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Glossary of Legal Terms
(Starting with "M")



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

hdahut[at]gottrouble.com
www.gottrouble.com








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M'Naughten rule

The earlier judicial test to determine whether a defendant was insane at the time the crime was committed. Under M'Naughten a defendant is legally insane if the defendant could not distinguish between right and wrong when the crime was committed.

M. O.

The term modus operandi means that the defendant’s behavior possesses a common pattern that distinguishes the unique identity of the defendant.

maintinance

See Support.

malice

That mental state of the defendant demonstrating a conscious and intentional wrongdoing directed at another with the specific intent to inflict harm. Malice in the criminal sense is viewed as an evil which is so despicable it justifies the greatest punishment possible. Malice is often an element in first degree murder.

management company

A company that manages the property for the owner. A management company usually handles finding new tenants, negotiating leases and rental agreements with them, collecting rents, maintaining the property, handling disputes, evicting tenants who fail to pay rent, and handling security deposits. Management companies may charge the owner a flat fee per month or a percentage of the rents collected.

management of marital property

The power to use, sell, or otherwise properly manage marital property. Depending upon state law, the power may be exercised by one or the other spouse, or may be exercised only by both spouses acting together.

marital settlement agreement

An agreement between husband and wife that provides for division of property, support obligations, custody and visitation matters, and anything else that the parties want to resolve in their divorce. A marital settlement agreement is normally approved by the court and becomes a part of the divorce decree.

marriage

The legal relationship of a man and a woman as husband and wife. At this time, no state allows same sex couples to marry.

manslaughter

The unlawful but unintentional killing of another person. It is commonly distinguished from murder because of the absence of the intention to kill or create a dangerous situation. There are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is considered a killing which occurs in heat of passion. The act suggests the defendant could not control his or her actions. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a death is caused by a violation such as drunk driving.

mayhem

The intentional and criminal act of cutting, disfiguring or dismembering a human being. This form of hideous crime carries the most severe penalties and is considered a compound or aggravated felony.

mediation

An informal and usually voluntary process in which a third party tries to get the husband and wife to resolve their differences without the need for litigation.

mediator

The individual who mediates. Often the mediator is an attorney who does not represent either husband or wife, but simply tells them what they are likely to get in a litigated matter and tries to get them to resolve their differences without going to court. If the parties agree, they will generally each take the agreement to his or her own lawyer to review it. The mediator's fees are usually shared by the parties.

medical payments insurance

Automobile or other liability insurance coverage where one is paid for his or her own medical bills regardless of who is at fault for the accident.

medical malpractice

Negligence committed by a professional health care provider. This can include hospitals, doctors, dentists, or nurses.

meeting of creditors

A meeting held approximately one month after the bankruptcy filing, where the trustee asks the debtor questions about his or her property and debts.

mens rea

The mental state of being which demonstrates criminal intent. Without criminal intent there can be no crime.

minor

Someone under legal age (generally 18, except for certain purposes such as drinking alcoholic beverages).

Miranda warning

The requirement, also called the Miranda rule, set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), that prior to the time of arrest and any interrogation of a person suspected of a crime, he/she must be told that he/she has: the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, and the right to be told that anything he/she says can be used in court against him/her. The warnings are known as Miranda rights or just "rights." Further, if the accused person confesses to the authorities, the prosecution must prove to the judge that the defendant was informed of these rights and knowingly waived them, before the confession can be introduced in the defendant's criminal trial. The Miranda rule supposedly prevents self-incrimination in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes there is a question of admissibility of answers to questions made by the defendant before he/she was considered a prime suspect, raising a factual issue as to what is a prime suspect and when a person becomes such a suspect.

misappropriation

The intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one's own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a dead person's estate or by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another's assets (a fiduciary duty). It is a felony (a crime punishable by a prison sentence of one year or more).

misdemeanor

A crime punishable by less then one year in county jail. Felonies are crimes punishable by one year or more in state prison. Misdemeanors include petty theft, drunk driving, and disturbing the peace.

misprision of a felony

The criminal act of concealing another's felony from law enforcement. This crime comes very close to the act of an accessory.

mitigating circumstances

Those circumstances surrounding the commission of a crime which reveal the lack of serious criminal intent. These conditions compel justice to favor leniency towards the defendant.

month-to-month rental agreement

An agreement between a landlord and tenant that permits either party to terminate the agreement or change the terms (including rent) by giving the other party prior written notice at least 30 days before the date of termination or change of terms.

moral certainty

Usually referred to that standard of proof requiring the prosecutor to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty. Moral certainty stresses the meaning of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

mortgage

A document that a lender (often a bank) receives from someone who owns property. If the owner fails to make payments on the loan, the deed of trust gives the lender the right to have the property sold to get the loan repaid. Similar to a deed of trust.

motion

A formal request that a judge consider and rule on a lawyer’s argument involving issues of law and fact. Many motions in criminal law are speaking motions without written points and authorities. Motions such as request for dismissal or request for a new trial are rarely granted.

motion for a new trial

A motion made after trial requesting that the court grant a new trial on the basis of some error of law or prejudice during the trial which could not be corrected by a jury instruction.

motion for dismissal

A defendant’s motion requesting the judge to rule that the prosecution failed to reach their burden of proof. Alternatively stated, the prosecutor’s evidence fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

motion for summary judgment

After a lawsuit is filed, but before trial, under the law either party may file a motion claiming that there is no need for a trial because the undisputed evidence clearly shows that the party making the motion must win. If the judge agrees, the judge will enter judgment for the moving party, and there will be no trial. To defeat the motion, the opposing party must submit papers showing that there is credible evidence on the other side, so a trial is needed to determine who is telling the truth.

motion to suppress

A common motion in criminal trials wherein counsel for the defendant claims that evidence brought against the defendant was illegally obtained and therefore cannot be used against him or her. A coerced confession in violation of Miranda is one such example.

motion to quash service of summons

After a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff must have a proper "summons" properly served on the defendant, telling the defendant about the lawsuit and that the defendant must respond. If there is something legally wrong with the summons or the manner of service, the defendant may file a motion to "quash" service of the summons. If the judge agrees, the plaintiff will have to serve a new summons. The lawsuit cannot proceed until a proper summons is properly served.

motive

The reason a person committed the crime. Common motives are money and revenge. While evidence of motive is very persuasive it is not a necessary element to prove a crime.

municipal court

A lower state court with jurisdiction over criminal misdemeanors. In many states a felony criminal filing will first be filed in municipal court and then subsequent to indictment be transferred to superior court for felony arraignment. Misdemeanors remain in municipal court through trial.

murder

The intentional killing of a human being with malice aforethought and without legal excuse or justification. Many states consider it murder when a killing results while in the course of a felony such as a car jacking or a robbery. Most states consider it murder when the killing results from torture, kidnapping or the death of a police officer.



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