Related Terms


There are important differences between proceedings against adults and those against juveniles.

  • Persons under 18 years of age (other than those transferred for trial as adults) are “adjudicated delinquent of offenses that would be crimes if committed by adults” rather than found guilty of felonies or misdemeanors.
  • Students over 18 years of age, however, are tried as adults and, if found guilty, convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.


Abused Child: Code of Virginia § 16.1-228 defines an “abused or neglected child” as one

  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury by other than accidental means, or creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily or mental functions, including, but not limited to, a child who is with his parent or other person responsible for his care either (i) during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, or (ii) during the unlawful sale of such substance by the child’s parents or other person responsible for his care, where such manufacture, or attempted manufacture or unlawful sale would constitute a felony violation of 18.2-248;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health; however, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be an abused or neglected child;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care abandons such child;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care commits or allows to be committed any sexual act upon a child in violation of the law;
  • Who is without parental care or guardianship caused by the unreasonable absence or the mental or physical incapacity of the child’s parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis; or
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates a substantial risk of physical or mental injury by knowingly leaving the child alone in the same dwelling, including an apartment as defined in § 55-79.2, with a person to whom the child is not related by blood or marriage and who the parent or other person responsible for his care knows has been convicted of an offense against a minor for which
    registration is required as a violent sexual offender pursuant to § 9.1-902.

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

Adjudicatory Hearing: In juvenile justice usage, it is the fact-finding process by which the juvenile court determines whether or not sufficient evidence exists to sustain the allegations in a petition. It occurs after the petition has been filed and after a detention hearing has been held.

Adult: A person who is 18 years of age or older, who is within the original jurisdiction of a criminal court rather than a juvenile court because his or her age at the time of an alleged criminal act was above a statutorily specified limit. A juvenile court may waive jurisdiction and transfer a juvenile to a criminal court for prosecution as an adult.

Alcohol:Any drink that has at least .5% alcoholic content.

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); unlawful or intentional infliction of bodily injury or just an attempt or threat of bodily injury is an assault. Any threatening act that puts another person in reasonable fear of physical injury. Words alone are not an assault. If the fear of physical injury is unreasonable, the conduct is not an assault. Virginia Model Jury Instructions, Instruction 36.000, 1993 Civil Edition.]

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.

Authority (Local, State, Federal): Each unit of government is empowered to perform its responsibilities to the public by local ordinances, state statutes, and federal laws. Ordinances are laws created by local units of government that apply to school divisions, persons, and institutions within a town, city, or county. Statutes are enacted by the General Assembly and apply to persons and institutions on a statewide basis. Federal statutes and regulations are national laws enacted by Congress which apply to persons and educational institutions located in every state.


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

Bail/Bond: An amount of money or property sometimes required by a judge or magistrate to be paid to the court by the defendant to insure that he or she will appear for trial. If he or she does not appear, the money may be forfeited to the court.

Bail Hearing: A hearing in which a judicial officer (judge, magistrate, or clerk of court) determines whether a defendant should be released from custody pending trial. The judicial officer also determines the terms and the conditions of release.

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

Battery: An actual, intentional physical contact without the victim’s permission is a battery. A battery is a touching, however slight, of another person in a rude, insulting, or angry way; the actual physical, harmful contact associated with an assault.

Boundaries (School Grounds and School Property) : All real and personal property with a title of ownership vested in the school board or a city that is necessary to use for school purposes is school property. School property includes (but is not limited to) school buildings, surrounding land, parking lots, school buses (§ 18.2-128), land outside of corporate city limits that is not adjacent to the school building and has been designated for school purposes (§ 22.1-125) [desks, lockers, textbooks, library books, computers, etc.]

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

Bullying: Bullying is any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim. Bullying involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim, and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. Bullying includes cyberbullying. Bullying does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict. Each school board is to implement policies that fit within the definition of bullying as defined by Code of Virginia § 22.1-276.01.

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, house-trailer or houseboat (if used as permanent dwelling), room, barn, stable, mill, and ship.


