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Glossary of Legal Terms
(Starting with "W")

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


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wage assignment

A legal procedure by which a portion of a spouse's wages are paid directly to the other spouse for alimony or child support. In some states, this is called an "earnings withholding order" or a "wage garnishment."

wage garnishment

A manner of debt collection whereby the sheriff takes up to 25% of a debtor's paycheck and forwards it to a creditor who has a court judgment against the debtor.

wage earner plan

A "Chapter 13" filing with the bankruptcy court that allows the debtor to keep all of his property while attempting to repay debts in full or in part over a three-year period.


The compensation paid by an employer to an employee for work performed. Sometimes known as "salary."


The voluntary and knowing waiver of a legal right such as a speedy trial, a preliminary hearing or even the statutory time required to consider argument on sentencing. A waiver is made sometimes for the purpose of expediency and sometimes for strategy. For example, a defense lawyer might think that waiving a preliminary hearing would be advantageous since it might preclude adding new charges to the indictment.


A judicially backed order directing law enforcement to arrest or search the person or premises of a suspect. A warrant must be based on declaration establishing a specific factual basis for probable cause that a crime was committed or in the process of being committed.

week-to-week 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 one week before the date of termination or change of terms.

wet reckless

Alcohol-related reckless driving. In many states it is used as a plea bargain rather than pleading guilty to drunk driving. Such a plea is used where the blood alcohol level is less than the legal limit. The punishment usually does not include community service or incarceration.


An injury of the soft tissues, ligaments, and joints of the cervical spine caused by the neck being bent forcibly and violently forward and backward.


A person who reports his employer to the police or a state or federal agency for some violation of the law. Whistleblower protection laws prevent employers from firing workers in revenge for whistleblowing.

white-collar crime

A category of crimes committed under the guise of legitimate business affairs. Usually it involves fraud, stock market manipulation, embezzlement and other forms of dishonest business practices

wildcard exemption

A federal bankruptcy exemption that allows a debtor to retain up to $8,075 of otherwise nonexempt property if the homestead exemption is not fully claimed.

willful conduct

The term used to describe an intentional, conscious and directed act of a perpetrator in furtherance of criminal goal.

withdrawal of counsel

A criminal defense attorney can withdraw from representation of a client for due cause only and with court permission. Not getting paid is not considered good cause. In some states, an attorney can make a special appearance at arraignment for the purpose of limiting the representation to that one hearing. Good cause is any situation in which the attorney believes that further representation will cause unavoidable damage to his or her client’s interests or presents a substantial ethical dilemma for the attorney. Since an attorney is considered to be an officer of the court, he cannot put on knowingly false testimony.


Any person who testifies under oath at trial. There are numerous types of witnesses. Examples include eyewitnesses, expert witnesses and character witnesses.

writ of possession

A court order commanding a sheriff or marshal to physically evict a tenant within a specified number of days (usually about 5). A writ of possession will be issued only after a judgment has been entered.

writ of restitution

Same as a writ of possession.

wrongful adoption suit

A lawsuit brought against an adoption agency (or other person who arranged an adoption) seeking money damages because the agency failed to disclose important information about the child (for example, that the child had a severe mental or emotional disability).

wrongful death

A cause of action by the heirs and/or loved ones of a person killed by the negligence of another.

wrongful eviction lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by a tenant against a former landlord who used self-help or other illegal methods to evict a tenant.

wrongful termination lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by an employee against a former employer who used illegal methods to terminate an employee. Also known as a "wrongful discharge lawsuit."

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