criminal law and procedure



n. A defense to a criminal charge alleging that the accused was somewhere other than at the scene of the crime at the time it occurred.

v. To provide an alibi for someone.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362...

Alibi Witness


A witness who testifies in support of a defendant's allegation that he or she was somewhere other than at the scene of the crime at the time it occurred.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Lee v. Kemna, 534 U.S. 362 (2002).


Allen Charge


An instruction given by a court to a deadlocked jury to encourage it to continue deliberating until it reaches a verdict. Some states prohibit Allen charges, because they deem them coercive, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their use in...


The direct address between the judge and the convicted defendant prior to sentencing. During the address, the judge speaks directly to the defendant and asks if the defendant has anything to add prior to hearing the sentence. The defendant then...

Anticipatory Warrant

An anticipatory search warrant is a warrant that is based on an affidavit that shows probable cause that evidence of a particular crime (such as forged checks) will be at a specified location at some time in the future.

See Search Warrants,...

Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)

Major mid-1990s reform of habeas corpus as used to challenge criminal convictions. Among other provisions, the law limits both the procedural and substantive scope of the writ. Procedurally, it bans successive petitions by the same person, requiring...



To move towards the bench in order to have a conversation with the judge and opposing counsel off the record and/or out of the jury's earshot. An attorney or juror (during voir dire) must request to approach the bench, i.e. "Your honor, may I...

Approach the Witness


To move towards a witness in order to show him or her a document or exhibit. In some jurisdictions, an attorney must request to approach a witness, i.e. "May I approach the witness?"

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. Michaels v. State, 970...

Armed Career Criminal Act (1984)

Also known as the “ACCA”. A federal law imposing a minimum prison sentence of fifteen years on criminals with at least three violent felony convictions.



The first step in criminal proceeding where the defendant is brought in front of the court to hear the charges and enter a plea.

Illustrative caselaw

See, e.g. County of Riverside v. McLaughlin 500 U.S. 44 (1991) and Godinez v. Moran,...