Glossary

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This legal glossary is a basic guide to common legal terms. A lawyer is in the best position to advise you about your legal rights and responsibilities.

Different terms may have different meanings based on the specific area of law or the context in which they are being used. For legal terms not referred to in this glossary, or for more comprehensive definitions, you may wish to refer to a legal dictionary or to an internet resource.

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Seal
An imprint affixed to a document to prove authenticity and attest to its accuracy.
Sealed
Closed to the public. If the court seals a court file or a court document filed, public access is only permitted by order of the court.
Search
An examination of a person's body or private property to find evidence, conducted by a public authority who is acting pursuant to a court order or other legal authority.
Search Warrant
(see Warrant)
Secure Treatment
An approved program for the treatment of children with mental disorders in which continuous restrictions are imposed on the liberty of the children.
Security
Money or other valuables that may be required to be paid into court or to another party.
Security for Costs
A court order that a party pay money into court to ensure that money will be available to pay for costs ordered by the court, if the party is not successful in pursuing his or her claims.
Seizure
The taking of property from a person, without his or her consent, by a public authority who is acting pursuant to a court order or other legal authority.
Sentence
The penalty imposed on the finding of guilt.
Concurrent Sentence
Two or more terms of imprisonment served simultaneously.
Conditional Sentence
Where a sentence of imprisonment of less than two years is given, the judge may order that the sentence be served in the community subject to conditions.
Consecutive Sentence
Two or more terms of imprisonment served one after the other.
Custody and Community Supervision/Custody and Conditional Supervision
The Youth Criminal Justice Act makes provisions for a custody and community or conditional supervision order, where two thirds of the sentence is served in custody and one third is served in the community under supervision.
Discharge
(see Discharge)
Fine
A monetary penalty.
Imprisonment
The act of confining someone in a jail or prison.
Intermittent Sentence
A sentence consisting of periods of imprisonment interrupted by periods of probation. Intermittent sentences may be given for sentences of imprisonment for 90 days or less, usually to avoid loss of employment or interruption of education or childcare.
Probation
An order authorizing a person to be in the community subject to conditions listed in the order.
Restitution
An order requiring a convicted person to restore property to its rightful owner, compensate for a loss, or repair damage caused.
Suspended Sentence
The release of the convicted person on certain conditions contained in a probation order.
Separation (breakdown of the relationship)
In family law cases, where spouses are living separate and apart and one or both of them has the intention of ending the relationship.
Separation Agreement
(see Domestic Contract)
Service
The formal delivery of a legal document to the required person in accordance with the rules of court.
Settlement Conference
(see Conference)
Several Liability
(see Liability)
Shared Custody
(see Custody)
Sheriff
The name formerly used for an officer of the court who is responsible for enforcing court orders. May also include a Small Claims Court bailiff. Now called Enforcement Officers.
Show Cause Hearing
A hearing where the prosecutor must "show cause" that the accused should be held in custody until the trial. (see Bail Hearing)
Sine Die
Latin term, meaning "without a day". Used to describe an indefinite adjournment of a proceeding.
Small Claims Court
(see Court)
Society Wardship Order
(see Order)
Sole Custody
(see Custody)
Solicitor
In Canada (except Quebec), all lawyers are both barristers and solicitors. In England and other countries, historically, barristers attended court, while solicitors did not.
Solicitor-Client Privilege
The confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client where they relate to seeking, forming, or giving legal advice.
Special Damages
(see Damages)
Special Expenses
(see Extraordinary Expenses)
Special Party
In family cases, a party who is under the age of 18 or who is or appears to be mentally incapable. It does not include a child who is the subject of the case.
Specific Performance
A court order that requires the performance of a legal or contractual obligation where monetary damages for non-performance would be inadequate.
Split Custody
(see Custody)
Spousal Support
(see Support)
Spouse
A person who lives with another person in a conjugal relationship, either inside or outside marriage. The length of time required to qualify as a spouse in situations outside of marriage is different under different statutes.
Standard of Proof
(see Burden of Proof)
Standing
A party's right to make a legal claim or seek judicial redress.
Stare Decisis
Latin term for the principle by which a precedent or decision of one court binds lower courts.
Status Review
In child protection cases, an application for the review of a child's status by the court before the end of the current protection order.
Statute
(see Act)
Stay of Proceedings
An order suspending a legal proceeding.
Strict Liability
(see Liability)
Submission
Statements and arguments urging the decision maker to make particular findings of fact and apply the law in the manner proposed by the person making the submission.
Subpoena
A document that compels a person to attend proceedings as a witness in order to give testimony.
Substantial Indemnity Costs
(see Costs)
Substitute Decisions Act, 1992
Ontario statute that governs what may happen when someone is not mentally capable of making certain decisions about their own property or personal care. It describes how a substitute decision-maker may be appointed for a mentally incapable person, and the powers and duties of the substitute decision-maker.
Summary Conviction Offence
(see Offence)
Summary Judgment
(see Judgment)
Summons (to Witness)
A document issued by a court, agency, board or commission, or another person, requiring a person to attend and to produce documents or other things.
Superior Court of Justice
(see Court)
Supernumerary Judge
(see Judge)
Supervised Access
In family law cases, access visits or the exchange of the child that take place in the presence of a third party, to ensure safety.
Supervision Order
(see Order)
Support
Monetary assistance that a person provides for his or her dependant(s).
Child Support
The amount a parent pays, usually to the other parent, for the financial support of a child under a court order or agreement.
Spousal Support
Money paid by one spouse to another after separation to contribute to the other spouse's living expenses.
Support Deduction Order
(see Order)
Support Order
(see Order)
Supreme Court of Canada
(see Court)
Surcharge
An additional or extra charge. A charge upon a charge.
Victim Surcharge
An offender who is convicted or discharged of an offence under the Criminal Code, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, or Provincial Offences Act, must pay a victim surcharge in addition to any other punishment imposed on the offender, unless the court exempts the offender from paying.
Surety Bond
(see Bond)
Suspended Sentence
(see Sentence)