or are more believable.

Will: A statement of what somebody wants to happen to his or her property after they die, or a legal document containing this statement.

Witness: Witnesses are persons who testify in court because they have some information about the case. A witness may volunteer to testify or may receive a subpoena (a legal document which orders him/her to come to court at a certain time to testify). Usually a witness is only permitted to be in the courtroom to hear the testimony of other witnesses once his or her own testimony has been completed. This is to ensure that one witness is not influenced (affected) by what another witness says in court.

Witness Notifier: The person who works for Crown counsel whose job it is to ensure witnesses know the trial date. He or she can give the witness general information about Court procedure.

Writ: A written court order demanding that the addressee do or stop doing whatever is specified in the order.



Youth: In Canada, those aged twelve to seventeen are considered youth under criminal law, and fall within the scope of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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