Guatemalan Legal Terms

Abogado Defensor – The defense attorney.

Amparo – An interlocutory appeal, which can be made at any time prior to conviction.

Corte de Apelación – The court of appeals.

Corte Suprema – The Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court, it hears appeals of decisions of the court of appeals. Its decisions are binding on all lower courts.

Debate – Oral trial.

Delito – A felony offense.

Falta – A misdemeanor offense.

Fase Intermedia – The probable cause phase, in which a decision is made whether a case will go to trial.

Fiscal – The prosecutor.

Habeas Corpus – Petition presented on behalf of missing or illegally detained persons. Unlike most petitions to Guatemalan courts, it does not have to be filed by a Guatemalan attorney.

Juez – The judge.

Juez de Paz – Justice of the Peace. Empowered to preside over trials of misdemeanors, traffic-related cases, or where the penalty is a fine.

Prisión Preventiva – Pre-trial detention.

Procedimientos Prepatorios – The pre-trial investigation conducted by the prosecutor.

Proceso Abreviado – A plea bargain procedure for offenses that carry a penalty not exceeding five years in prison. Any plea bargain must be agreed to by the accused and his or her lawyer and approved by the Tribunal de Primera Instancia Penal.

Recurso de Apelación Especial – Post-conviction appeal on an error of a decision of law or sentence of the trial court.

Recurso de Revisión – A special, post-conviction appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis of the discovery of new, disculpatory evidence.

Tribunal de Primera Instancia Penal – The criminal court responsible for issuing warrants for searches, seizures and arrests, conducting the fase intermedia and determining whether pre-trial detention is warranted.

Tribunal de Primera Instancia de Sentencia – The criminal trial court responsible for conducting the trial, determining the guilt or innocence of the accused, and imposing the sentence.