Being charged with a criminal offence can be a difficult time. It’s even more stressful when you’re surrounded by a whole lot of legal jargon and words that you’re unfamiliar with. 

Having someone who can help you understand legal language and explain criminal law terms in plain English is invaluable.

Here’s a list of some of the most common criminal law definitions to get you started. 

A Helpful List of Criminal Law Legal Terms Explained

Law passed by parliament, known as a ‘bill’ before assent by governor or governor general.

When a case is put off to a later date.

The law and court with jurisdiction over maritime affairs in general.

A written declaration made under oath before a notary public or other authorised officer.

An independent person or company with authority to act on behalf of another.

An application to a higher court to review a decision of a lower court or tribunal.

Appellate Jurisdiction
The power given to a court to hear appeals in certain matters.


Person, person’s organisation or corporation that starts an appeal in a court. Applicants, appellants, respondents, defendants, etc., are generally called ‘parties’.

Cause of Action
A term used in the Federal Court’s case management system to classify proceedings commenced with the Court.

Common Law
Case law developed in common courts. This term is sometimes used to describe all case law or judge made law.

A set of rules or principles according to which a state or other organisation is governed. A body of laws governing those who make laws.

A barrister.

Criminal Law
Laws concerned with both the rights of the individual and of society as a whole.

Cross Appeal
An application by a respondent in an appeal also seeking a review of the lower court or tribunal decision and made in response to the appeal.

Cross Claim
A claim made in a proceeding by one party against a co-party, such as the first respondent (or defendant) against the second respondent (or defendant).

Damages Compensation
Usually money; most common outcome of civil cases.

DefendantA person brought to court and charged with a criminal offence. Applicants, appellants, respondents, defendants, etc., are generally called ‘parties’.

That part of a proceeding where the parties present evidence and submissions to the Court.

A court order making a person do, or refrain from doing, something.

Intellectual Property
Abstract property, such as a manuscript or computer software, over which the owner has legal possession.

The extent of legal authority or power of the Court to apply the law.

An act of parliament or piece of delegated legislation.

Individuals, organisations or companies who/which are the parties to a proceeding before the Court.

Mediation (or Alternative Dispute Resolution)
A process in which an impartial third party (the mediator) assists the parties in an attempt to bring about an agreed settlement or compromise, without requiring a decision of the Court.

A party who initiates a civil action.

Cancellation of a statute or part of a statute or act.

A subpoena compels the appearance of a person at a trial to testify and to produce documents. A subpoena is a court order, and if properly issued and disobeyed, the disobedient person could be in contempt of court.

A document issued by a court directing a person to appear before it.

A specialised adjudication body. The term is generally used to refer to administrative dispute resolution bodies other than courts.

A written court order to do or refrain from doing something.

Need Help with Legal Jargon?

For more information on criminal law definitions or to book an appointment with one of our expert solicitors in Melbourne, call Robert Wood and Associates on (03) 9762 3877 or contact us online. Our team of qualified law professionals can provide you with expert legal advice.