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Defendant is used to describe two different types of parties in a legal proceeding.

In civil law, a defendant is a person against whom claim is brought by a complainant or plaintiff. The defendant or defendants must be named in the originating process and must be served with that process. The defendant may then file an answer to the claim, or if they do not, face the sanction of being noted in default.

In criminal law, a defendant is a person against whom a charge of a crime is brought. The defendant is required to appear in court to enter a plea to the charge and to face trial.