Virginia Rules Glossary


Abused or Neglected Child: Any child under 18 years of age who has been identified as a victim of sex trafficking or severe forms of trafficking, or whose parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s care caused or threatened physical abuse, physical neglect, medical neglect, mental abuse or neglect, or sexual abuse.

Adjudicate: To make a judicial determination about an issue before the court.

Adjudicatory Hearing: A hearing at which the court hears the evidence in a case and determines whether or not the allegations contained in the complaint are supported by the evidence. In criminal cases, there is a determination of whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Adult: An individual 18 years of age or older.

Aftercare: Programs, services, and strategies that a juvenile receives after release from incarceration and that are intended to provide the juvenile with a highly-structured, enhanced transition from confinement back to the community. Services and programs include counseling for life skills and substance abuse, vocational assessments, participation in youth groups, surveillance-orientated activities, and other forms of post-institutional help.

Alcoholic beverage: Any drink that has at least one-half of one percent alcohol.

Alleged: Claimed; asserted; charged.

Amend: To change.

Appeal: Taking a case which has been decided in a court of inferior jurisdiction to one of superior jurisdiction, for the purpose of obtaining a review.

Appellate court: A court that reviews the decision of an inferior court or governmental agency. Appellate courts do not try cases, or have juries or witnesses. They review questions of law or allegations of procedural error arising in the trial court.

Arson: To unlawfully and intentionally damage, or attempt to damage, any real or personal property by fire or incendiary device.

Assault: (1) Acting in a manner that causes physical injury (criminal). (2) The willful attempt or threat to unlawfully touch or hurt another (civil).

Attorney: An individual who has studied law, has passed a test to be admitted to practice law, and is licensed to practice law in accordance with state regulations. Attorneys are often referred to as lawyers.

Attorney General: The chief law officer of the executive branch of a state or the federal government.


Bail: A sum of money exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that person’s appearance for trial.

Bailiff: A person responsible for keeping order in a courtroom. In Virginia, bailiffs are usually deputy sheriffs.

Battery: The actual physical, harmful contact associated with an assault.

Bribery: Offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of anything of value to sway the judgment or action of a person in a position of trust or influence.

Bullying: Intentional, repeated harmful acts, words, or other behavior, such as name calling, threatening, and/or shunning, committed by one or more persons against another.

Burglary: The unlawful entry into a building or other structure with the intent to commit a felony or a theft. A “structure” is considered to include, but not be limited to, any building, railroad car, garage, housetrailer or houseboat (if used as permanent dwelling), room, barn, stable, mill, and ship.


Capital Crime: A murder that can be punishable by a sentence of death.

Capital Offenses: Offenses for which the penalty can be a death sentence. Examples of capital offenses include, but are not limited to, contract murder, murder of a law enforcement officer, murder by a prisoner, multiple killings, murder arising from a drug crime, and killing a child younger than 12 years of age.

Case Law: The principles and rules of law that courts establish when they interpret laws.

Child in Need of Services: According to the Code of Virginia, a child whose behavior, conduct, or condition poses a risk of harm to himself or herself or to another person.

Child in Need of Supervision: A child who is habitually absent from school or who abandons his or her family or guardian in a manner that requires intervention by the court to protect the child’s welfare

Circuit Court: A trial court that has exclusive jurisdiction in all civil matters greater than $10,000 and all felony prosecutions in criminal matters.

Civil Case: A lawsuit involving enforcement of private rights, such as fraud or defamation, as opposed to a criminal case that is brought by the government to punish a wrong against society.

Civil Law: Laws that define the rights and duties of one individual to another.

Clerk of Court: The person responsible for keeping a court’s official records. Clerks of court for Circuit Courts are elected by the voters of their city or county.

Code of Virginia: The official record of laws enacted by the Virginia General Assembly and signed by the governor. These laws apply to all persons in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Common Law: The system of laws, originated and developed in England, based on court decisions rather than codified written laws. The rule that you are “presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is an example of common law.

