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Criminal Law Dictionary

CRIMINAL LAW GLOSSARYBook of law criminal terms


General term for physical or mental mistreatment.

Child Abuse: An intentional or neglectful physical or emotional injury imposed on a child, including sexual molestation.

Sexual Abuse: An illegal sex act, especially one performed against a minor by an adult. The term is usually applied to contact not amounting to rape. and is typically divided into degrees according to the nature and circumstances of the contact.

Spousal Abuse: Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse inflicted by one spouse on the other spouse.


A request to a higher (appellate) court for that court to review and change the decision of a lower court.


Malicious burning to destroy property.


The threat or use of force on another that causes that person to have a reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact; the act of putting another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of an immediate battery by means of an act amounting to an attempt or threat to commit a battery.

Aggravated Assault: Criminal assault accompanied by circumstances that make it more severe, such as the use of a deadly weapon, the intent to commit another crime, or the intent to cause serious bodily harm.

Assault and Battery: Assault in conjunction with actual battery.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon: An aggravated assault in which the defendant, controlling a deadly weapon, threatens the victim with death or serious bodily injury.

Assault With Intent: Any of several assaults that are carried out with an additional criminal purpose in mind, such as assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to rape, and assault with intent to inflict great bodily injury.

Attempted Assault: An attempt to commit an assault.

Sexual Assault: Sexual intercourse with another person without that person’s consent. 2. Offensive sexual contact with another person, exclusive of rape.


The application of force to another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact.


The corrupt payment, receipt, or solicitation of a private favor for official action.

Crimes Against Children:

Child Enticement: Attempting to entice, lure, tempt, or persuade any child to enter, leave, or stay in any building, vehicle, or place if such act is done with the use of force or with the intent to commit rape, indecent assault, battery, dissemination of material harmful to children, unnatural and lascivious acts, indecent exposure, or other sexual offenses.

Child Exploitation: The hiring, employment, persuasion, inducement, or coercion of child to perform in obscene exhibitions and incident shows, whether live, on video or film, or to pose or act as a model in obscene or pornographic materials, or to sell or distribute said materials.

Child Pornography: Any visual depiction of actual or simulated sexual conduct by an individual under the age of 18 or lascivious exhibition of the pubic area of such an individual. Courts have held that such material may be banned even if it is not legally obscene and does not involve nudity.

Child Procurement: The act of arranging or instigating a meeting with a child for the purpose of having sexual relations.


The forging, copying, or imitating of something (usually money) without a right to do so and with the purpose of deceiving or defrauding.


Crimes committed electronically

Cybersquatting: The act of reserving a domain name on the Internet, especially a name that would be associated with a company’s trademark, and then seeking to profit by selling or licensing the name to the company that has an interest in being identified with it.

Cyberstalking: The act of threatening, harassing, or annoying someone through multiple email messages, as through the Internet, especially with the intent of placing the recipient in fear that an illegal act or an injury will be inflicted on the recipient or a member of the recipient’s family or household.

Cybertheft: The act of using an online computer service, such as one on the Internet, to steal someone else’s property or to interfere with someone else’s use and enjoyment of property.

Email Interception: The act of reading, storing, or intercepting email intended for another person without that person’s permission.

Internet Fraud: Internet fraud generally refers to any type of fraudulent use of a computer and the Internet, including the use of chat rooms, email, message boards, discussion groups and web sites, to conduct fraudulent transactions, transmit the proceeds of fraud to financial institutions, or to steal, destroy or otherwise render unusable (the proliferation of viruses for example) computer data vital to the operation of a business.

Telemarketing Fraud: Telemarketing Fraud is a term that refers generally to any scheme to deprive victims dishonestly of money or property or to misrepresent the values of goods or services.

Domestic Violence:

Violence between members of a household, usually spouses; an assault or other violent act committed by one member of a household against another.

Drug Crimes:

The definitions below encompass both drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Cultivation: The growing of organic drugs or their precursors, e.g. marijuana, coca, opium poppies, etc.

Distribution: The act selling or trading drugs.

Manufacturing: Includes the creation of synthetic drugs and the act of isolating drug compounds from organic sources.

Possession: Having drugs or drug paraphernalia on one’s person.

Possession for Sale: The possession of drugs in quantities sufficient for resale.

Prescription Fraud: The act of obtaining prescription (legal) drugs through forged or stolen prescriptions.

Trafficking: The act of transferring drugs from one location to another, usually on behalf of a second party.


The illegal transfer of money or property that, although possessed legally by the embezzler, is diverted to the embezzler personally by his or her fraudulent action.


The legal procedure for sealing a record of an arrest and/or criminal conviction from public view.


Obtaining money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right (such as pretending to be an IRS agent).