Capias: A document issued by the court for the arrest of a person; issued in case of contempt, or where an indictment has been issued, or to bring in a witness who does not obey the subpoena.

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 (CHINS): According to Code of Virginia § 16.1-228, "Child in need of services" means: (i) a child whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the well-being and physical safety of the child or (ii) a child under the age of 14 whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to the well-being and physical safety of another person; however, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be a child in need of services, nor shall any child who habitually remains away from or habitually deserts or abandons his family as a result of what the court or the local child protective services unit determines to be incidents of physical, emotional or sexual abuse in the home be considered a child in need of services for that reason alone. “However, to find that a child falls within these provisions, (i) the conduct complained of must present a clear and substantial danger to the child’s life or health or to the life or health of another person, (ii) the child or his family is in need of treatment, rehabilitation or services not presently being received, and (iii) the intervention of the court is essential to provide the treatment, rehabilitation or services needed by the child or his family.”

Child in Need of Supervision (CHINSup): According to Code of Virginia § 16.1-228, "Child in need of supervision" means:

  • “A child who, while subject to compulsory school attendance, is habitually and without justification absent from school, and (i) the child has been offered an adequate opportunity to receive the benefit of any and all educational services and programs that are required to be provided by law and which meet the child’s particular educational needs, (ii) the school system from which the child is absent or other appropriate agency has made a reasonable effort to effect the child’s regular attendance without success, and (iii) the school system has provided documentation that it has complied with the provisions of Code of Virginia § 22.1-258; or
  • A child who, without reasonable cause and without the consent of his parent, lawful custodian or placement authority, remains away from or deserts or abandons his family or lawful custodian on more than one occasion or escapes or remains away without proper authority from a residential care facility in which he has been placed by the court, and (i) such conduct presents a clear and substantial danger to the child’s life or health, (ii) the child or his family is in need of treatment, rehabilitation or services not presently being received, and (iii) the intervention of the court is essential to provide the treatment, rehabilitation or services needed by the child or his family.”

Child Protective Services: Local social service agencies under the Virginia Department of Social Services that offer assistance including investigating child abuse and neglect cases and developing strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect.

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.

Civil Liability: Legal duty or responsibility for private acts which arise under municipal law as opposed to criminal law.

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: Also known as the prosecutor; a lawyer elected by the people to prosecute criminal and traffic cases; lawyer for the Commonwealth who represents the interests of the general public; 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.

Compulsory Attendance: The Virginia Code § 22.1-254 contains a mandatory requirement that every parent, guardian, or other person in the Commonwealth having control or charge of any child who will have reached the fifth birthday on or before September 30 of any school year and who has not passed their eighteenth birthday shall, during the period of each year the public schools are in session and for the same number of days and hours per day as the public schools, send such child to a public school or to a private, denominational or parochial school or have such child taught by a tutor or teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education and approved by the division superintendent, or provide for home instruction of such child as described in Code of Virginia § 22.1-254.1.

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.

Continuance: Postponing of a case until a later date upon request by either party or the court.

Continuum of Care: A level of service provided by juvenile courts for non-delinquent and adjudicated youth under the court’s jurisdiction. It identifies behavior associated with future delinquency by starting with the most restrictive level of service, including in-home suspension, counseling, and electronic monitoring.

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.

Conviction: Court’s judgment finding the defendant guilty of a crime.

Copyright Act (U.S.): A federal law that protects all music, film, literary, and other creative industries against the illegal downloading, recreation, and sharing their media without consent.

Corporal Punishment: The infliction or causing the infliction of physical pain on a student as a means of discipline through the use of unreasonable or unnecessary force.

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: The part of the judicial branch of government responsible for interpreting laws when a law is broken or there is a dispute.

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 no longer allowed to be out on the street without lawful business.