Commonwealth’s Attorney: An attorney who represents the Commonwealth of Virginia in criminal cases by presenting evidence to prove that a defendant is guilty. In Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorneys are elected by the voters in the city or county.

Constitutional law: Laws that originate in the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia. Constitutions establish the structure of our federal and state governments and set forth the rights of the governed.

Contract: An agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as “consideration.”

Controlled Substances: Substances to which the government restricts access because of the substances’ potential for harm or abuse.

Convict: To find a person guilty of a criminal charge.

Copyright Act (U.S.): A federal law that protects the music and other industries against the illegal downloading and sharing of music, movies, or other media without consent.

Counterfeiting: The altering, copying, or imitation of something, without authority or right, with the intent to deceive or defraud by passing the copy or thing altered or imitated as that which is original or genuine; the selling, buying, or possession of an altered, copied, or imitated thing with the intent to deceive or defraud.

Courts: Part of the judicial branch of government and responsible for interpreting laws when a law is broken or there is a dispute.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA): A court appointed special advocate (CASA) is an adult who volunteers to advocate for a child brought to court and alleged to have been abused or neglected.

Crime: An act that violates a law either by doing something the law says you are not to do or by not doing something the law says you have to do.

Crimes Against Persons: Offenses that involve direct physical harm or force being applied to another person.

Crimes Against Property: Offenses that involve property, including crimes in which property is destroyed and crimes in which property is stolen or taken against the owner’s will.

Criminal Case: A case in which the government is prosecuting a defendant accused of committing a criminal act.

Criminal Law: Laws that define behavior that is considered to be illegal, such as stealing, and the punishments that can be imposed. Criminal law provides a set of rules for peaceful, safe, and orderly living.

Curfew: A law, usually a local ordinance, restricting the time when a young person is allowed to be out on the street without lawful business.

Custody: The care and control of a thing or person.

Custody Case: In Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court or Circuit Court, the type of proceedings in which the court determines which parent, other adult, or agency shall have physical control over a child.

Cyberbullying: The use of technology (e-mail, instant messaging, websites, cell phones, etc.) to harass or annoy another person. Cyberbullying is a form of harassing communication and is a Class C misdemeanor.


Defamation: Defamation means harm to one’s reputation. Two examples of defamation are libel and slander. Libel is a written communication, such as a newspaper article, that is false and damages a person’s reputation. Slander is a spoken communication that is false and damages a person’s reputation.

Defendant: In a criminal case, the person who is accused to committing a crime; in a civil case, the person who is being sued by another party (called a plaintiff) who alleges the defendant has injured or harmed him or her in some way.

Degree: Legal extent of guilt or negligence.

Delinquent: A juvenile who has committed an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult.

Destruction of Property: To willfully or maliciously destroy, damage, deface, or otherwise injure real or personal property without the consent of the owner or the person having custody or control of it.

Detention: Detention means physical restraint or confinement of an individual. In Virginia, a judge, intake officer, or magistrate may detain a juvenile for reasons prescribed by law. Detention is most often used to hold a juvenile pending a hearing. Juveniles are typically held in detention centers in Virginia.

Detention Center: Sometimes called detention homes, places in the community where delinquents are held temporarily in secure custody pending court hearings.

Disorderly Conduct: Disturbing the peace by making loud noises, by fighting, or by publicly using obscene language.

Disposition: The manner in which a case is settled or resolved.

Dispositional Hearing: A hearing at which the court considers and selects the penalties and services which are appropriate for an offender. It is important to remember that the juvenile justice system is concerned not only with punishment, but also with rehabilitation.

Domestic Relations: Refers to family relationships.

Domestic Violence: A pattern of physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abusive behaviors used by one individual to assert power or maintain control over another in the context of an intimate or family relationship.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs as determined by the amount of alcohol or drugs in that person’s blood.

Drug Paraphernalia: All equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used for converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing a controlled substance into the human body.

Drug Trafficking: The possession of large quantities of illegal drugs, which indicates the intent to sell for profit.

