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In court proceedings, a defendant is a
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
who is the
party A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks Cou ...
either accused of committing a
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

crime
in
criminal prosecution A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial ...
or against whom some type of civil relief is being sought in a
civil case A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil ...
. Terminology varies from one
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
to another. In
Scots law Scots law () is the legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems A system is a group of interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified ...
, the terms "accused" or "panel" are used instead in criminal proceedings and "defender" in civil proceedings. Another term in use is "respondent".


Criminal defendants

In a criminal trial, a defendant is a person accused ( charged) of committing an offense (a crime; an act defined as punishable under
criminal law Criminal law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its env ...
). The other party to a criminal trial is usually a public
prosecutor A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by co ...
, but in some jurisdictions, private prosecutions are allowed. Criminal defendants are often taken into custody by
police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, with the aim to law enforcement, enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health and possessions of citize ...

police
and brought before a court under an
arrest warrant An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, disci ...
. Criminal defendants are usually obliged to post
bail Bail is a set of pre-trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by it ...
before being released from custody. For serious cases, such as murder, bail may be refused. Defendants must be present at every stage of the proceedings against them. (There is an exception for very minor cases such as traffic offenses in jurisdictions which treat them as crimes.) If more than one person is accused, the people may be referred as "co-defendant" or "co-conspirator" in British and common law courts. In some jurisdictions, vulnerable defendants may be able to get access of services of a
non-registered intermediary If a defendant in England and Wales is identified as being vulnerable, special measures can be taken to allow a non-registered intermediary to assist them during their trial. Around two thirds of all offenders have communication difficulties and th ...
to assist with communication at court.


Civil defendants

In a civil
lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil ...
, a defendant (or a respondent) is also the accused
party A party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks Cou ...
, although not of an offense, but of a
civil wrong A civil wrong or wrong is a cause of action A cause of action or right of action, in law, is a set of facts sufficient to justify suing to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a legal right against another party. The term also refers to ...
(a
tort A tort, in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the most-used legal dict ...

tort
or a
breach of contract Breach of contract is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environme ...
, for instance). The person who starts the
civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil (journalism), a platform for independent journalism *Civilian, someone not a member ...
action through filing a
complaint In legal terminology, a complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action A cause of action or right of action, in law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interac ...

complaint
is referred to as the
plaintiff A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil aff ...
(also known as the appellant). Defendants in civil actions usually make their first court appearance voluntarily in response to a summons. Historically, civil defendants could be taken into custody under a writ of ''
caspian ad respondentCaspian can refer to: *The Caspian Sea The Caspian Sea (also known as Mazandaran Sea, Hyrcanian Ocean, or Khazar Sea), tk, Hazar deňzi, az, Xəzər Dənizi, russian: Каспийское море, script=Latn, fa, دریای مازندران ...
''. Modern-day civil defendants are usually able to avoid most (if not all) court appearances if represented by a
lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate An advocate is a professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English ...

lawyer
. Most often and familiarly, defendants are persons: either
natural person In jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to ...
s (actual human beings) or
juridical personA juridical person is a non-human legal person, legal entity that is not a Natural person, single natural person but an organization recognized by law as a legal person such as a corporation, government agency, or NGO. Also known as artificial person ...
s (''persona fiction'') under the
legal fiction A legal fiction is a fact A fact is something that is true True most commonly refers to truth Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality.Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionarytruth 2005 In everyday language, truth i ...
of treating organizations as persons. But a defendant may be an object, in which case the object itself is the direct subject of the action. When a court has jurisdiction over an object, it is said to have jurisdiction ''in rem''. An example of an ''in rem'' case is '' United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola'' (1916), where the defendant was not the
Coca-Cola Company The Coca-Cola Company is an American multinational beverage corporation incorporated under Delaware Delaware ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Maryland t ...
itself, but rather "Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola". In current United States legal practice, ''in rem'' suits are primarily
asset forfeiture In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce positive economic value. Assets represent value ...
cases, based on drug laws, as in '' USA v. $124,700'' (2006). Defendants can set up an account to pay for litigation costs and
legal expense Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its boundari ...
s. These
legal defense fundIn the United States, a legal defense fund (or LDF) is an account set up to pay for legal expenses, which can include attorneys' fees, court filings, litigation costs, legal advice, or other legal fees. The fund can be public or private and is set ...
s can have large membership counts where members contribute to the fund. The fund can be public or private and is set up for individuals, organizations, or a particular purpose. These funds are often used by public officials, civil-rights organizations, and public-interest organizations.


England and Wales

Historically, "defendant" was a legal term for a person prosecuted for
misdemeanour A misdemeanor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States ...
. It was not applicable to a person prosecuted for
felony A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness Seriousness (noun; adjective: ''serious'') is an attitude of gravitas, gravity, :wikt:solemnity, solemnity, persistence, and :wikt:earnest, earnestness toward something considered t ...
. O. Hood Phillips. ''
A First Book of English Law ''A First Book of English Law'' is a book originally written by Owen Hood PhillipsOwen Hood Phillips (30 September 1907 - 1986) was Barber Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Birmingham and Dean of the Faculty of Law, Vice-Principal an ...
''.
Sweet and Maxwell Sweet & Maxwell is a British publisher specialising in legal publications. It joined the Associated Book Publishers in 1969; ABP was purchased by the International Thomson Organization International Thomson Organization (ITO) was a company th ...
. Fourth Edition. 1960. Page 151.


See also

*
Attribution (law)Doctrines of attribution are legal doctrines by which liability is extended to a defendant A defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousness ...
*
Criminal procedure Criminal procedure is the adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbitration, arbiter or judge reviews evidence (law), evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties or litigants, to come ...
*
Trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

Trial


References

{{Authority control Criminal law legal terminology