Custody: “Legal custody” means (i) a legal status created by court order which vests in a custodian the right to have physical custody of the child, to determine and redetermine where and with whom he shall live, the right and duty to protect, train and discipline him and to provide him with food, shelter, education and ordinary medical care, all subject to any residual parental rights and responsibilities or (ii) the legal status created by court order of joint custody as defined in Code of Virginia§ 20-107.2; 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 and legal control over a child.

Cyberbullying: The use of technology (e-mail, instant messaging, web sites, cell phones, etc.) to harass or annoy another person. Cyberbullying is a form of harassing communication and is a Class 1 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: Person who is charged with a crime. In a criminal case, the person who is accused of 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.

Defense Counsel: Lawyer for the defendant.

Degree: Legal extent of guilt or negligence.

Delinquent: “Delinquent child” means a child who has committed a delinquent act, except where the jurisdiction of the juvenile court has been terminated under the provisions of Code of Virginia § 16.1-269.6. “Delinquent act” means (i) an act designated a crime under the law of this Commonwealth, or an ordinance of any city, county, town or service district, or under federal law, (ii) a violation of Code of Virginia § 18.2-308.7 or (iii) a violation of a court order as provided for in Code of Virginia § 16.1-292, but shall not include an act other than a violation of Code of Virginia § 18.2-308.7, which is otherwise lawful, but is designated a crime only if committed by a child. For purposes of Code of Virginia § 16.1-241 and § 16.1-278.9, the term shall include a refusal to take a blood or breath test in violation of Code of Virginia § 18.2-268.2 or a similar ordinance of any county, city, or town; a juvenile who has committed an act that 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: To physically restrain or confine 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.

Dismissal: A finding of not guilty; or a refusal by the court to allow a case to continue to be prosecuted.

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.

Disposition Hearing: A hearing in juvenile court conducted after an adjudicatory hearing and subsequent to receipt of the report of any predisposition investigation, to determine the most appropriate form of custody and treatment for a juvenile who has been judged a delinquent, status offender, or who is a dependent. It is important to remember that the juvenile justice system is concerned not only with punishment, but also with rehabilitation.

Disruptive Behavior: Disruptive behavior means conduct that interrupts or obstructs the learning environment.

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, or the sale or distribution of illegal drugs.

Due Process of Law: The guarantee that citizens 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.


Element of an Offense: Any conduct, circumstance, condition, or state of mind which in combination with other conduct, circumstances, conditions or states of mind constitutes an unlawful act.

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.

Evidence: Statements by witnesses, documents, and objects presented to the court which can be considered by the judge and/or jury in determining whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

Exclusion of Witnesses (Exclude): Removal of witnesses from the courtroom.

Expungement: A process by which a record, or a portion thereof, is officially erased or removed after the defendant is not convicted. Criminal record expungement requests are heard by Circuit Courts, and, under certain conditions, by the General District Court.

Extortion: Unlawfully obtaining or attempting to obtain something of value from another by compelling the other person to deliver it by the threat of eventual physical injury or other harm to that person or the person’s property, or a third person. Blackmail is the common name for extortion where the threat is not physical but relates to exposing some secret, true, or alleged fact which would do harm to someone’s circumstances or damage his or her reputation; obtaining property from another person by using or threatening to use violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property.


Family or Household Member: Includes: spouse (regardless of whether you live together); ex-spouse (regardless of whether you live together); parents, children, stepparents and stepchildren, brothers and sisters, grandparents, grandchildren, and in-laws (if you live in the same house); cohabitants (those who live together) and those who cohabited in the past year and their children; and persons who have a child in common (even if you have never lived together).

Felony: A criminal offense which is more serious than a misdemeanor and which can carry harsher penalties including imprisonment of a term greater than one year. Juveniles are “adjudicated delinquent of offenses that would be crimes if committed by adults” rather than found guilty of felonies or misdemeanors; a crime punishable by death or confinement in the penitentiary. See Code of Virginia § 18.2-10 for classification of felonies and the punishment for each classification.

FERPA: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of student education records. It also gives parents and students who are 18 years of age and older or attending a postsecondary institution, the right to review the student’s educational records and amend the record if the parent or student believes it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student’s rights.

