“Legal” Verbs and Prepositions (Criminal Procedure)

Legal English for Spanish Speakers

What’s the right preposition for these “crimpro” verbs??

1. The police suspected Mr. X ____ having committed a crime; indeed they believed they had enough evidence________ him to accuse him _____ committing burglary.

2. After the investigation, the prosecutor brought charges _______ Mr. X, who would be charged ________ two counts of burglary.

3. He was then arrested ______ burglary and taken _______ custody.

4. He was arrested _______ a charge ______ burglary and brought _______ the judge.

5. While ______ arrest Mr. X did not confess _____ the crime, but rather he pleaded not guilty _____ the charges filed ________ him.

6. When he appeared ______ court, the judge ordered that Mr. X be released ________ bail pending trial, during which he would be prosecuted and tried _______ burglary.

7. The arresting officer testified _____ Mr. X at trial, while his defense counsel defended him _________ the charges.

8. The prosecution was prevented ______ introducing illegally-obtained evidence ______ the proceedings.

9. After retiring ____ the deliberations room, the jury passed verdict _______ the accused.

10. The jury found Mr. X guilty ________ charged.

11. In summary, Mr. X was finally convicted ________ burglary and was sentenced ________ ten years in prison.

12. After serving four years of his ten-year sentence, Mr. X was released _________ prison and placed ______ parole.

Answers:
  1. of; against; of
  2. against; with
  3. for; into
  4. on; of; before
  5. under; to; to; against
  6. in; on; for
  7. against; against
  8. from; during
  9. to; on/upon
  10. as
  11. of; to
  12. from; on

Legal English: The “Color” of Law

 

The Color of Law

“Color” is often used in legal contexts with the meaning of “appearance” or “semblance” and the expression “under color of…” suggests something done “under the pretext (or) guise of” something else. Thus, something done “under color of law” is done with the apparent authority of the law. Acting “under color of office” may describe someone pretending to be a public official, or a public official who abuses his position for gain. And possession “under color of title” may refer to an occupant who holds himself out as the owner of a given property, acting as if he is actually the titleholder.

Many actual colors are used in legal language in many areas of law. Here are some of the most common (there may be many more!):

RED

  • red herring prospectus—a preliminary prospectus for the sale of securities that has not yet been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission

BLUE

  • blue law—a statute regulating or prohibiting commercial activity on Sundays
  • blue sky law—a statute establishing standards for offering and selling securities to protect citizens from fraud
  • blue pencilling—deleting or censoring the contents of a book or other work
  • bluewater seaman—an able-bodied seaman

GREEN

  • greenbacks—dollars; legal-tender notes in the US
  • greencard—US residency card; in the EU, an international auto insurance document
  • green-card marriage—marriage of convenience in order to obtain permanent US residency
  • greenfield site—undeveloped land, presumably uncontaminated
  • green paper—a government document that invites discussion concerning approaches to an issue of public interest

WHITE

  • Whiteacre—a fictitious tract of land used in legal discourse (especially law school hypotheticals) to discuss real-property issues; when the discussion involves two tracts of land, they are generally termed “Blackacre” and “Whiteacre”
  • white paper—a government report on a given subject; a detailed or authoritative report
  • white-collar crime—crime committed by business professionals, usually involving a form of financial theft or fraud (may include bribery, embezzlement, insider trading, etc.)
  • white knight—a party that rescues the target of an unfriendly or hostile takeover bid
  • white slavery—forced prostitution

BLACK

  • Blackacre—a fictitious tract of land used in legal discourse (especially law-school hypotheticals) to discuss real-property issues; when the discussion involves two tracts of land, they are generally termed “Blackacre” and “Whiteacre”
  • black economy—illicit economic activity done in violation of official regulations (also called “shadow economy”)
  • black market—illicit trade in goods or commodities in violation of official regulations; a place where illicit trade is conducted
  • black-leg labor—a chiefly British term for “scab” (a strikebreaker or, generally, someone acting against union policies)
  • blackletter law (also: “hornbook law”)–fundamental and well-settled legal principles
  • blackmail—extortion or coercion of money or other benefit in exchange for refraining from publicizing damaging information about the victim

BROWN

  • brownfield site—a tract of land that has been developed for industrial purposes, but is underused or abandoned due to environmental pollution

PINK

  • pink slip—a slang term for a notice of termination of employment
  • pink sheet—daily publication of a listing of bid and ask prices for over-the-counter stocks, published by the National Quotation Bureau

