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What Is a Legal Process?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A legal process typically refers to one of several different things related to law and various legal practices. One of the most common uses of the term is to refer to the processes or procedures followed during a legal case, such as a criminal or civil case that is tried in a court of law. The term can also be used to refer to the serving of a summons or court order upon a person, which is often done by a court-appointed individual or a private company. This legal process will typically vary from one country to another.

In general, there are two common uses of the term and the way in which it is used will typically indicate the meaning intended. One of the most common uses is as a synonymous term with “due process” or “legal proceedings” to indicate the process by which legal proceedings occur in a given country. These proceedings can vary quite widely from country to country, and so the context in which the term is used will greatly impact what is precisely meant by it. In the US, for example, legal process is different in some ways between civil and criminal proceedings.

Legal process for a criminal case in the US usually begins with the arrest or apprehension of an individual who is suspected of having committed a crime. The individual will usually make a first appearance before a judge and receive formal charges against him or her, as well as the establishment of any bond amount. Victims of the crime or crimes are consulted and terms for restitution are established, then the defendant is arraigned and depositions are made. The process for a criminal trial will then begin, with choosing a jury, hearing testimonies and evidence against a defendant, and concluding with the reading of a verdict, sentencing, and ordered restitution if found guilty.

This process is different for civil cases and can be quite different in other countries as well. The other common usage of the term is with reference to the way in which an individual is notified of a summons to appear in court. This is often part of a civil case and someone who is being summoned to testify in a criminal or civil case or as a defendant in a civil case is usually “served” a summons. Legal processing typically involves issuing and serving the necessary legal paperwork to ensure that someone who is involved in such a case is properly notified.

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