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/swindling/confidence game, and 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, Criminal Street: According to Code of Virginia § 18.2-46.1, “any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, (i) which has as one of its primary objectives or activities the commission of one or more criminal activities; (ii) which has an identifiable name or identifying sign or symbol; and (iii) whose members individually or collectively have engaged in the commission of, attempt to commit, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of two or more predicate criminal acts, at least one of which is an act of violence, provided such acts were not part of a common act or transaction.”

Graduated Court Sanctions: The approach to delinquency and recidivism a juvenile court adopts that includes comprehensive prevention programs coupled with a series of progressively more intensive treatment and disposition alternatives.

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


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.

Harassment, Sexual: Sexual harassment is a prohibited practice that includes sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic achievement;
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting that individual; and/or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or learning environment. (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
Hate Crimes: (i) a criminal act committed against a person or his property with the specific intent of instilling fear or intimidation in the individual against whom the act is perpetrated because of race, religion or ethnic origin or that is committed for the purpose of restraining that person from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States, (ii) any illegal act directed against any persons or their property because of those persons’ race, religion or national origin, and (iii) all other incidents, as determined by law-enforcement authorities, intended to intimidate or harass any individual or group because of race, religion or national origin. (Code of Virginia § 52-8.5)

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.

Hearsay: A statement based upon information heard from another person. It is generally not admissible as evidence in court, although there are exceptions to the rule.

Home Incarceration or Home Confinement: A sentencing option that enables an offender to serve a sentence at his or her place of residence. It is an alternative to prison that involves curfews, parole, or home detention with electronic monitoring.

Homicide: The killing of one human being by another.


Incarceration: Imprisonment; confinement in a jail or penitentiary.

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.

Indictment: A formal written document presented by a grand jury which legally accuses a person of committing a crime.

Intake Officer: A member of the juvenile court staff who receives and reviews the juvenile’s case and decides whether or not to file a petition for a hearing or divert the case from court. The intake officer is a youth’s first point of contact with the juvenile court; 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.


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 panel of 12 citizens (felony charge) or seven citizens (misdemeanor charge) who decide the guilt or innocence of a defendant and recommend a sentence; a group of citizens who listens to testimony, determines the facts, and applies the law. In a juvenile court, there is no jury; all decisions are made by the judge.

Juvenile or Minor: In Virginia, a person who is younger than 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.

Knowingly: A state of mind that involves substantial certainty or knowledge and intelligence that a result or consequence will occur.


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.


Magistrate: A judicial officer who has the authority to set bail and to issue criminal charges based upon evidence presented by an individual or a law enforcement officer.

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.

Malicious: Doing a wrongful act intentionally or as a result of ill will. Evidence of maliciousness can be shown by looking at a person’s words or inferred by looking at the person’s acts that necessarily result in injury. Ultimately, a judge or jury determines if the act involved malice.

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

Material Witness: A witness who has firsthand knowledge about the facts of a case.

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 at arrest. 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: An offense which is less serious than a felony and carries lesser penalties, ranging from a fine only to a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail. Juveniles are “adjudicated delinquent of offenses that would be crimes if committed by adults” rather than found guilty of felonies or misdemeanors; 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.

Motion: Request by a defense attorney or prosecutor that the judge make a decision on a specific issue or point of law.

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.


Neglected Child: See “abused child.”

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

Nolle Prosequi (nol pros): Prosecutor’s decision with agreement by the court not to prosecute a case at the present time. The charge may be brought again.


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 18 years old or legally emancipated.

Parole: Conditional release from jail, prison, or other confinement after actually serving part of the sentence. It entitles a parolee to serve the remainder of the term outside of the confines of an institution, if he or she complies with all of the terms and conditions of the parole order; release from prison before the full sentence has been served, granted at the discretion of a parole board.

Pedestrian: A person who is traveling on foot.

Perjury: Intentionally providing false information under oath.

