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.

Do not take legal action solely in reliance on the information posted on this page!

This page provides general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct, complete and up-to-date. Do not rely, for legal advice, on information given on this page or any externally referenced Internet sites. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, consult a competent attorney in your area.

If the word you're looking for does not appear on this list, check one of the following websites: Law.com or Nolo’s Law Dictionary.


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

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


  • Slight negligence: doing something that isn't dangerous, that only an extremely careful person would have thought could cause injury.
  • Ordinary negligence: carelessness ... not taking reasonable care under circumstances as they were at the time ... something that a sensible person would know could hurt someone.
  • Gross negligence: more than carelessness ... failure to use even the slightest amount of care in a way that shows recklessness or willful disregard for the safety of others due to an act or failure to act ... defendant must have known of the danger to another (i.e., knew of a situation requiring ordinary care to avoid injuring another) and could have avoided injury by using ordinary care and failed to use ordinary care to prevent injuring another when a reasonable person would have seen that serious injury would likely result.

No Contest Plea

  • Also known as a nolo contendere plea ... A plea in which the facts supporting the crime's elements come from a source other than the defendant's own words in court (generally, from police investigation reports, witnesses statements, photographs, etc.). A "nolo" plea is used when the defendant cannot recall his criminal actions (sometimes due to intoxication), or his verbal plea from a traditional guilty plea would be used in a potential civil law suit. Regardless, the defendant is treated by a sentencing judge the same as if he was convicted via a guilty plea or trial verdict.

Nolle Prosequi

  • A form filed by a prosecutor to dismiss the prosecution of a particular defendant. A "nol pros" usually means the end of the matter, but can be filed "without prejudice" so that the prosecutor may reopen the case against the defendant at a later date. This device may not be used to deny the defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Nolo Contendere

  • Latin term meaning "I will not contest it.". See No Contest Plea.