What is a Mistrial In a Criminal Case?

Posted on November 16

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In criminal law, trials usually end with a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. However, there are cases when the court ends in neither. These are mistrials. Mistrials are incomplete trials that are declared void. If grounds are met, a judge can stop the legal proceedings. A motion for a mistrial must be submitted before a verdict can be announced. The judge will decide whether a mistrial has indeed occurred.

When a mistrial occurs and is not recognized as such, it can result in a false conviction and cost an innocent person a host of troubles. A wrongful conviction is considered a miscarriage of justice and can have long-lasting effects on a person’s life. As many as 6% of all people incarcerated in the United States have been proven to be wrongfully convicted. A competent Long Island criminal defense attorney can be the last line of defense in identifying a mistrial and avoiding a wrongful conviction. 

When Can a Mistrial Be Called?

When a judge declares a mistrial, it means that the trial has been interrupted and cannot continue. A mistrial can be called for several reasons, including:

  • The jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a verdict – In most federal jury trials, a unanimous verdict is required while some states only require a majority to reach a verdict. In New York, a verdict can only be declared in a criminal case when the jury is unanimous. 
  • Jury tampering or juror misconduct – Jurors have a code of conduct that they need to follow during legal proceedings. In some cases, jurors are forbidden to discuss details of the case with outsiders. If a juror is proven to have engaged in such conduct, the judge might declare a mistrial.
  • Presentation of inadmissible evidence – Only admissible evidence can be presented in court. Inadmissible evidence, such as those obtained illegally, hearsay, or general evidence that cannot be introduced to a factfinder, cannot be admitted in court.
  • Improper selection of jurors – The voir dire process is used in selecting jurors that would be able to exercise their duty impartially. If a juror lied during the voir dire process or lawyers used improper factors in selecting the jurors, a mistrial can be called.
  • The defendant confesses to the crime outside of court – This excludes cases wherein the defendant confesses to the crime under duress
  • A key actor, such as a witness, judge, or attorney, becomes unavailable – The unavailability of a key actor in a trial may prompt a judge to postpone the trial if possible until such a time that all actors can participate in the proceedings
  • The judge makes a ruling that unfairly favors one side – Judicial misconduct can range from failure to execute their duties in a timely fashion to not excusing themselves when they have a conflict of interest.

A mistrial can be declared at any point during the trial, even after deliberations have begun and a verdict has been reached but before it is officially announced in court. If a mistrial is declared, the entire trial process must start over from the beginning with a new jury or with a different presiding judge if judicial misconduct was found in the case.

Impacts of a Mistrial in a Case

If a judge declares a mistrial, the defendant is not automatically acquitted and the charges are not dropped. The double jeopardy rule does not apply in cases of mistrial because, technically, the first trial was never completed. If a defendant is found not guilty in a criminal trial, the charges against them are dismissed and they cannot be tried again for the same crime. However, if the jury is unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial is declared, the prosecution may choose to retry the defendant.

In some cases, the defendant may want to waive their right to a new trial in exchange for a plea deal. This can be advantageous for both parties as it avoids the costs and uncertainties of another trial. However, accepting a plea deal can be disadvantageous for the defendant if the plea deal is not as favorable as the potential outcome of a new trial.

There are also cases where the prosecution does not proceed with a retrial. Such a case can happen if the prosecution does not believe that they have enough evidence to convict, possibly due to evidence being declared inadmissible. Charges against the defendant may be dismissed if the prosecution doesn’t call for a retrial.

Being involved in a mistrial can be a source of conflicting emotions in defendants. A mistrial can further amplify the sense of anxiety and stress a defendant may be feeling due to further postponement of their case. A defendant may also be more likely to accept a plea bargain that is disadvantageous to them just to get the matter over with. Having the help of a Long Island criminal defense attorney that has your best interest at heart is important.

Edward Palermo, a Long Island attorney with more than 28 years of experience in criminal law, may be able to help you. Before you make any decisions, explore your legal options with an attorney that can walk you through the complicated legal process. Our team of skilled Nassau County criminal defense attorneys at Edward Palermo Criminal Defense may be able to help you understand your rights. We provide aggressive legal representation and compassionate counsel. Call us today at (516) 280-2160 or (631) 265-1052 to schedule a complimentary consultation.

How Can an Attorney Help Me if My Case Results in a Mistrial?

The help of an experienced Long Island criminal defense attorney is crucial regardless of the criminal charges you are facing. Before making any decisions, consulting with a skilled attorney is important.

At Edward Palermo Criminal Defense, our team of skilled Suffolk and Nassau County attorneys is dedicated to protecting the legal rights of our clients. Our attorneys are well-equipped with the necessary skills to represent you in court in the interest of getting your charges reduced or even dismissed. We are committed to defending your right to due process and will help see your case through in your favor should an initial legal proceeding end in a mistrial.

Schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our qualified Long Island criminal defense attorneys today. Call us at (516) 280-2160 or (631) 265-1052. You may also fill out our online form.

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