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Legal Terms Glossary

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B

BAIL
A way someone who has been accused of a crime gets out of jail before trial. The accused, or someone for him or her, deposits money with the court or agrees to pay a certain amount (called posting security) to make sure the accused shows up for hearings and trial.
BAIL BOND
A legal paper that you buy from a bondsman and give to the court instead of bail. The defendant promises to pay the money, signs the paper, and is let go. But if the defendant doesn't come to court when he or she is supposed to, he or she must pay the amount of money on the bail bond.
BAILIFF
A court employee who keeps order in the courtroom and who takes care of the jury.
BANKRUPTCY
he legal way for a business or person to get rid of their debts when they can't pay what they owe. By promising to pay some of what they owe, the rest is forgiven. There are special laws and courts for bankruptcy.
BENCH
The desk where the judge sits in court; a specific judge, or judges in general.
BENCH TRIAL
A trial of a case where the judge decides the case, not a jury.
BENCH WARRANT
An order issued by the court ("from the bench") for the arrest of someone who has disobeyed a court order.
BENEFICIARY
1. A person who gets money or other property under a trust or will.
2. A person who gets payments under an insurance policy.
BEQUEATH
To give personal property (almost anything but land) by a will. The Michigan Revised Probate Code uses a new term, "devise". See DEVISE.
BEQUEST
The old name for a gift of personal property (almost anything but land) by a will. The Michigan Revised Probate Code uses a new term, "DEVISE".
BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD
The standard a judge uses to decide which parent (or other adult) will take care of a child. There is a list of things the judge will think about: how old the child is, how healthy the child is, whether the child has stronger emotional ties to one parent, how well each parent can take care of the child, and whether the child is used to and involved in his home, school, and neighborhood.
BIND OVER
The judge's decision before trial that there is enough evidence that a defendant is guilty to hold a trial.
BOND
A legal paper in which a person promises to pay money or do some act under certain circumstances if another person doesn't. It is like bail in a criminal case. The person who signs the paper is called a "surety." The person who the surety promises to pay or act for is called the "principal." Bond is not insurance.
BRIEF
A written argument a lawyer (or party) gives to the court to explain why that party should win. It includes facts and law that supports their case.
BURDEN OF PROOF
The duty to prove a fact or claim in court. The party with the burden of proof must bring enough evidence to convince the judge or jury that the claim is true. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove the case "beyond a reasonable doubt." In a civil case, the plaintiff (the person who first filed the suit) must prove the case "by a preponderance of the evidence".