We investigate the influence of a judge’s objective function on the type of sanctions used for enforcing environmental standards. We focus on the difference between monetary and non-monetary penalties. Therefore, we examine the extent to which judges take social costs of sanctions into account when making judgments in court in the context of environmental violations. Furthermore, we conduct an empirical analysis to test the main findings of the theoretical model using court data from several Belgian jurisdictions. We find that besides minimizing environmental damages judges also take social costs of sanctions into account in their decision-making.