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Legal Terms Beginning with D

Damages

A cash compensation ordered by a court to offset losses or suffering caused by another's fault or negligence. Read the full definition of Damages on Duhaime.org

Dangerous offender

A person convicted of serious crimes and who is likely to re-offend. Read the full definition of Dangerous offender on Duhaime.org

Deadbeat Dad

A father who ignores a Court order to pay child support. Read the full definition of Deadbeat Dad on Duhaime.org

Death

Irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions and of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem. Read the full definition of Death on Duhaime.org

Death Duties

Tax payments due to the state, incurred and payable as a result of the death of the tax-payer. Read the full definition of Death Duties on Duhaime.org

Death Penalty

Also known as capital punishment, this is the most severe form of corporal punishment as it is requires law enforcement officers to kill the convicted offender. Read the full definition of Death Penalty on Duhaime.org

De Bene Esse

To take something for what it is worth, such as evidence collected for the time being, in the absence of, but in anticipation of, litigation, admissibility to be determined when such thing is sought to be used against another at trial. Read the full definition of De Bene Esse on Duhaime.org

De Bonis Non

Assets not yet administered. Read the full definition of De Bonis Non on Duhaime.org

Debt

An amount of money due and payable, from one person to another. Read the full definition of Debt on Duhaime.org

Debtor

A person who owes money, goods or services to another, the latter being referred to as the creditor. Read the full definition of Debtor on Duhaime.org

Decapitation

The act of beheading a person, usually instantly such as with a large and heavy knife or by guillotine, as a form of capital punishment. Read the full definition of Decapitation on Duhaime.org

Decedent

An individual who has died. Read the full definition of Decedent on Duhaime.org

Decree Absolute

The name given to a final and conclusive court order after the condition of an interim or intervening order (decree nisi) is met. Read the full definition of Decree Absolute on Duhaime.org

Decree Nisi

A provisional decision of a court which does not have force or effect until a certain condition is met such as another petition brought before the court or after the passage of a period time. Read the full definition of Decree Nisi on Duhaime.org

Deed

A written and signed document which sets out the things that have to be done or recognitions of the parties towards a certain object. Read the full definition of Deed on Duhaime.org

Deem

To accept a document or an event as conclusive of a certain status in the absence of evidence or facts which would normally be required to prove that status. Read the full definition of Deem on Duhaime.org

De facto

Latin: as a matter of fact; something which, while not necessarily lawful or legally sanctified, exists in fact. Read the full definition of De facto on Duhaime.org

Defalcation

1. Defaulting on a debt or other obligation such to account for public or trust funds. Usually used in the context of public officials. 2. Defalcation has another legal meaning referring to the setting-off of two debts owed between two people by the agreement to a new amount representing the balance. Read the full definition of Defalcation on Duhaime.org

Defamation

An attack on the good reputation of a person, by slander or libel. Read the full definition of Defamation on Duhaime.org

Defamatory Libel

Deliberate publication of defamatory lies which the publisher knows to be false. Read the full definition of Defamatory Libel on Duhaime.org

Defeasance

A side-contract which contains a condition which, if realized, could defeat the main contract. Read the full definition of Defeasance on Duhaime.org

Defendant

The individual, company or organization who defends a legal action taken by a plaintiff and against whom the court has been asked to order damages or specific corrective action redress some type of unlawful or improper action alleged by the plaintiff. Read the full definition of Defendant on Duhaime.org

Defense Attorney or Defence Counsel

Lawyers who represent persons facing criminal charges. Read the full definition of Defense Attorney or Defence Counsel on Duhaime.org

Dehors

French for outside. In the context of legal proceedings, it refers to that which is irrelevant or outside the scope of the debate. Read the full definition of Dehors on Duhaime.org

De jure

Latin: 'of the law.' The term has come to describe a total adherence of the law. Read the full definition of De jure on Duhaime.org

Delegatus Non Potest Delegare

Latin: a delegate cannot delegate. Read the full definition of Delegatus Non Potest Delegare on Duhaime.org

Delict

A civil law term which imposes liability on a person who causes injury to another, or for injury caused by a person or thing under his custody. Read the full definition of Delict on Duhaime.org

Delusion

A firm yet irrational belief and which may affect an individual's capacity to contract. Read the full definition of Delusion on Duhaime.org

Demand Letter

A letter from a lawyer, on behalf of a client, that demands payment or some other action, which is allegedivy due or in default. Read the full definition of Demand Letter on Duhaime.org

Demarche

A word coined by the diplomatic community and referring to a strongly worded warning by one country to another and often, either explicitly or implicitly, with the threat of military consequence. Read the full definition of Demarche on Duhaime.org

De Minimis Non Curat Lex

Latin: a common law principle whereby judges will not sit in judgment of extremely minor transgressions of the law. Read the full definition of De Minimis Non Curat Lex on Duhaime.org