Failure To Register:

Failure to register as a sex offender.


The act of fraudulently making a false document or altering a real one to be used as if genuine.


A knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.

Actual Fraud: A concealment or false representation through a statement or conduct that injures another who relies on it in acting.

Bank Fraud: The criminal offense of knowingly executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme or artifice to defraud a financial institution, or to obtain property owned by or under the control of a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representation, or promises.

Bankruptcy Fraud: The act of filing a false bankruptcy claim.

Civil Fraud: An intentional-but not willful-evasion of taxes.

Constructive Fraud: Unintentional deception or misrepresentation that causes injury to another.

Credit Card Fraud: Examples of Credit Card Fraud include: Illegal counterfeiting of credit cards, the use of lost or stolen credit cards, and obtaining credit cards fraudulently through the mail.

Criminal Fraud: The willful evasion of taxes accomplished by filing a fraudulent tax return.

Extrinsic Fraud: Deception that is collateral to the issues being considered in the case; intentional misrepresentation or deceptive behavior outside the transaction itself, depriving one party of informed consent or full participation.

Health Care Fraud: Any scheme involving the health care industry that is designed for illegal financial gain, including: Billing for services not rendered, inflating the cost of the service provided, the deliberate sale of medically unnecessary services, and the payment of “kickbacks,” or illegal payments designed to guarantee awarding of a contract or the exclusive right to provide a service.

Insurance Fraud: Fraud committed against an insurer, as when an insured lies on a policy application or fabricates a claim.

Intrinsic Fraud: Deception that pertains to an issue involved in an original action. o Examples include the use of fabricated evidence, a false return of service, perjured testimony, and false receipts or other commercial documents.

Investment Fraud: This form of fraud occurs when an adviser, stockbroker, or brokerage firm offers investors biased, unfounded, or contradictory investment advice out of a conflict of interest.

Mail Fraud: An act of fraud using the U.S. Postal Service, as in making false representations through the mail to obtain an economic advantage.

Promissory Fraud: A promise to perform made when the promiser had no intention of performing the promise.

Securities Fraud: The crime of knowingly making any materially misleading statement, or failing to disclose a material fact, in connection with the purchase or sale of a security.

Wire Fraud: An act of fraud using electronic communications, as by making false representations on the telephone to obtain money.

Hate Crimes:

A hate crime, generally, refers to a crime committed not out of animosity toward a victim as an individual, but out of hostility toward the group to which the victim belongs.


The killing of one person by another. This is the generic legal term for killing a person, whether lawfully or unlawfully. Unlawful homicide comprises the two crimes of murder and manslaughter.

Criminal Homicide: Homicide prohibited and punishable by law, such as murder or manslaughter.

Excusable Homicide: Homicide resulting from a person’s lawful act, committed without intention to harm another.

Justifiable Homicide: The killing of another in self-defense when faced with the danger of death or serious bodily injury. (same as excusable homicide)

Negligent Homicide: Homicide resulting from the careless performance of a legal or illegal act in which the danger of death is apparent; the killing of a human being by criminal negligence.

Reckless Homicide: The unlawful killing of another person with conscious indifference toward that person’s life.

Vehicular Homicide: The killing of another person by one’s unlawful or negligent operation of a motor vehicle

Identity Theft:

Identity Theft primarily involves either “true name” or “account takeover” fraud. With “true name” someone uses a consumer’s personal information to open new accounts in his or her name. With “account takeover” someone gains access to a person’s existing account(s) and makes fraudulent charges. Another form of identity theft occurs when a criminal provides a victim’s personal information to law enforcement when the criminal gets arrested. The victim may then have a criminal record or outstanding warrants attached to their name without even realizing it.

Indecent Exposure:

An offensive display of one’s own body in public, especially of the genitals.


Gross, wanton, and public indecency that is outlawed by many state statutes; a sexual act that the actor knows will likely be observed by someone who will be affronted or alarmed by it.


Dismemberment or permanent disfigurement.


The unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.

Involuntary Manslaughter: Homicide in which there is no intention to kill or do grievous bodily harm, but that is committed with criminal negligence or during the commission of a crime not included within the felony-murder rule.

Voluntary manslaughter: An act of murder reduced to manslaughter because of extenuating circumstances such as adequate provocation (arousing the “heat of passion”) or diminished capacity.


The persecution or harassment of someone, as in the molestation of a witness. The act of making unwanted and indecent advances to or on someone, especially for sexual gratification.

Child Molestation: Any indecent or sexual activity on, involving, or surrounding a child, usually under the age of 14.

Money Laundering:

The federal crime of transferring illegally obtained money through legitimate persons or accounts so that its original source cannot be traced.


The killing of a human being with malice aforethought.

