Los Angeles Role of the Judge

Judge gavel

When a defendant has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense, he or she will appear in the Superior Court before a judge or commissioner of the Court. While judges preside over the Court, many defendants are surprised to learn that judges do not have limitless powers and what a judge can and cannot do is strictly controlled by law. It is important that anyone who has been charged with a crime understand the role of the judge in the criminal process.

In Los Angeles, a person who has been charged criminally may appear before a judge or a commissioner of the Court. Judges are attorneys who have either been elected to the bench or have been appointed by the Governor. Although the Governor may make interim appointments, all judges are required to stand for election every few years. Commissioners are attorneys who are hired by the Superior Court and are authorized to perform all of the same duties of the judge. Both the prosecution and defense must stipulate to a commissioner before the commissioner can hear contested issues. Once that stipulation is made, the commissioner has the same powers that a judge has.

The judge’s main role is to make sure that a case moves along and to rule on contested issues. Many people are surprised to learn that judges often do not decide what penalties a defendant will receive. In many cases, the prosecution and defense will be responsible for exchanging evidence and negotiating a resolution to the case. If a plea agreement is reached, the judge will generally follow the terms of the agreement reached by the parties and will sentence the defendant in accordance with the plea agreement. Some judges take a more active role in resolving cases assigned to them and will often make offers to the defense over the prosecutor’s objection.

Part of a judge’s responsibilities is to hear legal motions that may be submitted by either party. Both the prosecution and defense can submit motions and there may be a hearing where evidence is presented. During these contested hearings, the judge will ultimately make rulings of law based on the legal arguments and rulings of fact based on the evidence presented in the hearing.

If the case goes to trial, the defendant is entitled to have a jury hear the case or can have a bench trial in which the judge would hear the evidence. If the defendant chooses a jury trial, the judge will rule on issues such as the admissibility of evidence, jury instructions and any other issues that may arise. In a jury trial, the judge is responsible for ensuring the defendant receives a fair trial but will not rule on whether or not the defendant is guilty. If the defendant chooses a bench trial, the judge will rule on both legal issues that may arise and will ultimately act as the trier of fact and will issue a verdict once the case has been submitted.

If a defendant is convicted at trial, the judge is responsible for sentencing the defendant. The sentence imposed must comply with the relevant statutory guidelines.

If you have been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you meet with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly respected by area judges, who hold Mr. Kraut in high regard due to his impressive litigation skills and numerous accomplishments as a prosecutor. Mr. Kraut understands how to effectively defend clients who have been charged with criminal offenses.

For more information about the role of the judge in Los Angeles, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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