What are the Roles of the Judge in a Criminal Trial?

Many people may understand the role of attorneys in a criminal case. However, many people don’t understand the role of the judge in a criminal trial. The judge has several responsibilities in a criminal trial, but their overarching job is to protect the rights of the accused and protect the interests of public administration.  

Roles of a Judge in a Criminal Trial 

Judges are to remain impartial in a criminal trial. Impartiality means that they are fair to both sides of the case – the defendant and the prosecutors. Trial judges generally do not have contact with the defendant, victims, witnesses, members of either side’s families, or the counsel without both parties present. The judge should strive to conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is above reproach, and not bring any appearance of bias. 

Preside and Keep Order 

Another role of a judge in criminal court is to preside over the court proceedings. As part of this role, the judge will maintain order in the court. A judge may say “order in the court” when people in the courtroom are being disruptive. This is the warning to all those in the courtroom that they need to follow the rules of the court.  

Make Decisions on Evidence 

The judge will also determine if evidence can be used or if it is illegal, improper, or irrelevant. In these cases, the judge may determine that the evidence is inadmissible in court. Some reasons evidence may be inadmissible could be that it is unfairly prejudicial, confusing, or based on hearsay. 

Instructions on the Law to the Jury, or Give Verdict 

Additionally, the judge gives the jury instructions about the law and how it applies to the case. Also, the judge instructs the jury on standards they must use to make their decision during deliberations. They will also explain the duties of the jury including the government’s duty to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. If reasonable doubt is present, an acquittal. In the case of a bench trial, or a trial without a jury, it is up to the judge to determine the facts about the case and give a verdict. 


If a defendant is convicted, the judge will decide the sentence. The sentence should be sufficient but not greater than necessary. The goal of the sentence is to reflect the seriousness of the offense and deter other criminal conduct and promote respect for the law. 

Appellate courts review the processes and procedures of lower courts to ensure that the proceedings were fair and that the law was applied correctly.  

We Can Help 

The roles of a judge in a criminal trial are important, but so is your defense. If you are charged with a crime, Koop Law Firm can help. Jeremy D. Koop is a former prosecutor and understands how to best fight for you. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice; it is for general informational purposes only.

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