Common Legal Terms

As a resident in the City of Burlington, it is important to know your legal rights and responsibilities. We have compiled a list of common Provincial Offences Act legal terms. These legal terms may have different meanings based on the context in which they are being used.

You can refer to a legal dictionary or an Internet resource for legal terms not listed below or for more detailed definitions. If you have any issues concerning your legal rights, please contact a lawyer or a licensed paralegal.

Browse our list of common legal terms alphabetically:

Legal terms starting with A

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  • Accused: a person or company charged with an offence; the defendant in a trial
  • Acquittal: a finding of "not guilty" in a case
  • Act: a law passed by the provincial or federal legislature. Acts are also referred to as "statutes"
  • Adjournment: postponement of a court hearing to another date
  • Affidavit: a written statement or declaration of facts that are sworn or affirmed to be true
  • Affidavit of Service: an affidavit certifying that a document has been served on a party
  • Affirmation: a solemn declaration made by a person to tell the truth. Lying in an affirmation is perjury, which is a criminal offence
  • Answer: a response to an allegation or an application
  • Appeal: a request made to a higher court, tribunal or authority for the review of a decision
  • Appeal Period: the time limit within which a person can appeal
  • Appellant: the party bringing an appeal
  • Applicant: A person who makes or starts an application
  • Application: the commencement of a proceeding in a court by way of filing the appropriate court form, or a request made to the court
  • Arraignment: the initial step in a court proceeding to confirm the identity of the accused, formally read the charges, and ask how the accused pleads
  • Attorney General: the principal law officer of the "Crown"; the Minister of the provincial or federal government responsible for the administration of justice

Legal terms starting with B

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  • Bail: a common term used for a Recognizance of Bail. When a person is not released by the arresting officer, the person must be taken before a judicial officer to determine whether the person should remain in custody pending trial. The term "bail" is often used to refer to the money paid as security for the person showing up at the next court hearing
  • Bench Warrant: an order issued by a Justice of the Peace to a police officer for the arrest of a person who has failed to appear, or remain in attendance, at a hearing or trial
  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: the degree of proof needed in a proceeding for a party to prove a disputed assertion or charge
  • Bill: proposed legislation that is brought before the legislature for approval. A bill becomes law once it is approved by the legislature, receives royal assent from the Lieutenant Governor and is proclaimed effective
  • Binding: mandatory when applied to a court decision or order and required to be followed in cases with similar circumstances
  • Breach: a violation or infraction of a law or obligation
  • Brief/Legal Brief: a written statement summarizing the arguments of a case. It contains factual and legal arguments, as well as references to any legislation or cases that are being relied on to support those arguments
  • Burden of Proof: the degree of proof needed in a proceeding for a party to prove a disputed accusation or charge

Legal terms starting with C

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  • Case: a matter brought before the court for a decision. It includes provincial offence charges, applications, motions, enforcements and appeals
  • Case Law: Judge-made law and legal decisions from previous cases that form precedents for future cases. Depending on what level of court, case law can be binding or just persuasive
  • Case Management: a process that gives parties in dispute scheduled opportunities to discuss the case in order to streamline proceedings
  • Certificate: a document that attests to a fact or court decision
  • Certify: to formally acknowledge in writing that a copy is an accurate copy of the original document
  • Charge: a formal accusation of an offence as a preliminary step to prosecution
  • Charter: frequently used to refer to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter is a part of the Canadian Constitution and guarantees individuals certain rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial
  • Circumstantial Evidence: evidence that creates an inference that a particular fact exists
  • Clerk of the Court: the administrative officer in a court who is assigned some or all of the responsibilities of the court, such as signing court orders, issuing particular documents, maintaining the court's record, etc.
  • Commissioner for Taking Affidavits: a person authorized to administer oaths and affirmations and before whom affidavits, declaration and affirmation may be made
  • Complainant: a person who brings a legal complaint against another; may include the victim of an alleged Provincial Offences Act offence
  • Consent: agreement or permission that is given voluntarily by a competent person, either orally or in writing. It sometimes refers to the written form of an agreement
  • Contempt of Court: conduct that defies the authority or dignity of a court, including disobeying a court order
  • Contest: to oppose, resist, or disagree
  • Conviction: the act of finding someone guilty
  • Counsel: a lawyer, especially in a court proceeding
  • Court: a place where justice is administered; The Ontario Court of Justice hears criminal and Provincial Offences Act prosecutions and Provincial Offences Act appeals
  • Court File: the court's physical record of a case, including all documents filed with the court
  • Crown: the government, including cabinet ministers and public servants, but not the Legislature or Judges
  • Crown Prosecution: a prosecution commenced by a peace officer or representative of the Crown

