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What is a mistrial, and how does it happen?

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2022 | Criminal Defense

If you are indicted and charged with a crime, the anticipated outcome is usually a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict. However, there are instances when a mistrial might occur. If this happens, the prosecution may decide to drop the charges or prepare another trial. 

Basically, a mistrial happens when the presiding judge declares the trial process null and void before a verdict is declared. When a mistrial is declared, any previous testimonies or findings may not be considered in a new trial. It is important to understand that a mistrial is not equivalent to an acquittal. But how does a mistrial happen?

Here are two instances when a mistrial may be declared in your criminal case:

When there is juror misconduct

While taking up their duties, jurors are usually taken through a code of conduct that they must abide by during the trial period, and this includes not discussing the evidence or trial with each other or anybody else and not allowing outside information to influence them.

The court may declare a mistrial if any of the jurors violates the set stipulations. 

After an improper jury selection

The defense and the prosecution may participate in the selection of the jurors through the voir dire process. The primary goal of voir dire is to ensure that each juror is interviewed to ascertain their competence and ability to decide on their case in a fair and impartial manner. 

The presiding judge may declare a mistrial if it is established that improper factors (like race and political affiliation) were used to select jurors. A mistrial can also be declared if a juror came into the proceedings with a foregone conclusion about the trial’s outcome.

Facing a criminal charge is a serious matter. Knowing your legal options can help you protect your rights and interests, especially when your case ends in a mistrial.