The terms and definitions on this page are relevant to criminal cases in the State of Michigan, United States of America, unless noted otherwise. Criminal laws and procedures in other states and countries may be very different.

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The legal system can be filled with confusing phrases and terms. This list should help you to understand that system a little better.

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In Camera

  • In chambers; in private. A hearing or inspection of documents that takes place outside the presence of the jury and public, usually in a judge's office.


  • A court-approved agreement by a prosecutor to not prosecute a person, in return for providing criminal evidence against another person or party.

Impaired Driving [MCL 257.625]

  • A lesser-included offense to OUIL. A person driving a vehicle while visibly affected by alcohol. A driver is considered "impaired" with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08-0.09%.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor - jail up to 90 days (1st offense) or 1 year (2nd offense), fines up to $300 (1st offense) or $1,000 (2nd offense), community service, 4 points assessed on the driver's record, and a mandatory license suspension of at least 3 months (1st offense).


  • The process of calling something into question, as in "impeaching the testimony of a witness." Impeachment generally challenges a witness' credibility with evidence of bias, prior inconsistent statements, etc.


  • A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.

Informal Hearing

  • A hearing in which a civil infraction is contested before a District Court magistrate. Generally, the police officer and person ticketed testify under oath, each explaining what happened. Attorneys are not allowed at informal hearings, but witnesses may attend and testify, and the defendant may ask questions of the police officer and witnesses. An adverse decision can be appealed by demanding a formal hearing and posting an appeal bond worth at least the amount of fines & costs for the charge.


  • The document on which criminal felony charges are filed in Circuit Court after a Preliminary Examination bind-over or waiver.


  • An order of the court prohibiting (or compelling) the performance of a specific act to prevent irreparable damage or injury.


  • Provisional, temporary, non-final orders and decrees of a court.