YELLOW

  • yellow-dog contract—a contract of employment prohibiting union membership (generally illegal under US state and federal law)

(Sources: Black’s Law Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law, Oxford Dictionary of Law, Investopedia)

Who said “whose” is only for people? (Using “whose inanimate”)

Legal English for Spanish Speakers

This aspect of English grammar is not limited to legal usage, but the convenience of using “whose inanimate” arises so often in legal writing that I cannot resist the temptation to address it here. Generations of native speakers of English have been taught categorically that in relative clauses “whose” should only be used when referring to people, while “which” must be used to refer to things. Thus, as a simple example, the expression cuyo contenido se tiene aquí por reproducido will most often be translated using “of which” as “the content of which is incorporated by reference herein.” However, the use of “whose” in this example would be perfectly correct: “whose content is incorporated by reference herein.”

The authoritative Fowler’s* English usage dictionary includes numerous examples of “whose” used as a relative pronoun with an inanimate antecedent. In the Burchfield edition, which contains many examples of this usage taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler puts this matter to rest by saying,

“…in the starch that stiffens English style one of the most effective ingredients is the rule that whose (as a relative pronoun) shall refer only to persons. …Let us, in the name of common sense, prohibit the prohibition of whose inanimate; good writing is surely difficult enough without the forbidding of things that have historical grammar, and present intelligibility, and obvious convenience, on their side, and lack only—starch.”

And lawyer-lexicographer Bryan Garner has expressed the same opinion in both of his usage dictionaries:**

“Whose may usefully refer to nonpersons (an idea whose time has come). This use of “whose,” formerly decried by some 19th-century grammarians and their predecessors, is often an inescapable way of avoiding clumsiness.”

 

*The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, R.W. Burchfield, ed. Oxford: OUP, 1998.

**Bryan Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage and Garner’s Modern American Usage, both 3rd ed., OUP, 2011 and 2009.

Terminology of Criminal Procedure in English: 20 Verbs (and their Prepositions)

legal english crimpro terms

In our unit on the Criminal Law and Procedure, my students of Legal English often express surprise at the number of seemingly simple verbs used in describing criminal proceedings, many of which are collocations that must be coupled with the right preposition. In the event that they may be of interest to readers of this blog, here are what perhaps may be considered the Top 20 Legal English Crimpro Verbs:

  • to suspect (someone) OF having committed a crime
  • to commit a crime
  • to accuse (someone) OF a crime
  • to be charged WITH a crime
  • to bring charges AGAINST (someone)
  • to arrest (someone) ON a charge OF (X)
  • to be arrested FOR an offense
  • to be brought BEFORE a judge
  • to plead guilty/not guilty TO a crime
  • to confess TO a crime
  • to be released ON bail
  • to prosecute (someone) FOR an offense
  • to be tried FOR an offense
  • to defend the accused AGAINST the charges
  • to pass verdict ON the accused
  • to find the accused guilty AS charged
  • to convict/acquit the accused
  • to sentence the accused TO 10 years in prison
  • to serve a 10-year sentence
  • to be released FROM incarceration

20 Answers (2): Terminology of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure

20 Questions...(2)

Here are the answers to the 20 Questions on the Terminology of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure published in a previous blog post:

1) A public official who conducts criminal prosecutions on behalf of his jurisdiction: PROSECUTOR

2) An agreement between two or more persons to engage in a criminal act: CONSPIRACY

3) At common law, the offense of breaking and entering a building with the intent to commit a felony: BURGLARY

4) The judgment in a criminal case imposing a punishment of imprisonment, probation, fine, forfeiture or some other penalty: SENTENCE

5) A rule that prohibits a second trial or punishment for the same offense: DOUBLE JEOPARDY

6) The fraudulent conversion of property with which a person has been entrusted: EMBEZZLEMENT

7) The killing of a human being without premeditation or malice and without legal excuse or justification: MANSLAUGHTER

8) The defense that the accused was elsewhere at the time the crime was committed: ALIBI

9) The act of bringing an accused before a court to answer a criminal charge and to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty: ARRAIGNMENT

10) The criminal offense of obtaining money or other things of value by duress, force, threat of force, fear, or under color of office: EXTORTION

11) The intentional and premeditated killing of a human being: (FIRST-DEGREE) MURDER

12) A sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime to continue to live and work in the community under the supervision of the court: PROBATION

13) The release of a person from incarceration after serving a portion of his/her sentence if certain conditions are met: PAROLE

