Defendant Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Defendant, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Defendant?

n. 1) During a criminal prosecution, the party charged with a crime, or in a civil lawsuit, the party being sued. Respondent is another term for defendant.

History and Meaning of Defendant

The term defendant refers to a person who has been accused of committing a crime or sued in a civil lawsuit. The defendant is the party who must respond to the charges or allegations made against them, either by proving their innocence or defending their actions. This term has been a fundamental component of the legal system for centuries, dating back to the English common law. Before the modern justice system, defendants were often tried without legal representation or a fair trial, leading to significant abuses of power. Today, defendants in most countries have the right to a fair trial and legal representation, providing greater protection of their rights.

Examples of Defendant

  1. In a criminal case, the defendant is the person accused of committing the crime, such as robbery, kidnapping or murder.
  2. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant is the person or entity being sued, such as a company accused of discrimination or a landlord being sued for wrongful eviction.
  3. A defendant may also be referred to as the respondent in some legal proceedings, such as family law cases or employment disputes.
  4. In some cases, there may be multiple defendants, such as in a class-action lawsuit or criminal case involving accomplices.
  5. A defendant may be granted bail, allowing them to be released from custody while awaiting trial, by paying a sum of money or signing a bail bond.

Legal Terms Similar to Defendant

  1. Plaintiff - The party who initiates a civil lawsuit against the defendant.
  2. Accused - Another term for the defendant during a criminal case.
  3. Respondent - The term used for the defendant in some legal proceedings, as mentioned above.
  4. Convict - A person who has been found guilty of a crime.
  5. Appellant - The party who appeals a court ruling or decision, often the defendant in the original case.