Due Process of Law: The guarantee that individulas are treated fairly by the government. A guarantee of due process is written in the U.S. Constitution in the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments.


Electronic Cigarette: A cigarette-shaped device that contains a nicotine-based liquid that is vaporized then inhaled to simulate the experience of smoking tobacco.

Emancipation: When a minor legally gains control and responsibility over all decisions in his or her life, even though he or she is a minor.

Embezzlement: The unlawful taking of personal property with which one has been entrusted.

Expungement: A process by which a record, or a portion thereof, is officially erased or removed. Criminal record expungement requests are heard by Circuit Courts and, under certain conditions, by the General District Court.

Extortion: Obtaining property from another person by using or threatening to use violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property.


Felony: A crime punishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary. See § 18.2-10 of the Code of Virginia for classification of felonies and the punishment for each classification.

Forgery: The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine.

Fraud: Intentionally telling someone something false or concealing the truth.

Fraud Offenses: The intentional perversion of the truth for the purpose of inducing another person or other entity in reliance upon it to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right. These offenses include false pretenses/swindle/confidence game, credit card/automatic teller machine, impersonation, welfare, and wire frauds.


Gambling: To unlawfully bet or wager money or something else of value; assist, promote, or operate a game of chance for money or some other stake; possess or transmit wagering information; manufacture, sell, purchase, possess, or transport gambling equipment, devices, or goods; tamper with the outcome of a sporting event or contest to gain a gambling advantage.

Gambling Offenses: These offenses include betting/wagering, operating/promoting/assisting in a gambling enterprise, gambling equipment, and sports tampering violations.

Gang: A group of three or more persons which has an identifiable name, indentifying sign, or symbol, and joins together for the purpose of committing crimes, at least one of which is violent.

Grand jury: A special type of jury assembled to investigate whether criminal charges should be brought. Grand jury proceedings are supervised by Circuit Courts.

Guardians ad litem (GAL): A court appointed lawyer who represents the best interest of a juvenile.


Harassment: To repeatedly annoy or attack a person or group in such a way as to cause anxiety or fear for safety. Several different types of harassment are against Virginia law.

Hate crimes: Crimes motivated by the offender’s bias against race, religion, disability, or ethnicity.

Hazing: To recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of a student or to inflict bodily injury on a student in connection with admission into a group.

Hearing: A court appearance before a judge or court referee where testimony is given and evidence is presented.

Homicide: The killing of one human being by another.


Identity Theft: Using someone else’s information (such as Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers, and driver licenses) without his or her permission for an unlawful purpose.

Incarceration: Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

Intake Officer : In Virginia, an officer of a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court who receives and reviews complaints to the court and determines whether there are enough facts to involve the court. These officers are authorized to handle cases informally or may authorize filing a petition to bring the matter before the judge. They are also authorized to detain juveniles when necessary.

Intent: A state of mind in which a person seeks to achieve a given result through a course of action.

Intimidation: To make another person fearful of bodily harm using threatening words and/or other conduct, but without displaying a weapon or physically attacking the person.


Jail: A place of confinement for persons awaiting trial and for persons sentenced to shorter terms of confinement for misdemeanors.

Judge: The court official that oversees courtroom proceedings, listens to testimony presented in cases brought before the court, and rules according to the law.

Jury: A group of citizens who listen to testimony, determine the facts, and apply the law. In a juvenile court, there is no jury; all decisions are made by the judge.

Juvenile: Any person under 18 years of age.

Juvenile Correctional Center: A place where a juvenile committed to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice receives 24-hour supervision, education, treatment services, recreational services, and a variety of special programs.

Juvenile Court: A court having special jurisdiction over delinquent, dependent, or neglected children. In Virginia, this court is called a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Juvenile Justice System: A special part of the larger justice system that deals with matters related to juveniles and has its own set of laws and procedures that govern how juveniles are treated.


Kidnapping/Abduction: The unlawful seizure, transportation, and/or detention of a person against his or her will or of a minor without the consent of his or her custodial parent(s) or legal guardian.


