Legal glossary

Click one of the letters above to go to terms beginning with that letter.



person charged with committing an offence


to ask the court to delay your court case until a later date. If the court allows this, the delay is referred to as an adjournment

administrator (Guardianship List)

a person appointed by the Guardianship List to make financial and legal decisions on behalf of someone with a disability who is unable to make those decisions for themselves

administrator (of a Will)

person appointed by the court to deal with a deceased estate where there is no Will or where the Will does not name a suitable executor

affected family member

a person who needs protecting from family violence

affected person

a person who needs protecting from stalking


a written document containing evidence for the court. An affidavit is signed in front of an authorised person (such as a lawyer or Justice of the Peace) and sworn or affirmed to be true


a declaration or promise that something is true that is made if you do not want to swear on the Bible, Koran or other religious book

alcohol interlock

a device that is fitted to your vehicle’s ignition and measures your breath for alcohol. If the alcohol interlock detects alcohol, the car will not start


when someone accuses another person of having done something


a procedure that allows a party to challenge the decision made by a court, tribunal or government department


the person applying for a court order


when the police hold a person in custody because they think they have broken the law


things you own, such as property, land, shares, bank deposits, jewellery, clothes, and so on

associate of the respondent

a person the respondent can influence to act for them


a person appointed to make financial, legal or medical treatment decisions for another person


A document that sets out wage rates and conditions of employment for groups of employees.



a promise that you will go to court to face charges on a certain day. You may have to agree to conditions like reporting to the police, living at a certain place or having someone act as a surety for you

bail justice

a person who can give or refuse to give you bail while you are in police custody

balance of probabilities

level of proof needed in civil law cases to decide which version of events is more likely to have happened. This is easier to prove than 'beyond reasonable doubt'


a lawyer who specialises in appearing at court


a person who is given something in a Will

beyond reasonable doubt

level of proof needed in criminal cases for a magistrate or jury to decide whether you are guilty

blood alcohol concentration

the amount of alcohol in your blood


to break a law or court order

brief of evidence

the things that make up the police’s case against you if you have been charged with a crime. This can include the charge sheet, the informant’s statement, your criminal record and other documents the police have about your matter



a notice that certain actions may not happen without first telling the person who gave the notice

Centrelink benefit statement

a document from Centrelink saying how much money you get as a pension or benefit

certified copy

copy of a document on which an authorised person has signed and written: 'This is a true and complete copy of the original'


this term is used two ways. Firstly, it is an action the police can take. When the police charge you with an offence, this means they believe you have broken the law and are taking you to court. Secondly, once the police have charged you with committing an offence, the offence is also referred to as the charge. For example, you have come to court for a driving charge. Note: agencies like the Department of Transport can also charge you

charge and summons

when the police charge you, this can also be referred to as charge and summons. The 'summons’ part of this means that the court is ordering you to come to court to answer the police charges

charge sheet

a document that lists all the offences the police or the prosecuting agency have charged you with. The charge sheet can have more than one offence if the police or prosecuting agency believe that what you did broke more than one law

Child Protection Panel

Legal firms who are members of this panel deal with matters involving children being removed, or at risk of being removed, from their families

Civic Compliance Victoria

an organisation that chases up fines on behalf of the prosecuting agency (for example, the Traffic Camera Office). They will contact you about paying your fine

civil justice matters

legal matters to do with non-criminal disputes between individuals or organisations, such as immigration, social security, mental health or discrimination


a legal document used to change a Will


the first part of a court case where a magistrate decides if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial

community corrections order

a penalty the magistrate can give you if you have been found guilty of committing a serious offence. Instead of going to jail, you serve out your penalty in the community. You must agree to this order. You will usually do unpaid community work, as well as being supervised by a corrections worker, undergoing treatment or rehabilitation, or having bans on where you can go and how long you can stay out


a rule that says what you say to someone will not be told to others unless you agree


when you agree to something

consent orders

an agreement between you and the other party which is approved by the court and then made into a court order


a court hearing in which the parties disagree or where an accused person pleads not guilty

contest mention

a court date if you are pleading not guilty where the magistrate finds out from you and the police what the main points of disagreement are and the number of witnesses

contested hearing

if you plead not guilty at the mention hearing (the first hearing), the magistrate adjourns your case to a contested hearing. At this hearing, the magistrate decides if you are guilty or not guilty

contested hearing (intervention orders)

