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Paralegal - A legal assistant.  A person with legal skills who works under the supervision of a lawyer.

Pardon - An act of grace from governing power which mitigates punishment and restores rights and privileges forfeited on account of the offense.

Parol Evidence - Oral or verbal evidence; evidence given by word of mouth in court.

Parole - Supervised release of a prisoner from imprisonment on certain prescribed conditions which entitle him or her to termination of his/her sentence.

Party - A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution of defense of a legal proceeding.

Peremptory Challenge - Request by a party that a judge not allow a certain prospective juror as a member of the jury.  No reason or cause need be stated.

Periodical - A publication which appears regularly but less often than daily.

Perjury - The criminal offense of making a false statement under oath.

Permanent injunction - A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action.  It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

Personal Property - Anything a person owns other than real estate.

Personal recognizance - In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise to return to court.

Personal Representative - The person who administers an estate.  If named in a will, that person’s title is an executor.  If there is no valid will, that person’s title is an administrator.

Person in need of supervision - Juvenile found to have committed a “status offense” rather than a crime that would provide a basis for a finding of delinquency.

Petitioner - The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction.  Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court.

Plaintiff - A person who brings an action; the party who complains or sues in a civil action.

Plea - The first pleading by a criminal defendant, the defendant’s declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty.  The defendant’s answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.

Plea bargaining - Process where the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a satisfactory disposition of the case, usually be the accused agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser offense.  Such bargains are not binding on the court.  Also referred to as plea negotiating.

Pleadings - The written statements of fact and law filed by the parties to a lawsuit.

Polling the jury - The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.

Post-trial - Refers to events or documents occurring after the trial, i.e., post-trial motions or post-trial discovery.

Power - Authority to do.  One has the power to do something if he is of legal age.  Also, used as “powers,” the term refers to authority granted by one person to another, i.e., powers given an executor in a will or an agent in a power of attorney.

Power of attorney - A formal instrument authorizing another to act as one’s agent or attorney.

Precedent - Laws established by previous cases which must be followed in cases involving identical circumstances.

Preliminary Hearing - A hearing by a judge to determine whether a person charged with a crime should be held for trial.

Preponderance of the proof - Greater weight of the evidence, the common standard of evidence in civil cases.

Presentence Investigation or Report - A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision.

Pretrial Conference - Conference among the opposing attorneys and the judge called at the discretion of the court to narrow the issues to be tried and to make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.

Prima Facie Case - A case that is sufficient and has the minimum amount of evidence necessary to allow it to continue in the judicial process.  

Privilege - A benefit or advantage to certain persons beyond the advantages of other persons, i.e., an exemption, immunity, power, etc.

Probable Cause - A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.

Probate - Court proceeding by which a will is proved valid or invalid.  Term used to mean all proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates such as the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.  

Probation - An alternative to imprisonment allowing a person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer.  A violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to imprisonment.

Product Liability - Legal responsibility of manufacturers and sellers to buyers, users, and bystanders for damages or injuries suffered because of defects in goods.

Promisee - An individual to whom a promise is made.

Promisor - An individual who makes a promise.

Promissory estoppel - A promise which estops the promise from asserting or taking certain action.

Prosecutor - also known in Florida as State Attorney - A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters.  In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.

Proximate Cause - The last negligent act which contributes to an injury.  A person generally is liable only if an injury was proximately caused by his or her action or by his or her failure to act when he or she had a duty to act.

Public Defender - Government lawyer who provides legal defense services to a poor person accused of a crime.

Punitive Damages - Money award given to punish the defendant or wrongdoer.

Putative - Alleged; supposed; reputed.