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Legal Terms Glossary -B-


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Bail – Money or other security (such as a bail bond) provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure their appearance in court. “Bail” and “Bond” are often used interchangeably. (Applies mainly to state courts.)

Bail bond – An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial. This obligation means that the accused may lose money by not properly appearing for the trial. Often referred to simply as “bond.”

Bailiff – An officer of the court responsible for keeping order and maintaining appropriate courtroom decorum and has custody of the jury.

Bankruptcy – Refers to statutes and judicial proceedings involving persons or businesses that cannot pay their debts and seek the assistance of the court in getting a fresh start. Under the protection of the bankruptcy court, debtors may be released from or “discharged” from their debts, perhaps by paying a portion of each debt. Bankruptcy judges preside over these proceedings. The person with the debts is called the debtor and the people or companies to whom the debtor owes money are called creditors.

Bankruptcy Judge – The judge who determines whether a debtor is entitled to a discharge in bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy law – The area of federal law dealing with the handling of bankrupt persons or businesses.

Bar 1. – Historically, the partition separating the general public from the space occupied by the judges, lawyers, and other participants in a trial. 2. More commonly, the term means the who body of lawyers.

Bar examination – A state examination taken by prospective lawyers in order to be admitted and licensed to practice law.

Battery – A beating, or wrongful physical violence. The actual threat to use force is an “assault;” the use of it is a battery, which usually includes an assault.

Bench – The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.

Bench trial – (Also known as court trial.) Trial without a jury in which a judge decides the facts.

Bench warrant – An order issued by a judge for the arrest of a person.

Beneficiary – Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.

Bequeath – To give a gift to someone through a will.

Bequests – Gifts made in a will.

Best evidence – Primary evidence; the best evidence available. Evidence short of this is “secondary.” That is, an original letter is “best evidence,” and a photocopy is “secondary evidence.”

Beyond a reasonable doubt – The standard in a criminal case requiring that the jury be satisfied to a moral certainty that every element of a crime has been proven by the prosecution. This standard of proof does not require that the state establish absolute certainty by eliminating all doubt, but it does require that the evidence be so conclusive that all reasonable doubts are removed from the mind of the ordinary person.

Bill of particulars – A statement of the details of the charge made against the defendant.

Binder – A short-term agreement that provides temporary insurance coverage until the policy can be issued or delivered.

Bind over – To hold a person for trial on bond (bail) or in jail. If the judicial official conducting a hearing finds probable cause to believe the accused committed a crime, the official will bind over the accused, normally by setting bail for the accused’s appearance at trial. (This is a state court procedure.)

Bodily Injury Liability – If you injure someone in a car accident, this coverage pays his/her medical and rehabilitation expenses and any damages for which you are found liable. The minimum limit is $15,000/$30,000. The $15,000 pays for injuries to one person while the $30,000 represents the total available for one accident.

Bond (See bail bond.) – A written agreement by which a person insures he will pay a certain sum of money if he does not perform certain duties property.

Bound supplement – A supplement to a book or books to update the service bound in permanent form.

Booking – The process of photographing, fingerprinting, and recording identifying data of a suspect. This process follows the arrest.

Breach – The breaking or violating of a law, right, or duty, either by commission or omission. The failure of one part to carry out any condition of a contract.

Breach of contract – An unjustified failure to perform when performance is due.

Brief – A written argument by counsel arguing a case, which contains a summary of the facts of the case, pertinent laws, and an argument of how the law applies to the fact situation. Also called a memorandum of law.

Burden of proof – In the law of evidence, the necessity or duty of affirmatively proving a fact or facts in dispute on an issue raised between the parties in a lawsuit. The responsibility of proving a point (the burden of proof). It deals with which side must establish a point or points. (See standard of proof.)

Burglary – The act of illegal entry with the intent to steal.

Business bankruptcy – A proceeding under the Bankruptcy Code filed by a business entity.

Bylaws – Rules or laws adopted by an association or corporation to govern its actions.