What Are Legal Proceedings?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Legal proceedings refer to processes that involve a court. Such a process may be criminal or civil, and there may be numerous reasons why a person may become involved. He may be accused of a crime, have a desire to enforce a right, or he may be seeking a remedy from a third party. It is common for there to be costs associated with legal proceedings. Depending on the type of legal process and the jurisdiction, a person may or may not be required to obtain a lawyer.

There are many civil processes that a person may get involved in, and although they can greatly differ, if they involve a court, they may be considered legal proceedings. For example, an individual may seek to obtain an injunction that forces a neighbor to remove abandoned cars from his yard. The complaining party, referred to as the plaintiff, may do this to serve a personal interest, which is protecting the value of her own property.

In another situation, a person may file a lawsuit against a motorist who crashed into her. The motive in this case is to seek a financial remedy for costs such as automotive repair and physical injuries. Though these two cases greatly differ, the process that must be followed for both are considered legal proceedings.


The steps that must be followed in a legal process will vary depending upon the desired outcome and the jurisdiction. Proceedings are generally initiated when one party presents a document to a court either outlining a problem or requesting certain action. This document may be called a motion, a request, or a demand.

It is common for a fee to be required if the court is to accept such a document and begin the legal proceedings. When a person is accused of a crime, the process tends to operate a bit differently. A prosecutor, which is a civil servant, initiates the process. Depending on the outcome of the legal proceedings, these fees or court fines are paid by the accused, plaintiff or defendant.

The course of a legal process is usually strictly defined. Everyone involved, including the court, any plaintiffs, and any defendants are usually bound by certain rules and granted certain rights. An accused, for example, must generally be given a chance to respond or defend herself before action is taken against her. In many jurisdictions, in criminal cases, an individual has the right to speedy legal proceedings. If this right is violated, the matter may be dismissed.


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