Larceny: The unlawful taking or carrying away of someone else’s personal property with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently.

Law: Rules and regulations created and enforced by the government.

Libel: Written or permanently recorded untruths causing harm to the person about whom the untruths are published.

Loitering: Remaining in a certain place for no reason.


Malice: The intent to commit a wrongful act, without justification or excuse. Malice involves reckless disregard of the law or of a person’s legal rights.

Manslaughter: The reckless killing of another person. This crime may be intentional, but committed during a heated or passionate moment. The killing of one human being by another which is not deliberate and premeditated.

Menacing: Physical action that intentionally places or attempts to place another person in such a position that he or she fears imminent, serious physical injury.

Minor: A person under 18 years of age.

Minor in Possession of Alcohol: The illegal act of someone under the age of 21 possessing and/or transporting alcohol or drugs. It can also include knowingly being in the presence of drugs or alcohol in an area over which a minor has control, such as a backpack, locker, or car.

Miranda Warning: Rights read to a suspect before questioning begins. It states that you have a right to be informed of the reason for arrest, the right to remain silent, the right to contact an attorney, parent, or guardian, and the right to an appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.

Misdemeanor: Offenses punishable by fine not exceeding $2,500 or by being jailed for a term not exceeding 12 months, or a combination of fine and jail within these limits.

Motor Vehicle: Any vehicle that runs on its own power.

Motor Vehicle Theft: The theft of a motor vehicle, defined as a self-propelled vehicle that runs on the surface of land and not on rails, including automobiles, buses, recreation vehicles, trucks, and other motor vehicles such as motorcycles, motor scooters, trail bikes, mopeds, snowmobiles, and golf carts. Joyriding is included.

Murder: The intentional killing of another person without legal justification.


Negligence: A tort that occurs when a person fails to use reasonable care causing harm to a person or to his or her property.


Obscenity: A general term applying to anything that is immoral, indecent, or lewd.

Ordinance: A law passed by a city or county. In Virginia, city ordinances are enacted by City Councils and county ordinances are enacted by County Boards of Supervisors. These laws apply just to persons in the particular city or county.


Parent’s Liability: Parents are responsible for their children and for what their children do until those children are 19 years old or legally emancipated.

Parole: Release from prison before the full sentence has been served, granted at the discretion of a parole board.

Pedestrian: A person who is walking.

Perjury: Intentionally providing false information under oath.

Perpetrator: A police officer’s term used to describe a person (usually unknown) who committed a criminal act.

Petition: To make a request of a court or public official. In a juvenile court, filing a delinquency petition means the same thing as filing charges in an adult court.

Phishing: Sending e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate organization (examples: banks, Ebay accounts, internet provider services, etc.) and asking for the user’s password, Social Security number, bank account numbers, and credit card account numbers. This information is then used for the purposes of identity theft.

Plagiarism: The copying of someone else’s work and representing it as your own.

Plaintiff: The party making a complaint. In a civil case, the plaintiff is the party who alleges he or she has been injured or harmed in some way.

Possession: Possession is not limited to ownership. It can also include knowingly being in the presence of or having control over an area containing illegal items.

Precedents: Court decisions on legal questions that guide future cases with similar questions.

Premeditated: Done with willful deliberation and planning; consciously considered beforehand.

Probable cause: A reasonable ground for belief in the existence of facts warranting the proceedings complained of (e.g., probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person accused may have committed it).

Probation: Allowing a person convicted of some offense to remain free under a suspension of a jail sentence during good behavior and generally under the supervision or guardianship of a probation officer together with other restrictions as the court may impose.

Prosecutor: The lawyer who represents the government in a criminal case. In Virginia, prosecutors are called Commonwealth’s Attorneys.


Reasonable Suspicion: An objective basis, supported by specific facts, for suspecting a person of criminal activity.

Receiving Stolen Property: The criminal offense of acquiring or controlling property known to have been stolen by another person.

Restitution: The act of restoration. It means that an offender is required to repay money to the victim or take other action to “restore” the victim to his status before the criminal act.

