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Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary
Learn the language of the law, without the legalese!
Open the average law dictionary and chances are you'll feel more confused than before you read a word. Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary is different. From "abrogate" to "zero tape", we've cut down on the Latin and defined common (and some not-so-common) terms you can really use to understand and access the law.
Set aside those dusty, outdated law dictionaries! Written for the 21st century, this essential reference contains complete definitions of the legal terms you need today. If you're a law student, paralegal, accountant, small business owner or librarian -- anyone whose work or life touches the law -- this fully up-to-date A to Z guide puts access to the law into your hands.
Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary contains 3,800 plain-English legal definitions, including many newly coined terms you'll find online and off, such as "typosquatting" and "patent troll". Of course, if you need definitions for legal standards -- even when they're in Latin -- you'll find those here too. Plus, find a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America for your reference in the pages following the complete list of definitions.
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May 01, 2009
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Excerpt from Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary by Nolo Press Editors
A Portion of "D" DefinitionsD.A. See: District Attorney
damages 1) In a lawsuit, the harm caused to a party who is injured. 2) In a lawsuit, the money awarded to one party based on injury or loss caused by the other. For either definition, there are many different types or categories of damages. (See also: compensatory damages, actual damages, special damages, general damages, exemplary damages, punitive damages, statutory damages, nominal damages)
dangerous weapon Any object, such as a gun, knife, sword, crossbow, or slingshot, that is intrinsically capable of causing serious bodily harm to another person. The definition becomes important in cases where criminal laws attach particular consequences to crimes performed with a dangerous weapon. (See also: deadly weapon)
Darby v. United States (1941) A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court, in a decision by Justice Harlan Stone, sustained the portion of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act prohibiting child labor and regulating wages and hours, on the basis that the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce included the authority to promote commerce as well as prohibit it, a position argued in a dissent by Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1916.
database A collection of information arranged in a way to facilitate updating and retrieval. Computer databases commonly consist both of materials protected by copyright and materials that are said to be in the public domain, either because their copyright has run out or because they consist of ideas and facts that themselves do not receive copyright protection. Despite the fact that the database owner may not own any copyright interest in any of the material in the database, the structure and organization of the database itself can qualify as an original work of authorship and thus be subject to copyright protection as a compilation. (See also: compilation)
date rape Forcible sexual intercourse by a male acquaintance of a woman, during a voluntary social engagement in which the woman did not intend to submit to the sexual advances and resisted the acts by verbal refusals, denials, pleas to stop, and/or fighting back. The fact that the parties knew each other or that the woman willingly accompanied the man are not legal defenses to a charge of rape.
d.b.a. (also known as DBA) See: doing business as
deadhand control An attempt to keep property in the hands of chosen family members or organizations through ownership interests that vest far into the future. In the law of wills and estates, deadhand control is restricted to lives in being at the time the will is executed plus 21 years. (This is known as the rule against perpetuities.)
deadly weapon A gun or other instrument, substance, or device, which is used or intended to be used in a way that is likely to cause death. A prosecutor who charges a defendant with " assault with a deadly weapon" must prove not only that the defendant assaulted the victim, but did so with a device that was capable of causing death. Some laws list "deadly weapons per se," which are weapons that by themselves are likely to cause death, such as a gun, regardless of the user's intent.
dead man's statute In the law of evidence, a rule that prevents a person making a claim against an estate from testifying about statements, actions, or promises made by the deceased person.
dealer Anyone who buys goods or property for the purpose of selling as a business. It is important to distinguish a dealer from someone who occasionally buys and occasionally sells, since dealers may need to obtain business licenses, register with the sales tax authorities, and may not defer capital gains taxes by buying other property.
death benefit Insurance or pension money payable to a deceased person's designated beneficiary.
death penalty The sentence of execution for murder and some other capital crimes. (See also: capital punishment)
death row The portion of a prison that houses prisoners who are under death sentences and are awaiting appeals or execution.
death taxes Taxes levied at death, based on the value of property left behind. There are two main types of death taxes in the United States: estate taxes and inheritance taxes. The federal government and some state governments impose estate taxes on decedent's estates. And some states levy inheritance taxes on people who inherit property.
debenture A type of bond (an interestbearing document that serves as evidence of an investment or debt) that does not require security in the form of a mortgage or lien on a specific piece of property. Repayment of a debenture is guaranteed only by the general credit of the issuer. For example, a corporation may issue a secured bond that gives the bondholder a lien on the corporation's factory. But if it issues a debenture, the loan is not secured by any property at all. When a corporation issues debentures, the holders are considered creditors of the corporation and are entitled to payment before shareholders if the business folds.