Common Legal Terms You Probably Don’t Understand

The law can be scary and confusing if you find yourself in trouble, especially because legal terminology is technically complex. That’s why you need a lawyer: those with expertise can help uncomplicate and explain a lot of the jargon thrown at you if you’re ever in court. Here are a few of the most common legal terms you probably don’t understand, or are most often used by the layman incorrectly.

Much of the reason behind the level of confusion is the difference between how we use certain words in real life. You’ve probably heard people use words like “hearsay,” “moot,” and “per se.” All of these can be used colloquially but in the court of law mean something different.

Hearsay in court is evidence contrived out of court. An example of this occurs when a lawyer uses the comments of someone who is not a witness as evidence in the case. Usually this is not allowed because that testimony isn’t on the record. Moot is a reference to the hypothetical. In that way it connects to the usual definition of something that won’t have an impact on the eventual outcome of a matter. Per se in law generally refers to acts that are illegal whether you know it or not. Sometimes ignorance is a legal defense; sometimes it is not.

We’ve all used the phrase “due diligence” before, and usually it simply means doing something the right way. In law it means doing the proper research–reading the fine print, for example–before signing an agreement. If you don’t perform this due diligence in law, then an individual or company might be found guilty of a crime resulting from the partner’s illegal actions.

We usually lump assault and battery in the same column, which is unfortunate since both are such common crimes. They’re different though. Assault is an act of violence, or sometimes even the threat of violence. Battery is any unwanted, offensive physical contact. It can be violence (which also includes assault) or it can merely be the touch of someone by whom you did not want to be touched.

We hear the word “tort” all the time because of the TV we watch, but most people probably don’t recognize it’s meaning. Tort occurs when one individual causes harm to another either voluntarily or involuntarily. In either case, the act can result in civil litigation.

Category: Law