Legal terms starting with D

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  • Debtor: a person who owes money
  • Default Judgment: a judgment obtained where the defendant fails to defend against the plaintiff or applicant's claim
  • Defence: a defendant or accused person's reasons why a prosecutor does not have a valid case
  • Defendant: a person accused in a Provincial Offences Act proceeding
  • Disclosure: making information and documents known and available to a party in a proceeding. There are disclosure requirements placed on parties by law or court rules. Court records can also be disclosed to the public
  • Dismissal: a judicial officer's decision to terminate an action, claim, or charges
  • Disposition: a judicial officer's decision
  • Docket: a list of cases to be heard in a particular court room on a particular day

Legal terms starting with E

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  • Early Resolution: a process where a prosecutor and defendant may meet to discuss a charge. If a resolution is reached, a guilty plea will be carried out in front of a Justice of the Peace in the courtroom. The Justice of the Peace will determine whether or not to accept the guilty plea and what the amount of the fine, if any, will be
  • Endorse: to sign a legal document or formally approve something
  • Endorsement: the written decision of a Justice of the Peace
  • Enforcement: where one party takes measures under the law or with permission of the court to compel the other party to obey a court order
  • Evidence: statements, information, and materials that are used to prove or disprove an alleged fact
  • Ex Parte: Latin term, meaning made in the absence of the opposing party. In certain circumstances, application or motions brought by a party may be heard without notice to the other party
  • Exhibit: a document or object admitted as evidence in court

Legal terms starting with F

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  • Factum: a document in a court case in which a party sets out a concise argument, stating the facts and laws relied on
  • Fees: a charge for services; court fees payable in various proceedings
  • Fine: a monetary penalty

Legal terms starting with G

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  • Garnishee: a third party who owes money to a debtor, but must instead pay it to the court to the benefit of a creditor
  • Garnishment: a process where a person who has a court order for payment can demand money owed to a debtor by someone else. Most often, wages or bank accounts are garnished
  • Guilty: a decision convicting an accused person of the offence they have been charged with; an accused person's plea when they do not contest the offence they have been charged with

Legal terms starting with H

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  • Hearing: generic label to describe a court proceeding

Legal terms starting with I

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  • Illegal: prohibited by law
  • Information: a formal document containing the offences that the accused is charged with
  • Intermittent Sentence: a sentence consisting of periods of imprisonment interrupted by periods of probation. Intermittent sentences may be given for sentences of imprisonment for 90 days or less, usually to avoid loss of employment or interruption of education or childcare

Legal terms starting with J

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  • Judge: the person authorized to determine legal matters in court
  • Judgment: a judicial decision; the determination of a court; a court's sentence or decision on the major question in a proceeding
  • Jurisdiction: the legal authority of a court to hear a particular matter
  • Justice: the principle of giving every person their due; a judge
  • Justice of the Peace: a judicial officer who presides over Provincial Offences Act trials and has authority to do a variety of things in criminal matters including issuing warrants and hearing bail applications

Legal terms starting with L

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  • Law: statutes, acts, regulations, rules, standards and principles that govern people. Law can also be based on court decisions
  • Law Society of Upper Canada: the provincial body charged, by the legislature, with governing the legal profession and regulating the conduct of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario
  • Lawyer: a person licensed through the Law Society to practice law
  • Leave: permission of the court
  • Liability: legal responsibility; a financial obligation
  • Limitation Period: the statutory time limit for commencing a legal proceeding. Most limitation periods in Ontario are included in the Limitations Act, 2002.

Legal terms starting with M

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  • Misrepresentation: a false or misleading assertion about something
  • Motion: a process used to make a request to a judicial officer for an order, either before, during, or after a trial or other proceeding

Legal terms starting with N

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  • Notary Public: a person with legal authority to prepare and verify specific legal documents
  • Notice: legal notification of something (i.e., Notice of Appeal or Notice of Garnishment)
  • Notice of Garnishment: a court order requiring garnishment of a debt owing by a third party to a judgment creditor or recipient

Legal terms starting with O

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  • Oath: a solemn declaration, followed by a swearing to God or an honoured deity, whereby the person promises to the tell the truth
  • Offence: a violation of the law
  • Order: a court's direction requiring a party to do something or refrain from doing something

