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Criminal Law Glossary of Terms

Assault & Battery

The threat or use of force which causes the victim to have a reasonable apprehension or the result of imminent harmful or offensive contact.

Criminal Threat (sometimes called Terrorist Threat)

Allegation against any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety. Can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Domestic Violence

Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition may be accused. Can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Drug Offenses

A person exercised dominance and control over a controlled substance, the person knew of its presence, and the person knew of its nature as a controlled substance; and the substance was in an amount sufficient to be used as a controlled substance.

Drunk Driving

Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, medication, or prescription drug that impairs the driver's ability to operate the vehicle.


The fraudulent taking of personal property with which on has been entrusted, most often involving a fiduciary. The necessary criminal intent is present after taking possession of the property.


The act of obtaining property or inducing an action by illegal means, including force or coercion.


A knowing or reckless misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a necessary fact with the purpose of inducing another to act against his or her own interests.

Grand Theft

Willfully and unlawfully steal, take, carry, lead and drive away the personal property of another, of a value exceeding the sum of four hundred dollars ($400).


Homicide is the killing of one human being by another. Homicide includes murder and manslaughter, which are unlawful, and the acts of excusable and justifiable homicides, which are lawful. Consequences for the conviction of murder may potentially include: death, life imprisonment without parole, some other amount of jail time with the possibility of parole, or probation depending on the actual crime of which someone is convicted.

Illegal Possession of Weapons

A person has actual or constructive possession of a deadly weapon such as a gun, knife, etc. Cars are considered deadly weapons.


A person who commits any lewd or lascivious act upon or with the body of a child, with the specific intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust or passions or sexual desires of that person or the child.

Petty Theft

Willfully and unlawfully steal, take, carry, lead and drive away the personal property of another, of a value not exceeding the sum of four hundred dollars ($400).

Possession of a Controlled Substance

Possession of any drug so designated by law whose availability is restricted. Included in such classification are narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and marijuana. Possession as necessary for conviction of Possession of a Controlled Substance may be actual, constructive, joint or exclusive. The defendant must have had dominion and control over the contraband with knowledge of its presence and character, Possession for Sale or Transport of designated controlled substances calls for enhanced penalties.

Probation Violation

A violation of probation can lead to revocation of probation and the imposition of a custodial (jail or prison) sentence.


is defined as sexual intercourse forced on a person without his or her permission. The phrase statutory rape is a term used in some legal jurisdictions to describe sexual relations that occur when one participant is below the age required to legally consent to the behavior. Date rape occurs when someone forces another person they are dating or spending time with to have sex.


is the felonious taking of personal property in the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.

Sex Offender Registration Act

Specific crimes which require mandatory sex offender registration with local law enforcement - usually for life. Persons required to register in their state of residence that are out-of-state residents employed, or carrying on a vocation in California on a full-time or part-time basis, with or without compensation, for more than 14 days, or for an aggregate period exceeding 30 days in a calendar year, shall register in accordance with the Act.

Any person who, since July 1, 1944, has been, or is hereafter convicted in any other court, including any state, federal, or military court, of any offense that, if committed or attempted in this state, would have been punishable as one or more of the registered offenses, shall register in accordance with the Act.

Victimless Crime

Expression applied to a crime which generally involves only the criminal, and which has no direct victim, as in the crime of illegal possession of drugs.

White Collar Crime

Phrase suggestive of various types of unlawful, nonviolent conduct of corporations and individuals, including theft or fraud and other violations of trust, committed in the course of the offender’s occupation (e.g., embezzlement, commercial bribery, racketeering, anti-trust violations, pricefixing, stock manipulation, insider trading, and the like). RICO laws are used to prosecute many types of white collar crimes.