Perpetrator: 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. Petition, Filing of: Formally submitting to a court’s record a document that alleges that a juvenile is delinquent, abused, or neglected, or a child in need of services, and asking that the court assume jurisdiction over the juvenile.

Phishing: Sending e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate organization (examples: banks, EBay accounts, internet provider services, etc.) 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.

Plea: Defendant’s answer to a charge (guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere {no contest}).

Plea Agreement: An agreement in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a prosecutor’s recommendation for a particular sentence or particular charge. The judge must approve the agreement.

Policy: The general principles by which a government or unit of government is guided in its management of public affairs, or the legislature in its provisions.

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

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

Preliminary Hearing: Hearing held before a judge in a General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to determine if there is probable cause that the felony crime charged was committed by the defendant. If the judge finds probable cause, the case is certified to the grand jury for indictment and trial in Circuit Court.

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

Presentence Investigation/Report (PSI): Report prepared by a probation and parole officer to help the judge in deciding sentence. A victim impact statement may be included in the report.

Probable Cause: A set of facts and circumstances which would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that a particular person had committed a specific crime; having reasonable grounds or suspicion to make or believe an accusation. Probable cause is the standard required to justify a search by law enforcement officers; 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: A period of supervision by the court during which time an offender has the opportunity to show that he or she has learned from his or her mistakes and is required to obey rules of probation; in modern criminal administration, 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 the court may impose.

Probation (Supervised v. Unsupervised): Supervised probation is guidance, treatment, or regulation by a probation agency of the behavior of a person who is subject to adjudication or who has been convicted of an offense resulting from a formal court order or a probation agency decision. Contact between the agency and the client occurs on a regular basis. The average probation period is six months to a year. In unsupervised probation, contact occurs only when initiated by the client or other interested party outside the probation agency, and is not on a regular basis.

Probation and Parole Officer: A sworn officer of the court who is responsible for preparing Presentence Investigation Reports and providing supervision for offenders residing in the community.

Prosecutor: Another term for Commonwealth’s Attorney, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney or Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney; the lawyer who represents the government in a criminal case. In Virginia, prosecutors are called Commonwealth’s Attorneys.

Protective Order: An order issued by judge or magistrate for the purpose of protecting a family/household member from abuse.

Public Place: A place to which the general public has a right to remain, not necessarily a place devoted solely to the uses of the public but a place that is accessible to the public and not private. It is a place in which the public has an interest in protecting the safety, health, welfare, and morals of the community.


Reasonable Suspicion: The degree of suspicion required is less than the degree that is necessary for probable cause, but reasonable suspicion will justify a brief stopping of a person for an investigation of pending, ongoing, or past criminal conduct. Reasonable suspicion is the standard necessary to justify a search by school officials; an objective basis, supported by specific facts, for suspecting a person of criminal activity.

Receiving Stolen Property: The criminal offense of knowingly acquiring or controlling property that has been stolen by another person.

Reckless: The state of mind accompanying an act, in which a person disregards the possibility of injury or harmful consequences and although the person foresees such consequences, he or she proceeds in spite of his or her awareness.

Recognizance: The release of an arrested person on a written promise that he/she will return to court.

Restitution: Money ordered by the court to be paid back to a victim by the defendant for loss incurred as a result of the crime; 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: Taking, with intent to steal, another’s personal property, from his or her person or in his or her presence, against his 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.


Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act of 2001: Section IV of the Improving America’s Schools Act of 2001. Authorizes funding to support school- and community-based drug and violence prevention efforts.

School Resource Officer (SRO): A School Resource Officer or SRO is a law-enforcement officer who works in local school divisions to ensure a school’s safety by serving as a law-enforcement officer within the school, teaching classes related to law enforcement, serving as a community resource, and as a role model for students. SROs are sometimes also referred to as Community Resource Officers (CROs), school liaison officers, youth safety officers, and other titles that may have been developed locally; 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): A School Security Officer is 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).

