Legal Dictionary

Dictionary of Legal Slang, Jargon, and Abbreviations


Arbuckle waiver, n. When a defendant waives the right to have the same judge sentence the defendant who accepts that defendant’s guilty plea, and agrees to allow a different judge sentence the defendant. See People v. Arbuckle, 22 Cal.3d 749 (1978).


b, n. A prostitution charge.  The term derives from the California Penal Code section 647(b).

BAC, n. Blood Alcohol Content.

Bain error, n. When a prosecutor offers his or her personal opinion in the presence of a jury as to the guilt of a defendant. See People v. Bain, 5 Cal.3d 839 (1971).

Boykin-Tahl waiver, n.  A defendant must knowingly and voluntarily waive his or her right to a trial by jury, right to confront witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination before he or she can plead guilty or no contest to a crime.  When a defendant pleads without doing so, this is known as Boykin-Tahl error.  See Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969) and In re Tahl, 1 Cal.3d 122 (1969).


CTS, n. Credit time served.


deuce, n. A DUI.

deuce out, v. to be charged or convicted with a DUI. See deuce.

dry reckless, n. When someone is charged with a DUI, the charge is often reduced to a wet reckless. However, this charge is still considered a prior DUI for any subsequent DUIs.  A dry reckless is what a more preferable plea since it is not priorable.  See wet reckless and priorable.

dump truck, n. A derisive term used to describe a criminal defense attorney who just wants the client to plead guilty as soon as possible.

DV, n. Domestic violence.


Evans line-up, n.  Where the defendant asks the court to order that a new line-up be conducted.


Griffin error, n.  This occurs when a prosecutor either expressly or by direct implication comments in the presence of the jury on a defendant’s exercising of the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by not testifying.  See Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609 (1965).

GTA, n. Grand Theft Auto.


Harvey waiver, n. If a defendant enters into a plea bargain, whereby a charge is dismissed that would have otherwise entitled a victim restitution, the prosecution often conditions the plea on obtaining a Harvey waiver from the defendant, so that the court can still order the defendant to pay victim restitution based on the dismissed charge.


infractionable, adj. A misdemeanor offense that can also be charged as an infraction. See wobblette.


Marsden motion, n. A motion made by which a criminal defendant to fire his or her court-appointed attorney. See People v. Marsden, 2 Cal.3d 118 (1970).

Murgia motion, n. A motion made by a criminal defendant to dismiss the charges based on a showing of selective prosecution for improper purposes, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. See Murgia v. Municipal Court, 15 Cal.3d 286 (1975).


OR, adj.. Own Recognizance.


PAS test, n. Preliminary alcohol-screening test, which is used by law enforcement to measure a driver’s blood alcohol level. The PAS device is a hand-held breath-testing unit that gives an instant measure of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). See BAC, DUI.

PC, n. Probable cause.

Pitchess motion, n. A request made by the defense to access a police officer’s personnel information when the defendant alleges that the officer used excessive force or lied about the events surrounding the defendant’s arrest. See Pitchess v. Superior Court, 11 Cal.3d 531 (1974).

PV, n. Probation violation.


Serna motion, n. A motion made when the government fails to prosecute in a speedy manner, and the defendant has been prejudiced by the delay. See Serna v. Superior Court, 40 Cal.3d 239 (1985).

show-up, n. Where a suspect is individually presented to a witness for identification (as opposed to line-up).

six pack, n. A photographic line-up comprised of six photos, one of which is most likely a photograph of the suspect of the alleged crime.

slow plea, n. A term used to describe the situation where a criminal defendant exercises his or her Constitutional right to a trial even though it is highly likely that the defendant will be convicted.  One advantage is that some issues that would have been waived by pleading guilty are preserved for appeal.

SODDI defense, n.  A common defense, whereby the defense argues that “Some Other Dude Did It.”

SOL, n. Statute of Limitations.

speed ex, n. Exhibition of Speed.

SVP, n. Sexual Violent Predator.


TRO, n. Temporary Restraining Order.


Watson warning, n. When a judge warns a defendant convicted of DUI, that the defendant may be  charged for murder if that defendant subsequently causes an accident that results in a death while the defendant is driving while impaired. People v. Watson, 30 Cal.3d 290 (1981)

wet reckless, n. When someone is charged with a DUI, the charge is often reduced to a wet reckless, which although it appears on the Defendant’s record as reckless driving, it is considered a prior DUI for subsequent DUIs.  See dry reckless and priorable.

wobbler, n. A crime that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, usually depending on the seriousness of the alleged facts.

wobblette, n. A crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction.  See infractionable.