Latin Phrases in Criminal Law

The criminal justice system can feel foreign to many who have not had cause to be involved in its workings. This can be on account of the processes, discussion matter and even the language used by criminal lawyers, prosecutors and Magistrates / Judges. The experience can be even more confusing when the parties use phrases in Latin during their submissions or deliberations. For this reason, we have summarised some commonly used Latin phases that you might encounter in criminal law.

Bona fides

If a party is acting ‘bona fides’, they are said to be acting in in good faith with the other parties, with honest intentions and absent of deliberate wrongdoing or intentions to defraud.

De novo

When a matter is listed for hearing ‘de novo’, this means that it is to be heard over again from the beginning. The classic example of a de novo hearing is an appeal from the Magistrates’ Court to the County Court where the entire case is started afresh.

Doli incapax

If someone is ‘doli incapax’ they lack the mental capacity to form intent to commit a criminal offence. This term is often used with reference to children or persons diagnosed with significant mental illness.

Ex parte

If a matter is heard ‘ex parte’, it is heard in the absence of one of the parties.

Ignorantia juris non excusat

This phase itself is not used that commonly aloud, but is a maxim (adage or truism) regularly applied by the Court. Simply it says that being ignorant of the law, or a lacking knowledge of the law, does not excuse ones actions.

Modus operandi

Often referred to on TV shows as the accused ‘M.O’, the ‘modus operandi’ refers to a characteristic or method of operation used by a person.

Prima facie

Simply translated to ‘on the face of it’ or ‘as it appears’.

If you have a Court case which you want to discuss with one of Melbourne’s best criminal lawyers give us a call for a free conference on 9670 1550.