You will find commonly used legal terms in this glossary. You can click on the letter to jump to the words that begin with that letter or scroll down the page.


Absolute Discharge

The lowest level of sentence an adult offender can receive. Even though they are found guilty, no conviction is registered and they do not have to follow any conditions. The discharge will stay on their criminal record for a year and then will be automatically removed.


Emotional, financial, physical, psychological, sexual or verbal maltreatment of a person or animal.


Is a term from the federal Divorce Act which refers to the visits of a child with the parent who doesn't have the child's primary residence. See also: Parenting Time and Contact.

Access to Justice

Can mean different things from the simple ability to appear in court, to providing legal representation to those who cannot afford it, to creating a more just system overall.


Taking responsibility for an action or decision.


The accused is the person charged with a criminal offence. Also known as the Defendant.


An acquittal is a criminal court finding of not guilty.


An act is a law that has been passed by the federal or provincial legislature.


A lawsuit; a legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a remedy or specific relief.

Actus Reus

From the Latin, guilty act, actus reus refers to the actual physical doing of the criminal act which must coexist with mens rea (mental state) which refers to the intent to commit the act or knowledge of wrongdoing.


A temporary delay or postponement of court proceedings, usually at the request of one of the parties, but at the discretion of the presiding judge.


Adjudication includes any of the forms of dispute resolution in which the parties present proofs and arguments to a neutral third party who has the power to deliver a binding decision.

Administrative Tribunal

Specialized government agencies or professional bodies that make decisions and adjudicate disputes between people and the government or professional organization.

Admissible Evidence

Facts and things that an adjudicator can consider when making a decision about a case.

Admissions of Fact

Parties can agree to certain facts which means that those facts will not have to be proved in trial. This procedure will often speed up the trial process by eliminating the need to call a witness.


In family law, the act or process of taking another person's natural child as one's own. The child then becomes the adopting parent's legal child as if the child were the adopting parent's natural child, while the natural parent loses all rights and obligations with respect to the child.


The act of a married person voluntarily engaging in sexual intercourse with a person other than his or her spouse. (Infidelity/Cheating). Proof of adultery is grounds for an immediate divorce, providing that the other spouse has not consented to nor forgiven the adulterous act.


A written statement made by a person under oath to a lawyer, a commissioner of oaths, or a notary public, to be used as evidence. Affidavits must be notarized by a lawyer or notary public who takes the oath or affirmation of the person making the affidavit about the truth of its contents.


To promise that a statement is true. When someone "swears" to tell the truth, they are considered to be taking an oath on their faith in a god. Affirming is a substitute for taking an oath, and is most often employed where the person making the statement is an atheist or under a religious proscription from making oaths.

Age of Majority

The age at which a person legally becomes an adult, which means they can do such things as vote and enter into a binding contract. In BC, the age of majority is 19.


Person who represents another person and can act in their place. (An agent who is not a lawyer can represent a party at a court appearance. A lawyer representing a party is called a counsel.)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution is the use of arbitration, negotiation, mediation and out-of-court settlements as opposed to litigation in the resolution of legal disputes, especially those under civil law. The purpose of ADR is to offer a less conflict-oriented and/or less expensive way to resolve a dispute than litigation. See also Arbitration and Mediation.

Alternative Measures

Alternative or extrajudicial measures are used most often for young offenders and provide an opportunity for a person charged with a crime to avoid the formal justice system. They may include victim/offender reconciliation, community service, or payment of fines. Such programs are usually reserved for first time, non-violent offenders.

Amend, amendment

Changing a legal document such as an application, pleading, contract, or a law.


A proceeding one can take to end an invalid marriage (For example, if one spouse was already married, or if the husband and wife found out they were brother and sister).


An appeal is an application to have a lower court's decision reviewed by a higher court. Either party can apply if they are unhappy with the decision, however in some cases you need permission before you can appeal a matter.


When you attend court to appear in front of a judge, master, or justice of the peace on a matter relating to your case.

Appearance Notice

An Appearance Notice is a document asking someone to go to Court. It may be given to the accused by the officer at the scene, when the accused has not been arrested, requiring the accused to appear before the Court on a certain date. It may also be given to a witness, asking them to come to court to testify in a trial.


Party who appeals a decision.


The party who has initiated an appeal to a higher court. The other party is known as the Respondent.


The party who makes an application.


A party’s request made to a tribunal, asking the tribunal to order something. The document contains a party’s request to a tribunal. Applications usually deal with matters that need to be resolved before trial such as asking the other party to disclose documents.

Application to Obtain an Order

In Provincial Court, family litigation is started with this application. In the Supreme Court, litigation is started with the Notice of Family Claim.


To select a person or a group of people for an official position or to do a job. Provincial Court judges are appointed by the Provincial Government.


A dispute resolution process in which the parties pick the person who will resolve their dispute (called the Arbitrator) and agree to be bound by the arbitrator's decision.


Presentation to convince the court or tribunal to make a certain decision. Can involve presenting case law and a review of the facts of the case to show why the adjudicator should make a finding in their favour. Also known as submissions.

Arraignment Hearings

A hearing in which criminal charges are formally read, the accused enters their plea and a trial date is set.


In family law, arrears refers to spousal and/or child support that has not been paid (the payor - the person paying maintenance - has fallen behind in making his or her support payments).

Arrest Without Warrant

Before a charge is laid, the police have the power to arrest. For most indictable offences, a police officer can arrest without warrant if the officer on reasonable grounds believes that the person has committed or is about to commit an indictable offence. For all other offences, an officer can only arrest if s/he finds the accused committing the offence, the public cannot be served without arresting the individual and/or has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the arrest is necessary to ensure that the accused will appear in court.


Assault is a crime in which a person hits or physically hurts another person without consent, or threatens to hit or physically hurt them, and that person believes that he or she can or will do it.


Any item worth money that is owned by a person, especially if it could be converted to cash.