Instructing the Jury


Jury instructions are the set of legal rules that jurors should follow when the jury is deciding a civil or criminal case.  Jury instruction are given by the court to a jury to advise the jury aboutlaw that applies to the case, and the manner in which the jury should conduct the deliberations after the presentation of all evidence and arguments.  In other words, it is the process by which the judges instruct the jurors on the law before the jury begins its deliberations.  They are often the subject of discussion by attorneys on both sides in the case, and the judge, in order to make sure their interests are represented and nothing prejudicial is said.

Jury instructions should contain a clear and specific description of the law.  States have a basic set of instructions, usually called “pattern jury instructions”, which provide the framework for the charge to the jury.

In some cases, the judge will give a “limiting” instruction to a jury concerning trial testimony and exhibits that are to be considered only for a limited purpose.  Improper explanations of the law to be applied in jury instructions mainly become the basis for later appeals.