Criminal cases consist of actions brought against someone (i.e. the defendant) by a governmental jurisdiction (i.e. the plaintiff). In criminal cases, the defendant will have been accused of committing either a felony or a misdemeanor. A felony refers to a more serious crime and entails that the defendant, if judged to be guilty of the charge(s), be subjected to a jail term of one year or more. A misdemeanor refers to a less serious crime and entails that the defendant, if judged to be guilty of the charge(s), be subjected to a monetary fine. Criminal cases are normally heard during a trial by a judge and jury of the defendant’s peers. Criminal court records include the various documents generated by the criminal case proceedings, which would include depositions and a transcript of the trial.
Criminal cases, in the Eighteenth and early-Nineteenth Centuries, were referred to as courts of Oyer and Terminer. The term ‘oyer and terminer’ are translated to mean ‘to hear and determine’. When necessary, if a court of quarter session was deemed inadequate to determine a criminal case, a court of Oyer and Terminer would be called. Usually one or more justices of the peace from outside the local region would be called upon to travel to and judge the case. The judgement handed down by the court of Oyer and Terminer was binding and the punishment of the defendant, if found guilty, was usually carried out soon after the trial.