A Legal Term You Need to Know – Redact

As we've mentioned in previous posts and in the Guerrilla Guides to the Law, nothing makes a pro se litigant look sillier or marks you as a rookie more than using the wrong terminology or mispronouncing legal terms in court or to an opposing lawyer. That is why it is important to learn the legal terms you need to know.

Much of the mystique of the legal system comes from the use of terminology with deep and antiquated roots, like the use of Latin terms when English ones would work just as well. Occasionally legal terms are used not because of the lawyers trying to show off, but because a short legal term can be used to describe a complex legal idea. An example of this would be mens rea. It really means something like "the guilty mind" but actually means the state of mind which a defendant possesses, or doesn't possess, when committing a criminal action or omission. It' s easier just to say mens rea and everybody involved knows what you are talking about.

However, many other situations don't require that the more complex terminology be used. For example, jury selection is an adequate substitute for voir dire and avoids the necessity of trying to pronounce it correctly (and the pronunciation varies by location).

So now that I've went all the way around the bush, I come back to a legal term that is important to know.

Redact. (To hear it pronounced go here).

To redact means to obscure or censor a portion of text, video, or audio for some legal purpose. It is similar to edit, but not exactly the same. Typically, when a document is "redacted" the party either whites out (with the product White Out) or crosses through the part that is not meant to be seen with a black magic marker. This is so that all of the other portions are visible and just the part that is objected to or not allowed into evidence can be seen.

Redact is one of those words that is used a lot and nothing else quite means the same, although edit is close but editing something suggests that you are doing more than just striking out specific parts.

This is just a little tip, but when the time arises the use of the wrong word or failing to understand what redacted means can cause problems for you.

Later on we will discuss how to redact something using both simple tools or something like Adobe Acrobat.

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