What Does "Waive" Mean?

A contract may contain a clause that disclaims one party’s right to sue for certain reasons, which is commonly known as a “waiver".
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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2015
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In legal terms, the word "waive" is a shortened form of "waiver of rights" and is used in a number of different contexts. Most jurisdictions afford people a number or rights that are absolute in nature, meaning that they must affirmatively give them up if they choose to do so. Rights are commonly waived in both civil and criminal legal matters.

Rights are frequently waived in a criminal case. Some of the basic rights afforded anyone accused of a crime within the United States are likely familiar to many people. The right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, and the right to confront witnesses are among many of the rights that an accused has in a criminal case. One of the rights that an accused may waive in a criminal investigation is the right to remain silent. Most law enforcement agencies require a suspect to sign a rights waiver if the suspect decides to waive that right and make a statement to the police.


Some criminal cases are resolved by the defendant accepting a plea of guilty in lieu of trial. In order for the court to accept the plea of guilty, the defendant must first waive a number of rights that are guaranteed under the US Constitution, such as the right to confront and cross examine witnesses and the right to have a jury of the defendant's peers decide his or her guilt. In most cases, the defendant will have to sign the plea agreement acknowledging that he or she is giving up those rights and the court will also question the defendant at the time the guilty plea is tendered to the court.

In civil cases, a number of procedural rights may be waived by a party. For example, a respondent to a civil lawsuit, such as a divorce, has a right to be legally served with the complaint or petition. Many couples will choose to save the time and money by allowing the petitioner to serve the respondent. In that case, the respondent will need to waive his or her right to being served by another method and will need to sign an acknowledgment to that effect.

A waiver of the right to a trial by jury is another right that is often waived in either a civil or criminal matter. The right to a trial by jury may be afforded the parties in either a civil or criminal case, depending on the jurisdiction. If the parties choose to waive that right, then a waiver of trial by jury will need to be filed with the court.


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