Judicial Restraint

Definition - What does Judicial Restraint mean?

Judicial restraint is when a judge only metes out sentences that are exactly defined within the law.

Judges are allowed to apply discretion to sentencing, and are also allowed to interpret their own meaning from a law as long as it is kept within context. When a judge shows judicial restraint, it means that they are unwilling to apply any latitude to the sentencing that they might have otherwise been able to do by considering mitigating factors.

Justipedia explains Judicial Restraint

A good example of this is when a person unintentionally commits a crime because they were caught off guard. One example would be someone driving a car while a bee is in the driver's face, which forces the driver to swerve and hit a sign. The judge could use judicial restraint, accept that the driver did not intend to recklessly drive the car, and throw out the case; or they could say that the driver was guilty of reckless driving and convict the driver on it. If the judge convicted the driver, it would be seen as judicial restraint in that the only factor they considered was that the driver was in charge of the vehicle that hit the sign, contrary to law and in a reckless fashion.

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