If you do not agree to the making of an intervention order, the magistrate can adjourn your case to a contested hearing. At this hearing, the magistrate decides if there are grounds to make the intervention order.


when a court decides a party has broken the rules of a court order


if a judge or magistrate finds you guilty, they can give you a penalty with or without a ‘conviction’. This depends on how serious the offence is and whether you have any priors


money for legal or other costs which a party may be ordered to pay in a court case

court list

a list at court that shows the cases to be dealt with that day

court order

a document from the court that says you must do something. It is also a document that sets out your penalty if you are found guilty of breaking the law

criminal record

a formal record that shows your findings of guilt and convictions for previous offences

custodial sentence

a sentence that is served in jail or custody


when you have been arrested and are not free to leave


de facto spouse

A person who is living with another as if they were a married couple although they are not.


a document that is signed, officially sealed and delivered


A legal reason why you believe you are not guilty of the offence you have been charged with.


A person or organisation that has been charged with breaking the law.


A person making an affidavit.


When the magistrate has a choice to do or not do something.


A way to deal with your criminal matter out of the court system and to give you a chance to avoid a criminal record.

diversion hearing

A hearing where the magistrate decides whether or not to grant you diversion.

diversion notice

A form the police can fill out to indicate they agree to you being granted diversion.

diversion recommendation

When the informant agrees to recommend you for diversion.

divorce order

An order made by a court that ends a marriage.

domestic partner

An unmarried person who has registered their relationship with the Relationships Register. Also a person who has a personal and financial commitment to another person and provides domestic support.

driver disqualification

The court cancels your licence and orders you not to drive.

drug impairment assessment

A test that police can tell you to do if they suspect that you are driving while you are affected by drugs.

duty lawyer

A lawyer who helps people who do not have their own lawyer on the day of their court hearing. They can give free legal advice and may be able to represent people in court.


enforcement order

A written document made by a court that says you must follow an order.


Information (documents or witnesses) used in court to prove something.

ex parte

A court hearing that goes ahead and makes a decision even though the accused person is not at court.


Child born to parents who are not married to each other.

exclusion order

An order from the court that stops a person from going to a specific area or place. The order could ban a person from going to a public place or from going near the family home after an intervention order has been made against them.


Person named in a Will to deal with the estate.


family consultant

A psychologist or social worker who helps the court and the parties in children's cases.

family dispute resolution

When a family dispute resolution practitioner helps people to sort out their disagreements with each other following separation.

Family Law Panel

Legal firms who are members of this panel deal with matters such as divorce, child custody, property division and spousal maintenance.

family law registry

A public area at a Family Law Court where people can get information about the court and its processes, and file documents for their court case.

family report

A report about a family written by a family consultant. The report helps the court make a decision about the children.

family violence

Harmful behaviour that is used to control, threaten, force or dominate a family member through fear. It includes sexual, psychological, emotional and financial abuse.

family violence intervention order

An order made under Victorian law to protect a family member from family violence.

family violence order

An order made under Commonwealth, state or territory law to protect a person, including a child, from violence.

family violence safety notice

A notice issued by the police to protect an adult from a family member who is using family violence.

federal circuit court judge

a person who makes sure the court case follows the rules and makes the decisions in the Federal Circuit Court


To give documents to the court. The court stamps the documents and gives you back a copy.

final hearing

The last hearing in a case where the court listens to witnesses and any other evidence.

final order

The last order that the court makes to finish a court case.

forensic medical examination

This is an examination of your body to find evidence and assess if you need further treatment. This may involve taking body samples like blood, pubic hair, anal, genital or breast swabs, saliva, and mouth or dental impressions and taking notes about recent injuries. A specially trained doctor, nurse or dentist must do these procedures.


giving instructions

Telling your lawyer what you would like them to do.

grant of probate

Court order that allows the executor of a Will to deal with and distribute the estate.