Depraved-heart murder: A murder resulting from an act so reckless and careless of the safety of others that it demonstrates the perpetrator’s complete lack of regard for human life.

Felony Murder: Murder that occurs during the commission of a felony.

First-degree murder: Murder that is willful, deliberate, or premeditated, or that is committed during the course of another serious felony (often limited to rape, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, or arson). All murder perpetrated by poisoning or by lying in wait is considered first-degree murder.

Second-degree murder: Murder that is not aggravated by any of the circumstances of first-degree murder.


Any form of expression, such as a book, painting, photograph, movie, or play, that deals with sex in a way that is regarded as so offensive as to be beyond the protection of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Under the most recent of the Supreme Court’s efforts to define obscenity, the term applies to material that appeals to prurient interest, depicts, or describes sexual conduct in a way that is patently offensive, and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”


The act or offense of recruiting a prostitute, finding a place of business for a prostitute, or soliciting customers for a prostitute. The act or offense of selling or distributing textual or visual material openly advertised to appeal to the recipient’s sexual interest.


The act or an instance of a person’s deliberately making material false or misleading statements while under oath.


Pictures and/or writings of sexual activity intended solely to excite lascivious feelings of a particularly blatant and aberrational kind, such as acts involving children, animals, orgies, and all types of sexual intercourse.


The crime of engaging in sexual intercourse or other sexual activity for hire.

Pyramid Schemes:

Pyramid Schemes may involve a structure that is laid out like a pyramid, with one person at the top, two persons on the next level, four on the next and eight on the next. The structure may also be circular with one person at the center, two on the next, four on the next and eight persons on the outer circle. The circular structure is merely a view of a pyramid looking from the top down.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO):

A federal statute enacted in 1970 and subsequently copied in many state statutes (informally called “Little Rico” statutes), designed to attack organized crime by providing special criminal penalties and civil liabilities for persons who engage in, or derive money from, repeated instances of certain types of crime.


Unlawful sexual activity with a person without consent and usually by force or threat of injury.

Date Rape: Rape committed by someone known to the victim, especially by the victim’s social companion.

Marital Rape: A husband’s sexual intercourse with his wife by force or without her consent.

Statutory Rape: Unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent, regardless of whether it is against that person’s will.


The use of reasonable force against an aggressor by one who reasonably believes it necessary in order to avoid imminent bodily harm. Self-defense is a justification for conduct that would otherwise be a crime.

Sexual Harassment:

A form of unlawful employment discrimination consisting of harassment of an employee or group of employees, usually women. This may take the form of requiring or seeking sexual favors as a condition of employment (quid pro quo harassment) or otherwise subjecting an employee to intimidation, ridicule, or insult because of her sex, whether or not the harassing conduct is sexual in nature.

Sexual Offense:

General term used to describe a crime of a sexual nature.


A term varying in meaning from state to state, but generally referring to any type of sex act regarded by a legislature as “unnatural” or “perverted” In the narrowest and most traditional sense, the term refers to anal sexual intercourse between men, but it may extend to those or other acts between men and women (sometimes exemption married couples, sometimes not), or women and women, or people and animals. Also called a crime against nature, or an unnatural act.


The act of threatening, harassing, or annoying someone, especially with the intent of placing the recipient in fear that an illegal act or an injury will be inflicted on the recipient or a member of the recipient’s family or household.

Tax Evasion:

The willful attempt to defeat or circumvent the tax law in order to illegally reduce one’s tax liability.

Tax Fraud:

The crime of intentionally filing a false tax return or making other false statements under penalties of perjury to taxing authorities.


Politically motivated violence or intimidation directed against a civilian population by a subgroup within a population, by an outside group, or by clandestine agents of another country.


The felonious taking and removing of another’s personal property with the intent to permanently deprive the true owner thereof; larceny. Broadly, any act or instance of stealing, including larceny, burglary, embezzlement, and false pretenses.

Theft By Deception: The use of deception to obtain another’s property.

Theft By False Pretext: The use of a false pretext to obtain another’s property.

Theft Of Services: The act of obtaining services from another by deception, threat, coercion, stealth, mechanical tampering, or using a false token or device.


An order from a higher court to a lower court or to a government official, such as a prison warden.

San Diego Defense Lawyer

If you’ve been charged with a crime in San Diego County, contact our criminal defense attorney today. George H. Ramos, Jr. is a former prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer which means he knows both sides of the courtroom. He knows tactics prosecutors use, which gives him an advantage in his defense practice. He has gained a reputation for being a strong DUI attorney in San Diego, but he represents clients facing a number of charges including theft, domestic violence, juvenile offenses, restraining orders, white collar crimes and more. George H. Ramos, Jr. is also bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, and can help various clients in San Diego protect their rights and fight for their freedom.

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