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Glossary of Legal Terms
(Starting with "H")

By Henry Dahut,,
Studio City, CA, U.S.A.


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habeas corpus

Latin for the writ or petition made on behalf of an incarcerated defendant requesting that a court determine whether there is a lawful basis for the defendant’s incarceration. The court will usually set a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient basis for the custody. This constitutional protection is used to safeguard against arbitrary confinement without due process of law.


Illegal collection techniques - such as threats, obscene or profane language, harassing phone calls, and publishing lists of "deadbeats".


In a judicial proceeding, a witness cannot testify as to what another person says outside of court. A classic example of hearsay is when a witness testifies that he heard someone say on the street that the defendant loves to beat his wife. This out of court statement is unsubstantiated and therefore excluded from evidence under the hearsay rule. It should be noted that there are many exceptions to this rule.

heat of passion

A state of emotional rage wherein the accused is unable to form the required specific intent of a legally deliberate act. In some states, showing this state of emotional rage may bring a murder charge down to one of manslaughter.

hit and run

The act of a driver who is involved in a collision with another vehicle and then fails to stop to exchange information as required by law.


The family residence. A part or even all of the equity in the homestead is exempt property.


The unlawful killing of another human being. Included among homicides are the crimes of murder and manslaughter. Defenses to a homicide include self-defense, accident and insanity. The courts look to whether the defendant possessed the required specific intent to do harm.

household goods

An individual's ordinary household furniture and furnishings. They are generally exempt property in bankruptcy.

housing code

A group of state or local laws that compels a landlord to maintain his property in a certain condition.


The federal Department of Housing & Urban Development. HUD's main office is in Washington, D.C., but HUD also has "regional" offices in several major cities and "area" offices in many other cities. HUD oversees the public housing program, and HUD also enforces federal laws against discrimination in housing.

hung jury

When a jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a unanimous decision concerning the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The judge will be forced to declare a mistrial. The prosecutor will need to decide whether it is worth the expense of another trial. Most states only allow prosecutors three chances to obtain a verdict.

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