Legal terms starting with P

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  • Party: a person by or against whom a legal action is brought; the people who make promises to each other in a contract
  • Peace Officer: a police officer or other official who has sworn to uphold the law
  • Perjury: an intentional lie given under oath or affirmation, either in person or in writing. It is a criminal offence
  • Plea: the declaration made by a person accused of a crime as to whether they are guilty or not guilty of the charge
  • Precedent: a judicial decision or judgment that is cited as the authority for deciding a similar situation in the same manner
  • Pre-Sentence Report: a report prepared before sentencing an offender. It contains information about the offender's history that is used in assisting the court in passing sentence.
  • Pre-Trial Conference: a meeting between a judicial officer and the parties to consider the possibility of settling or simplifying the issues
  • Private Prosecution: a prosecution commenced by a member of the public, as opposed to a peace officer
  • Probation Order: an order authorizing a person to be in the community subject to conditions listed in the order
  • Proceeding: a matter before the court
  • Property: anything over which the rights of possession, use and enjoyment are exercised
  • Prosecute: to commence and carry out a legal action in a criminal or provincial offence proceeding
  • Prosecution: a proceeding in which an accused person is tried
  • Prosecutor: a legal officer who represents the federal, provincial, or municipal government in proceedings; a private individual who carries on a private prosecution
  • Provincial Offences Act (POA): Provincial statute that sets out procedures for the prosecution of offences under other provincial statutes and regulations and municipal by-laws. Municipalities are responsible for the administration of courts hearing Provincial Offences Act matters and the prosecution of certain POA cases

Legal terms starting with Q

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  • Quash: to terminate or void something

Legal terms starting with R

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  • Record of the Proceeding: the listing or recording by the court of all of the appearances and proceedings and their outcomes before the court
  • Regulation: delegated legislation made by the government, not the legislature. Regulations are a form of law
  • Reopening: a formal request of the court to have a conviction set aside (available for ticketable offences only) in order that the option to challenge the charge be made available
  • Reserved Judgment: when the judge or justice of the peace postpones making a decision to research, study the law, or review the evidence presented during the proceeding
  • Resolution Meeting: a meeting with the Prosecutor to discuss the possible resolution of the charge. Applies to Part One (ticketable) offences only. The defendant may still request a trial if a resolution is not reached
  • Restitution: an order requiring a convicted person to restore property to its rightful owner, compensate for a loss, or repair damage caused
  • Rules of the Court: the procedures which govern the proceedings in the court and which are to be followed by the parties

Legal terms starting with S

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  • Search: an examination of a person's body or private property to find evidence, conducted by a public authority who is acting according to to a court order or other legal authority
  • Search Warrant: an order issued by a justice under statutory powers, authorizing a named person to enter a specified place to search for and seize specified property which will provide evidence of the actual or intended commission of an offence
  • Sentence: the penalty imposed on the finding of guilt
  • Service: the formal delivery of a legal document to the required person in accordance with the rules of the court
  • Small Claims Court: a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. The court hears civil actions for claims up to $25,000
  • Statement: a written or oral communication
  • Statute: a law passed by the provincial or federal legislature. Statues are also referred to as 'Acts'.
  • Stay of Proceedings: an order suspending a legal proceeding
  • Submission: statements and arguments urging the decision maker to make particular findings of fact and apply the law in the manner proposed by the person making the decision
  • Subpoena: a document that compels a person to attend proceedings as a witness in order to give testimony
  • Summons (to Witness): a document issued by a court, agency, board or commission, or another person, requiring a person to attend and to produce documents or other things
  • Superior Court of Justice: hears criminal prosecutions of indictable offences, summary conviction appeals, bail reviews, estates and civil suits (over $25,000)
  • Surety: a person who gives or promises security for another person. The security acts as a promise that conditions imposed in a proceeding or obligations will be fulfilled, or else the surety risks losing the security provided
  • Suspended Sentence: a conviction is entered without penalty, or on certain conditions contained in a probation order

Legal terms starting with T

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  • Testimony: the evidence which a witness gives
  • Transcript: a record of oral testimony in a legal proceeding that was taken by a court reporter
  • Trial: the hearing of a legal issue by a court. Trials may involve testimony from witnesses

Legal terms starting with U

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  • Uncontested: a case, or a step in a case, which is not defended by the responding party
  • Unlawful: illegal

Legal terms starting with V

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  • Victim Impact Statement: a written statement prepared by a victim describing the impact of the offence on their life
  • Victim Fine Surcharge (VFS): an offender who is convicted under the Provincial Offences Act must pay a victim surcharge in addition to any other penalty imposed. The VFS is deposited into a special fund to help victims of crime. The amount of the VFS is usually 20% of the amount of the fine
  • Victim/Witness Assistance Program: a program that provides information, assistance and support to victims and witnesses of crime in order to increase their understanding of, and participation in, the criminal court process
  • Voir Dire: a trial within a trial. A procedure to determine the admissibility of certain evidence in advance of the evidence being admitted

Legal terms starting with W

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  • Waive: to abandon a right or to refrain from insisting on a right or a formality
  • Warrant: a judicial order directing a peace officer to do something such as arrest someone, search or seize something, or enforce a judicial order
  • Withdrawal: discontinuing or abandoning a case or part of a case
  • Without Notice: occurring at the request of a party without the opposing party having had notice of the proceeding
  • Witness: one who, in the course of judicial processes, provides evidence to assist a party of the court in a trial.
  • Writ: the formal order of a court, which directs a person or persons to do or refrain from doing something in particular.