Search and Seizure: Search is the examination or inspection of a location, (locker, desk, pockets, etc.), vehicle, or person by a law-enforcement officer or other person authorized to do so, for the purpose of locating objects relating to or believed to be related to criminal activity. Seizure is the taking into custody, by law-enforcement officers or other persons authorized to do so, of objects relating to or believed to relate to criminal activity. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Secure Facility: “Secure facility” or “detention home” means a public or private local, regional, or state residential facility that has construction fixtures designed to prevent escape and to restrict the movement and activities of children held in lawful custody.

Sentencing: A hearing at which a judge imposes punishment on a convicted defendant.

Sexual Abuse: Prohibited and legally punishable behavior that includes sex offenses such as rape, sodomy, and carnal abuse of a child, committed by and against students, school officials, and teachers.

SHOCAP: The Serious Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program (SHOCAP) is an interagency case management and information sharing system which enables the juvenile and criminal justice system, schools, and social service agencies to make more informed decisions regarding juveniles who repeatedly commit serious criminal and delinquent acts. A minor who is involved in SHOCAP has been adjudicated as a delinquent or convicted of murder, armed robbery, any felony sexual assault or malicious wounding, or convicted at least three times of offenses which would be felonies or Class 1 misdemeanors if committed by an adult.

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

Show Cause: Order issued by the court for a person to show why they failed to comply with an instruction of the court.

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

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.

Status Offense: Status offense means an act prohibited by law which would not be an offense if committed by an adult. Examples include being a runaway, truant, or in violation of curfew laws. Status offender means a child who commits an act prohibited by law which would not be criminal if committed by an adult.

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 written, legal order telling a person to be in court at a specific time and place to give testimony; 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.

Supervised Probation: A period of time during which an offender must obey certain conditions set by the court and the probation and parole officer in lieu of serving the suspended portion of a jail or penitentiary sentence. The probation and parole officer monitors an offender’s compliance with supervised probation and keeps the court informed.

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


Taken Under Advisement: The judge withholds final disposition of the case until certain conditions set by the judge are met by the defendant.

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 threatens 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.

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: Process by which guilt or innocence of a defendant is determined. Can be heard by a judge or jury; 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.

Truant: A truant is a juvenile who has been adjudicated by a judicial officer of a juvenile court, as having committed the status offense of violating a compulsory school attendance law.


United States Code (“U.S. Code”): The official record of laws enacted by the United States Congress and approved by the President. 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.

Verdict: The decision a jury or judge makes at the end of a trial about whether the defendant is guilty or not.

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

Victim Impact Statement (VIS): A written statement which describes how the crime(s) has affected the victim and his/her family. This statement may be considered by the judge in deciding a sentence. If the judge orders a presentence investigation (PSI), the VIS becomes part of the PSI and is given to the defense attorney who may review it with the defendant.

Victim/Witness Program: Program designed to provide support, answer questions, make referrals, and explain the criminal justice process to victims and witnesses of crime.

Violence: Violence refers to all types of illegal behaviors, either threatened or actual, that result in damage to or destruction of property or the injury or death of an individual. It includes but is not limited to assault (threats of imminent harm, throwing objects without striking a person), battery (hitting, kicking, shoving, stabbing, tripping), child abuse, rape, vandalism, gang violence, and unreasonable force used in corporal punishment.


Warrant: Written, legal order authorizing a law enforcement officer to make an arrest or perform a search; 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.

Willfully: Proceeding from voluntary or conscious motion of the will; intending or designing the result of an act which actually happens.

Witness: A person who has knowledge of the circumstances of a case; one who testifies as to what he or she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed, or has expert knowledge of. 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.

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.

In this section:

VDOE Discipline, Crime and Violence Definitions

The Virginia Department of Education updates DCV Definitions annually.

For more information on reporting, visit VDOE's School Safety section.

Code of Virginia

The Virginia General Assembly has posted the entire Code of Virginia online for web searching. You can perform a search by using key word(s), phrases or section numbers. You can also use the Table of Contents to view all Titles, Chapters, and Sections.

To explore the searchable Code of Virginia, go to the Virginia General Assembly Legislative Information System (LIS).