14) The crime of giving something of value with the intention of influencing the action of a public official, witness, juror, etc: BRIBERY

15) Detention of a person on a criminal charge: ARREST

16) The degree of proof required to convict a person of a crime: BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

17) The false making, material alteration, or uttering of any writing with the intent to defraud: FORGERY

18) The crime of taking personal property, without consent, with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently: THEFT

19) A crime not amounting to a felony: MISDEMEANOR

20) The felonious taking of money or something of value from a person against his will, by force or by putting him in fear: ROBBERY

 

20 Questions (2): Terminology of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure

20 Questions...(1)

This is an exercise that I use with my students of Legal English at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. After finishing each unit, we often review dictionary definitions of the legal terms and concepts that we’ve discussed in class to make sure they’re clear. Several students who follow this blog suggested that I might make exercises of this nature available here in the event that they may prove useful to other readers.

This entry concerns some (only a few of the many!) terms and concepts of Criminal Law (Derecho penal) and Criminal Procedure (Derecho Procesal Penal).

Please provide a term for the following definitions (Answers will be published soon in another blog post):

1) A public official who conducts criminal prosecutions on behalf of his jurisdiction:

2) An agreement between two or more persons to engage in a criminal act:

3) At common law, the offense of breaking and entering a building with the intent to commit a felony:

4) The judgment in a criminal case imposing a punishment of imprisonment, probation, fine, forfeiture or some other penalty:

5) A rule that prohibits a second trial or punishment for the same offense:

6) The fraudulent conversion of property with which a person has been entrusted:

7) The killing of a human being without premeditation or malice and without legal excuse or justification:

8) The defense that the accused was elsewhere at the time the crime was committed:

9) The act of bringing an accused before a court to answer a criminal charge and to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty:

10) The criminal offense of obtaining money or other things of value by duress, force, threat of force, fear, or under color of office:

11) The intentional and premeditated killing of a human being:

12) A sentence that allows a person convicted of a crime to continue to live and work in the community under the supervision of the court:

13) The release of a person from incarceration after serving a portion of his sentence if certain conditions are met:

14) The crime of giving something of value with the intention of influencing the action of a public official, witness, juror, etc:

15) Detention of a person on a criminal charge:

16) The degree of proof required to convict a person of a crime:

17) The false making, material alteration, or uttering of any writing with the intent to defraud:

18) The crime of taking personal property, without consent, with the intent to deprive the owner of it permanently:

19) A crime not amounting to a felony:

20) The felonious taking of money or something of value from a person against hiS will, by force or by putting him in fear:

20 Answers: Terminology of Tort Law

20 Questions...(2)

Here are the answers to the exercise on tort law terminology published in a previous blog entry:

1) A person who commits a tort: TORTFEASOR

2) An act of force or threat of force that puts a person in fear of imminent harm: ASSAULT

3) Defense against negligence that states that the plaintiff knew of the risk involved and still took the chance of being injured: ASSUMPTION OF RISK

4) An act that annoys or disturbs another person in his use, possession or enjoyment of his property: NUISANCE

5) Liability imposed upon a person due to the act or omission of another: VICARIOUS LIABILITY

6) Unauthorized entry or intrusion on the real property of another: TRESPASS

7) A false statement of fact designed to deceive: MISREPRESENTATION

8) A false and malicious publication (printing, writing, sign, picture) that harms another’s reputation: LIBEL

9) The intentional and offensive touching of another without consent and without lawful justification: ASSAULT

10) Wrongfully depriving a person of the use and possession of an item of personal property: CONVERSION

11) Deceit or deception intended to induce another to surrender something of value or a legal right: FRAUD

12) A false and malicious statement that harms another’s reputation: SLANDER

13) The liability of a manufacturer or seller for injury resulting from a defect in a product sold: PRODUCT LIABILITY

14) Mental anguish or physical pain for which damages may be recovered in tort litigation: PAIN AND SUFFERING

15) A private wrong committed by one person against another: TORT

16) Liability for an injury whether or not there is fault or negligence: STRICT LIABILITY (also called ABSOLUTE LIABILITY or LIABILITY WITHOUT FAULT)

17) A legal doctrine under which a master (employer) is responsible for torts committed by his servants (employees) during the scope of their employment: DOCTRINE OF RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR

18) Two or more people who participate together in the commission of a tort: JOINT TORTFEASORS

19) Wrongful; implying or involving tort: TORTIOUS

20) The intentional confinement of a person without legal justification: FALSE IMPRISONMENT or FALSE ARREST