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Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'O'

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 26, 2014 12:23 PM

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

If you've ever tried to decipher a section of your state's code or make sense of a legal document, you've likely encountered legalese, the specialized language of lawyers, judges, and those in the legal field.

Each week, as part of a continuing series Legalese From A to Z, we're taking a closer look at noteworthy bits of legalese. Today, we take on five legal terms that start with the letter "O":

  • Objection. Anyone who's been to court, or at least watched a courtroom drama on TV, has likely heard a lawyer yell "objection!" Although rarely as dramatic as on TV, objections are made at trial for the purpose of opposing the admission of evidence or the method of questioning by opposing counsel. The judge can then sustain the objection -- in which case the opposing counsel must rephrase his question or address the issue regarding the admissibility of his evidence -- or overrule the objection, in which case the evidence is admitted or the witness allowed to answer.
  • Obscene. One of the exceptions to the First Amendment right to free speech is speech that is considered obscene, or deeply offensive to contemporary community standards of morality or decency. Those whose speech is deemed obscene may face criminal penalties or even imprisonment.
  • Open fields doctrine. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that police need a warrant to conduct a search of an individual's person, home, business, or property. However, under the open fields doctrine, police may make a warrantless search of the area outside of a person's home or other outdoor areas that are in plain view.
  • Overbreadth. When a law is challenged as being unconstitutional, it may be struck down by the court for overbreadth if its application results in the prohibition of conduct that is protected by the constitution, such as free speech.
  • Oyez. If you've ever wondered what the bailiff is saying as the judge enters a judicial proceeding, the word is "oyez," Anglo-French for "hear ye." Oyez is used to call attention of those present to the commencement of the proceeding.

If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. In next week's Legalese From A to Z, we'll explain five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "P."

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