A promise given by a person to pay your debt if you do not pay it.


A person appointed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to make lifestyle decisions for someone who is unable to make those decisions themselves.

Guardianship List

Protects people aged 18 years or over who, as result of a disability, are unable to make reasonable decisions for themselves.


What you say when you admit to breaking the law. Also a decision made by the court.



The presentation of a case at court.


illicit drug

Illegal drugs including methylamphetamine (speed), MDMA (ecstasy) or THC (cannabis).


To stop a vehicle being driven by using a wheel-clamp or a steering wheel lock.


To store a car in a secure lock-up for a set amount of time.

independent children's lawyer

A lawyer appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child.

Independent Third Person

a trained person who is with you during police questioning if you are mentally impaired to help you understand each other

Indictable Crime Panel

Legal firms who are members of this panel deal with serious offences where the person accused can ask for the charge to be heard by a judge and jury. Many indictable offences can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court if the accused person agrees. If you have been charged by the police, your charge sheet will say if it's an indictable offence.

indictable offence

A serious offence where the person accused can ask for the charge to be heard by a judge and jury. Many indictable offences can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court if the accused person agrees.


The police officer or government official (for example, a ticket inspector) who charged you and who will give evidence against you in court.

informant’s statement

The informant’s description of how they believe you broke the law.

infringement notice

Money you have to pay for minor offences, such as littering, parking or traffic offences (also known as an ’on the spot’ fine).

infringement warrant

A court document that allows a sheriff to take certain actions.

Infringements Court

a court the deals only with fines. It is not like other courts as it does not hold any hearings. Everything is done in writing

interim hearing

A hearing that looks at the issues that need to be decided in the short term, such as where the children will live.

interim order

An order made by a court until another order or a final order is made.


A person who dies without a valid Will is said to have died intestate.



Walking on the road without following traffic rules.


A person who controls what happens in higher courts and deals with legal issues.


A decision by a court.

judicial officer

A person who the law says can hear and decide cases, such as a judge, federal magistrate or magistrate.

judicial registrar

a person at the Magistrates' Court who makes decisions about some civil matters and less serious criminal matters


The legal power of a court or the area that a court's legal power covers (such as the state of Victoria).


a group of twelve people who decide if you are guilty or not guilty based on evidence given in court



A person who can advise you about the law and represent you in court.

legal capacity

Having the ability to understand and think things out.


A right to hold another person’s property until they meet an obligation or pay a debt to do with that property. For example, if someone has repaired your car at your request they can claim a lien over the car until the work is paid for.



A person who decides if you are guilty or not and what punishment you get.

mental impairment

A disability, including intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injury, mental illness and dementia.

mention date

A court date when the magistrate will ask you or your lawyer about your case. The magistrate will also speak with the other lawyer (or with police, if they are involved). If your case is not sorted out, a date may be set for a hearing.

mention hearing

The first hearing for a case in the Magistrates’ Court.


no comment

What you say when you do not want to say anything to police.

not guilty

What you say when you deny breaking the law. Also a decision made by the court.

notice to appear

A document you may get when the police suspect you of breaking the law. The document tells you to go to court on a certain date. The police will usually give the notice to appear to you rather than sending it to you.



Where you swear in the name of your religious beliefs to tell the truth.


An offence is something the law says is wrong.


Person who has committed a crime.


parenting plan

A written agreement between parties setting out parenting arrangements for children.


A person or legal entity (for example, a bank) involved in a case.


A punishment for breaking the law.

penalty units

Are used to calculate the amount of a fine. The amount of one penalty unit is indexed and increases each year on 1 July. For the current amount see Penalty units.


A person who breaks the law.