Democracy

A form of government in which the people freely govern themselves; where the executive (or administrative) and law-making (or legislative) power is given to persons chosen by the population; the free people. Read the full definition of Democracy on Duhaime.org

Demurrage

A term of maritime law which refers to the damages payable by a ship charterer, to the ship owner, as compensation for lost time; where a chartered ship is not returned to the owner on a specified date. Read the full definition of Demurrage on Duhaime.org

Demurrer

A mostly obsolete motion put to a trial judge after the plaintiff has completed his or her case, in which the defendant, while not objecting to the facts presented, and rather than responding by a full defence, asks the court to reject the petition right then and there because of a lack of basis in law or insufficiency of the evidence. Read the full definition of Demurrer on Duhaime.org

De novo

Latin: new. This term is used to refer to a trial which starts over, which wipes the slate clean and begins all over again, as if any previous partial or complete hearing had not occurred. Read the full definition of De novo on Duhaime.org

Deportation

The removal of a foreign national under immigration laws for reasons such as illegal entry or conduct dangerous to the public welfare. Read the full definition of Deportation on Duhaime.org

Deposition

The official statement by a witness taken in writing (as opposed to testimony which where a witnesses give their perception of the facts verbally). Read the full definition of Deposition on Duhaime.org

Derelict

Property that has been abandoned; especially in maritime law: a ship that is floundering or in peril and which the crew has been abandoned without hope for recovery or with no intention of saving the ship or of returning thereto. Read the full definition of Derelict on Duhaime.org

Descendant

Those person who are born of, or from children of, another are called that person's descendants. Read the full definition of Descendant on Duhaime.org

Detention

The exercise of an element of physical constraint of an individual. Read the full definition of Detention on Duhaime.org

Deterrence

A principle or objective of sentencing a person guilty of a crime which ensures that the punishment is sufficient to deter the guilty person, and others, from committing the same crime. Read the full definition of Deterrence on Duhaime.org

Detinue

A common law action similar to conversion and also involving the possession of property by the plaintiff may also ask for damages for the duration of the possession. Read the full definition of Detinue on Duhaime.org

Devastavit

Latin for 'he has wasted.' This is the technical word referring to a personal representative who has mismanaged the estate and allowed an avoidable loss to occur. Read the full definition of Devastavit on Duhaime.org

Devise

The transfer or conveyance of real property by will. Read the full definition of Devise on Duhaime.org

Dicta or Dictum

Latin: an observation by a judge on a matter not specifically before the court or not necessary in determining the issue before the court. Read the full definition of Dicta or Dictum on Duhaime.org

Dictatorship

A form of government with a single person as decision-maker; a single ruler. Read the full definition of Dictatorship on Duhaime.org

Diligence

The degree of attention or care required of a person in a given situation. Read the full definition of Diligence on Duhaime.org

Diplomacy

Peaceful representations between states. Read the full definition of Diplomacy on Duhaime.org

Diplomat

An official representative of a state, present in another state for the purposes of general representation of the state-of-origin or for the purpose of specific international negotiations on behalf of the diplomat's state-of-origin. Read the full definition of Diplomat on Duhaime.org

Diplomatic Immunity

Immunity extended to diplomat officers from criminal and civil jurisdiction of their host state. Read the full definition of Diplomatic Immunity on Duhaime.org

Directed Verdict

When the Court stops a trial determining that an essential fact has not been proven. Read the full definition of Directed Verdict on Duhaime.org

Direct Evidence

Evidence tendered in trial in the form of recounting of personal observations or a document which directly establishes a fact sought to be proven. Read the full definition of Direct Evidence on Duhaime.org

Direct Tax

A tax demanded from the very persons who it is intended or desired should pay it. Read the full definition of Direct Tax on Duhaime.org

Disability Insurance

An insurance contract in which the insurer agrees to pay money or to other benefits in the event that the person insured becomes disabled. Read the full definition of Disability Insurance on Duhaime.org

Disbursement

Miscellaneous expenses other than lawyer fees and court costs (i.e. filing fees) which paid on behalf of another person and for which reimbursement will eventually be demanded of that person. Read the full definition of Disbursement on Duhaime.org

Discharge

A sentence of a person found guilty of a crime in which that person does not receive a criminal record of conviction, either absolutely or conditionally. Read the full definition of Discharge on Duhaime.org

Discretionary Trust

A trust in which the settlor has given the trustee full discretion to decide which (and when) members of a group of beneficiaries is to receive either the income or the capital of the trust. Read the full definition of Discretionary Trust on Duhaime.org

Discrimination

A distinction based on the personal characteristics of an individual resulting in some disadvantage to that individual. Read the full definition of Discrimination on Duhaime.org

Disrate

A term of maritime law where an officer or other seaman is either demoted in rank or deprived of a promotion. Read the full definition of Disrate on Duhaime.org