Robbery: The taking, with intent to steal, of the personal property of another, from his or her person or in his or her presence, against his or her will, by violence or intimidation.

Rule of Law: The principle which means that everyone, including government officials, must respect and obey the legal system and its laws.


School Resource Officer (SRO): A certified law enforcement officer hired by the local law enforcement agency to provide law enforcement and security services to Virginia public elementary and secondary schools. (Code of Virginia §9.1-101 )

School Security Officer (SSO): An individual who is employed by the local school board for the singular purpose of maintaining order and discipline, preventing crime, investigating violations of school board policies, and detaining students violating the law or school board policies on school property or at school-sponsored events, and who is responsible solely for ensuring the safety, security, and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors in the assigned school. (Code of Virginia §9.1-101)

Sexting: Writing sexually explicit messages and/or taking sexually explicit photos, and transmitting those messages and/or photos electronically to others.

Shoplifting: Taking goods from a store without payment or the intent to pay.

Small Claims Court: A civil court with jurisdiction of claims up to $5,000.

Stalking: Engaging in conduct, on more than one occasion, directed at another person with the intent to place that person or that person’s family or household member in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury.

Status Offender: A juvenile who has committed certain actions which, if committed by adults, would not be considered criminal offenses – such as a curfew violation.

Statute: A law enacted by legislatures. Federal laws are enacted by Congress and are recorded in the United States Code (USC). State laws are enacted by the Virginia General Assembly and are recorded in the Code of Virginia.

Stimulant: A substance that temporarily increases the function of the heart, lungs, brain, and/or nervous system.

Stolen Property Offenses: Receiving, buying, selling, possessing, concealing, or transporting any property with the knowledge that it has been unlawfully taken, as by burglary, larceny, fraud, embezzlement, or robbery.

Subpoena: A process commanding a witness to appear before a court at a time specified to give testimony.

Sunshine Law: A law that requires all public officials to conduct their meetings openly.

Suspension: A disciplinary action that temporarily removes a student from school.


Teen Court: A pre-trial diversion program of the juvenile court that allows juveniles charged with a delinquent act the option of facing their peers for punishment, instead of going to juvenile court.

Terrorism: A violent criminal act committed with the intent to intimidate or threaten the general public or to influence the policy of government.

Theft: The taking of property or depriving someone of his or her property without the intent to return it.

Threat: A communication that implies an intent to kill or do bodily injury to a person or any member of his or her family and places the person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

Tobacco: An agricultural crop usually rolled in paper and smoked. Sometimes tobacco leaves are “dipped” or “chewed” so the nicotine is absorbed via the gums.

Tort: Action that harms another person or his property. Tort usually refers to injuring a person, causing damage to his or her property or reputation, or harming someone’s commercial interest. An intentional tort occurs when a person acts with the intent to harm someone or someone’s property.

Trespass: Entering someone else’s property or home without permission or remaining there against the owner’s wishes; fishing or hunting on the property; or throwing things onto the property.

Trial: A formal proceeding before a judge and/or jury to determine the outcome of an issue before the court.

Truancy: Failure to attend school that is willful and habitual.


United States Code (U.S. Code): The official record of laws enacted by the United States Congress. These laws apply to all persons in every state and U.S. territory.


Vandalism: Willful or ignorant destruction of public or private property, especially of artistic, architectural, or literary treasures.

Victim: A person harmed by a crime, tort, or other wrong.


Warrant: A legal document authorizing an officer of the law to take action (as in making an arrest, or the search and seizure of evidence).

Willful: Voluntary and intentional, but not necessarily malicious.

Witness: A person who testifies about what he or she has seen or heard. Witnesses are sworn to tell the truth and if a witness fails to tell the truth, he or she can be charged with the crime of perjury.

Witness Stand: Seat occupied by a witness in the courtroom.

Work Permit: A permit that allows anyone under the age of 16 to work outside of school hours or during vacation periods. This involves completing an application for the permit and verification of school enrollment.

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Gavel on books