A plea is your response in the courtroom to the charge. You can plead guilty or not guilty.

police brief

A document that contains evidence the police use to prove their case.

police case

What the police say about what happened and why they charged you.

police summary

What the police say happened.


A court decision that is used as an example or reason for later decisions.

preliminary brief

This is a shorter version of the brief of evidence, which you will get earlier on in the process. The preliminary brief will give you details of the prosecution’s case but does not need to include any evidence.


Your criminal record.


A legal rule that says confidential information that you have given to or received from your lawyer cannot be used in court.

prosecution authority

a person from an agency who has the authority to present the agency’s case in court. For example it could be a person from the Department of Transport, from the Australian Taxation Office or a fisheries officer from the Department of Primary Industries


The police officer who gives the police’s case in the courtroom. Also referred to as the police prosecutor. The prosecutor can also be a government official (for example, a corrections worker) or someone working for an agency that issued you with an infringement notice.


When the magistrate has found you guilty of committing the offence.



A person who works for the court and who has been given power to do different things.


A party named by an applicant as the other party in a court case.


To cancel something, such as a court order.



This term is used two ways. Firstly, if the magistrate finds you guilty, they will 'sentence' you according to the offence you committed. That means the magistrate gives you a penalty and, if your offence was serious, the magistrate may also give you a conviction. Secondly, the conviction and the penalty is referred to as the 'sentence'.

sentencing indication

The magistrate can give you an idea of what sentence they would give you if they find you guilty. This may help you to decide if you want to keep pleading not guilty or to plead guilty.


This term is used two ways. Firstly, it is the legal delivery of a document. Secondly, it is when you follow orders from a court or VicRoads. For example, if you serve a licence suspension, you do not drive when the court has ordered you not to.


A person who carries out sanctions if you do not do what it says in a court order.


A lawyer who can advise you about the law and represent you in court.

Special Circumstances List

a list in the Magistrates' Court where a magistrate or judicial registrar decides whether you had special circumstances at the time you were fined


When someone repeatedly contacts another person or behaves in a way that makes them feel scared, distressed or fear for their safety.


A written document of what you say about events.

statement of alleged facts

This is the informant’s statement of what the offence was and how it happened. The statement of alleged facts can contain evidence from witnesses, if there were any.

statutory declaration

A document where a person makes a statement and acknowledges that it is made in the belief that, if the statement is false, the person is liable to penalties for perjury. The statement is witnessed by a person authorised under section 107A of the Evidence Act 1958


To stay means the court puts a court order on hold until after a rehearing or an appeal. When the court orders are on hold they are stayed.

stood down

Your case is put on hold briefly and usually called back on that same day for completion.


A document that says you must appear in court or give certain documents to the court at the request of the party.

summary case conference

A meeting between you and the police prosecutor where you talk about your charges and exactly what you disagree with. You have this meeting before you go into the courtroom and plead not guilty.

Summary Crime Panel

Legal firms who are members of this panel deal with offences that are less serious and can be heard in the Magistrates' Court or Children's Court. If you have been charged by the police, your charge sheet will say if it's a summary offence.

summary offence

An offence that is less serious and can be heard in the Magistrates' Court or Children's Court.


A court document that tells you when you must go to court.

supervised access

When a parent spends time with a child while another adult is there to make sure the child is safe.


A person who promises money or property if you do not meet your bail conditions.

surrender notice

a notice that police may serve on the owner of a vehicle if they believe it was used for hoon driving


When you swear on a Bible, Koran or other religious book that something is true.


traffic offence

An offence is when you break the law when driving a motor vehicle or using the road.


A record of the spoken evidence in a court case.

triable summarily

When an indictable offence can be dealt with by a magistrate in the Magistrates’ Court instead of a judge and jury in a higher court.


A court case in front of a jury.


A person who manages property held in trust for the benefit of another person.



A promise to the court to do or not to do certain things.



A court document that says what the police or sheriff can do, such as arrest you or search your house.


A person who gives evidence in writing or in person at court.

witness summons

A document used to summon a witness to come to court to give evidence or to give in documents as evidence.