Dissent

To disagree. The word is used in legal circles to refer to the minority opinion of a judge which runs contrary to the conclusions of the majority. Read the full definition of Dissent on Duhaime.org

Dissolution

The act of ending, terminating or winding-up a company or state of affairs. Read the full definition of Dissolution on Duhaime.org

Distraint

The right of a landivord to seize the property of a tenant which is in the premises being rented, as collateral against a tenant that has not paid the rent or has otherwise defaulted on the lease, such as wanton disrepair or destruction of the premises. Read the full definition of Distraint on Duhaime.org

Distress

A common law remedy available to landivords to hold the tenant's belongings while the tenant is behind on rent but continues to occupy the premises. Read the full definition of Distress on Duhaime.org

District Attorney

A lawyer in the USA charged with prosecution of criminal charges on behalf of the government. Read the full definition of District Attorney on Duhaime.org

Diversity Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction of a US federal court to dispose of a matter meeting a monetary threshold even though it involves residents of different states. Read the full definition of Diversity Jurisdiction on Duhaime.org

Dividend

A proportionate distribution of profits made in the form of a money payment to shareholders, by a for-profit corporation. Dividends are declared by a company's board of directors. Read the full definition of Dividend on Duhaime.org

Divorce

The final, legal ending of a marriage, by Court order. Read the full definition of Divorce on Duhaime.org

Divorce a Mensa et Thoro

An obselete form of divorce order which did not end the marriage but allowed the parties to reside separate; in effect, a legal or judicially-sanctioned separation of two married persons. Read the full definition of Divorce a Mensa et Thoro on Duhaime.org

DNA

Abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid. A chromosome molecule which carries genetic coding unique to each person with the only exception of identical twins (that is why it is also called 'DNA fingerprinting'). Read the full definition of DNA on Duhaime.org

Docket

An official court record book which lists all the cases before the court and which may also note the status or action required for each case. Read the full definition of Docket on Duhaime.org

Doctrine

A rule or principle or the law established through the repeated application of legal precedents. Read the full definition of Doctrine on Duhaime.org

Domestic Animal

A pet; dogs, cats or other tame animals or birds and which serve some purpose for its owner or others. Read the full definition of Domestic Animal on Duhaime.org

Domicile

The permanent residence of a person; a place to which, even if he or she were temporary absent, they intend to return. Read the full definition of Domicile on Duhaime.org

Dominant Tenement

Used when referring to easements to specify that property (i.e. tenement) or piece of land that benefits from, or has the advantage of, an easement. Read the full definition of Dominant Tenement on Duhaime.org

Dominion utile

Latin: the property rights of a tenant. While not owning the property in a legal sense, the tenant, as having dominion utile, enjoys full and exclusive possession and use of the property. Read the full definition of Dominion utile on Duhaime.org

Dominium directum

Latin: the qualified ownership of a landivord, not having possession or use of property but retaining ownership. Read the full definition of Dominium directum on Duhaime.org

Domitae Naturae

Animals which are of a nature easily tamed and may be readily domesticated such as cats, dogs, farm animals and some birds. Read the full definition of Domitae Naturae on Duhaime.org

Donatio Mortis Causa

A death-bed gift, made by a dying person, with the intent that the person receiving the gift shall keep the thing if death ensues. Read the full definition of Donatio Mortis Causa on Duhaime.org

Donee

Another word to describe the beneficiary of a trust. Read the full definition of Donee on Duhaime.org

Donor

The person who donates property to the benefit of another, usually through the legal mechanism of a trust. Read the full definition of Donor on Duhaime.org

Double Jeopardy

A prohibition against being tried or sentenced twice for the same offense. Read the full definition of Double Jeopardy on Duhaime.org

Dower

A widow's life estate interest in her husband's real property if he died intestate. Read the full definition of Dower on Duhaime.org

Duces Tecum

Latin: bring with you. Read the full definition of Duces Tecum on Duhaime.org

Due process

Fundamental procedural legal safeguards of which every citizen has an absolute right when a state or court purports to take a decision that could affect any right of that citizen. Read the full definition of Due process on Duhaime.org

Dum casta

Latin: for so long as she remains chaste. Read the full definition of Dum casta on Duhaime.org

Dum sola

Latin: for so long as she remains unmarried. Read the full definition of Dum sola on Duhaime.org

Dum vidua

Latin: for so long as she remains a widow. Read the full definition of Dum vidua on Duhaime.org

Dunnage

Materials used by ships to secure and protect cargo. Read the full definition of Dunnage on Duhaime.org

Duplex

A house which has separate but complete facilities to accommodate two families as either adjacent units or one on top of the other. Read the full definition of Duplex on Duhaime.org

Duress

Where a person is prevented from acting (or not acting) according to their free will, by threats or force of another, it is said to be 'under duress'. Read the full definition of Duress on Duhaime.org