What Does It Mean When A Judge Says Sustained?

In a court of law, there is a lot of legal terminology that is used, and if you don’t have a law degree yourself, you might be wondering what these words and phrases actually mean.

You might hear words like ‘sustained’ or ‘overruled’ and, without having the necessary background knowledge, be completely lost as to what they mean in a courtroom.  

It is especially important to know the meanings of these words if it is your own case that is on trial in court, so you can keep up with what is going on and being said around you.

In this article, we are going to explain what all of the legal jargon actually means so that you can have a better understanding of what is being said in court.

This includes the definition of words like ‘sustained’ that you might hear multiple times throughout the session, and now you can find out what it means.

The Trial Process

During the trial, the prosecution is required to bring evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the alleged crime.

The defendant is innocent until they have been proved guilty, and different offenses will have different requirements that need to be either proved or disproved. Throughout the trial, witnesses will be called to the stand that will be cross-examined by both sides.

What is Cross-Examination?

In court, the witness will be given the opportunity to share their version of events and explain what it is that they witnessed happen.

A witness will be cross-examined, which is when the other side is allowed to ask the witness questions that they have put together beforehand, which will try to undermine the evidence that the witness has given.

The purpose of cross-examination is for the opposing side to be able to establish their version of events to the witness, which is often called ‘putting the case’. They are also able to raise any issues that they see fit to raise and ask about any other relevant information.

The opposing side is able to test the evidence that has been given by the witness to expose any weaknesses in their story if possible. This would undermine the story that they have told and is what they hope to achieve.

This will also include the testing of how reliable the witness is and whether or not the evidence that they have provided is credible enough to hold up in court. 

When the defense puts their version of events forward, they can test the witness using their own version of what they have concluded really happened. They can use any information and evidence that they have gathered to test the witness’s version of events.

If the defense believes that something is being left out of the story or that their evidence was not truthful, they can put forward their version of events to try and discredit the witness.

By the time that the cross-examination is over, the defense’s case will be made clear. It should be noted that the defense cannot directly suggest through speech that the witness is mistaken or lying about their version of events.

What Does the Judge Do in Court?

In a courtroom, the judge will have the final say of whether or not something that has been said in court will stand or not. The judge has the ability to have statements removed from the record if they deem the questions asked to be unfair or argumentative.

During a trial, the judge’s duty is to uphold the law and make sure that justice is made. They will analyze and interpret all of the evidence that is given in court for a variety of cases, and they get to decide whether or not the questions being asked in court are fair and relevant.

Essentially, the judge acts as a mediator of sorts in a court of law, and they take part in many different cases. 

What Does it Mean When a Judge Says Sustained?

You will hear many terms that you might not understand in a courtroom, but it can be really beneficial to know what is happening around you, especially if you are the defendant in question.

When a trial is taking place, there will be two sides to every case, which are the defense and the prosecution. While either side is questioning a witness in court, the opposing side can interject if they think that the questions being asked are irrelevant, argumentative, repetitive, or speculative.

If they believe this to be true of the questions that are being asked, they can object to the questioning and give their reasoning. This is where you might hear phrases like ‘objection, argumentative’, and this means that they object to the questions being asked because the interrogator is being argumentative. 

The judge will decide whether or not they agree with the objection, and to do this, they will respond with either ‘overruled’ or ‘sustained’. These two responses will indicate if the judge agrees or disagrees with the objection, and this is the deciding factor.

The judge’s decision is final and will determine whether or not the questioning can continue or if they need to ask different questions to continue. 

If the judge responds with ‘sustained’, it means that they agree with the objection, and the questions that are being asked must be stopped. The person asking the questions must move on to other questions that they have prepared.

They may also be asked to rephrase the question if it has been worded argumentatively. 

If the judge responds with ‘over-ruled’, it means that they have rejected the decision to object, and the questioning may continue. They may also prompt the person being questioned to answer, and the person asking may be required to ask the question again.


A quick answer to the question ‘what does it mean when the judge says sustained’ is that it means the judge is agreeing with any objection that has been made in the courtroom.

It is a phrase that will be heard often throughout a trial. 


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