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prima facie - Literally, "on its face." A fact presumed to be true unless disproved by some other evidence. In a criminal case, when the prosecution rests, the state's case is said to be prima facie, if the evidence so far introduced is sufficient to convict.  

privileged communications - Confidential communications to certain persons that are protected by law against any disclosure, including forced disclosure in legal proceedings. Communications between lawyer and client, physician and patient, psychotherapist and patient, priest, minister or rabbi and penitent are typically privileged.  

probable cause - A judicial finding that there exists reasonable grounds for belief that a person should be arrested or searched.  

probate - The process of proving the validity of a will.  

probation - A sentence releasing a convicted criminal into the community or a treatment facility under the supervision of a probation officer, requiring compliance with certain conditions. If the conditions are not met, the court orders an "Order to Show Cause" hearing as to why probation should not be revoked and the sentence imposed.  

pro se - For himself; in his own behalf. One who does not retain a lawyer and appears for himself in court.  

prosecutor - The name of the public officer who is appointed in each county to conduct criminal prosecutions on behalf of the state or people.  

protective custody - In child abuse and neglect cases, the emergency removal of child from his home when the child would be in imminent danger if allowed to remain with the parent(s) or custodian(s).  

protective supervision - A court order following a judgment on the ground of neglect or abuse, whereby the child is permitted to remain in his home, and supervision and assistance to correct the neglect or abuse is provided by the probation department or other agency designated by the court.  

proximate cause - In a civil tort action such as a medical malpractice suit, the plaintiff must show that an act or omission of the defendant was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury or loss. Similarly, in a criminal action, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's action was the direct cause of the crime.  

public defender - Lawyers regularly employed by the government to represent people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire their own. The term may also be used to refer to a private firm receiving public money to defend indigent criminal defendants.  

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