Plain Error Definition and Legal Meaning
On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Plain Error, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.
What is Plain Error?
It is an error commited by the trial court and discovered by the appeal court which can lead to reversal of decisions or orders made by the trial court.
History and Meaning of Plain Error
Plain Error is a legal term that refers to an error made by the trial court during a trial or hearing that the appellate court reviews and may overturn. One of the key requirements of Plain Error is that the error must be plain, meaning it is an obvious and clear mistake, rather than a subtle or insignificant one. Additionally, the error must have affected the outcome of the case and must have been objected to at trial to be raised on appeal.
The concept of Plain Error has been used in the legal system for centuries and is designed to ensure that trials are conducted fairly and that errors are corrected. The term was first used in the United States appellate courts in the early 20th century and has since become a standard part of the appeals process in many jurisdictions around the world.
Examples of Plain Error
During a trial, the judge allows evidence to be admitted that was clearly inadmissible under the rules of evidence. This error was not objected to at trial, but the appellate court determines that it was a Plain Error that affected the outcome of the case, and reverses the decision of the trial court.
The prosecution makes a statement during their closing argument that is inflammatory and prejudicial to the defendant. The defense team raises an objection but is overruled by the judge. On appeal, the appellate court finds that the statement was a Plain Error and reverses the conviction.
During a trial, the judge fails to make a required legal instruction to the jury. The defense team objects, but the judge refuses to give the instruction. On appeal, the appellate court finds that the failure to give the instruction was a Plain Error that affected the outcome of the case, and reverses the decision of the trial court.
Legal Terms Similar to Plain Error
Harmless Error: An error that does not affect the outcome of a case and does not require a new trial or a change in the verdict.
Reversible Error: An error made by the trial court that is serious enough to warrant a reversal of the decision.
Waived Error: An error that is not raised at trial and is therefore waived, meaning it cannot be raised on appeal.