The goal with every criminal trial is that it can be successfully decided with a verdict of either guilty or not guilty.
While this is what happens in the majority of cases, criminal defense lawyers do occasionally deal with cases that end in a mistrial.
A mistrial is the term declared when the case cannot be concluded in a satisfactory way to determine guilt or innocence.
There are a number of reasons why criminal defense attorneys might end up with a case that is declared a mistrial.
What Is A Mistrial?
A mistrial is a criminal trial that must be ended without reaching a satisfactory verdict.
The declaration is made by the judge after defense lawyers and prosecutors have both presented their cases and the jury, if it is a jury trial, has discussed the case in private.
A mistrial must be declared prior to any verdict being reached and is most often delivered by the judge.
At that point, the trial is terminated and dismissed as if it did not happen, after which criminal defense lawyers may need to regroup with defendants to prepare for a retrial.
Why Might A Mistrial Be Declared?
Mistrials are declared in a number of situations that make reaching a final verdict in a criminal trial impossible:
- The jury cannot come to a unanimous decision, i.e.: there is a “hung” jury.
- Evidence has been improperly introduced or tampered with.
- A juror is found to be prejudiced or incompetent or the jury has been improperly chosen.
- A juror is accused of misconduct, such as discussing the case with the media, contacting one of the parties involved in the case, considering evidence that was not admitted in the trial as official evidence, and others.
- An attorney on either side of the case is accused of misconduct.
- A juror or attorney passes away during the trial.
- It is determined that the court lacks jurisdiction to actually try the case.
- Some other disruption that makes a fair trial for the defendant impossible.
What Happens After A Mistrial Is Declared?
Criminal defense attorneys find that many people wrongfully believe a mistrial is the same as receiving a not guilty verdict and having the case completely thrown out, which is incorrect.
While the immediate trial may be dismissed, defendants will in most cases still require representation by their criminal defense lawyer once a retrial is scheduled to determine their guilt or innocence.
There are occasions when a retrial can be avoiding, such as times when the prosecution agrees to drop the charges against the defendant in consideration of the mistrial or when defense lawyers and defendants can successfully plea bargain with prosecutors.
Mistrials Are Declared to Ensure A Fair Trial
When a judge declares a mistrial, criminal defense attorneys find that it is usually either due to a hung jury or because something has happened outside the rules of the trial that could prevent the defendant from receiving a fair trial.
Many times a mistrial can be beneficial to the defendant, especially if it results in the dismissal of charges.
Other times, defense lawyers know that a mistrial can make the retrial even more challenging.
In either case, it’s important that defendants work with experienced legal representatives who can uphold their rights and see them through their entire trial, even when a mistrial is declared and further legal action is required afterward!