If you face a criminal charge for a sex crime, drug crime, domestic assault or some other crime, you’re probably wondering about possible outcomes. One you’ve likely heard about is a mistrial.
But what exactly is a mistrial?
Definition of “mistrial”
According to the American Bar Association, a mistrial is a trial which isn’t successfully completed. Instead, for various reasons, the trial is stopped and declared void. It then has no bearing on your case, present or future.
A mistrial must be declared before a jury renders its verdict, or before a judge renders a verdict in a case not being tried with a jury. A mistrial cannot be declared after a verdict is reached.
To have a mistrial declared, an attorney for either side can file a motion with the court requesting it. The judge then denies or grants the request for a mistrial. If it’s denied, the trial continues.
Why do mistrials happen?
A mistrial can occur for a variety of reasons, including:
- Most commonly, the jury is deadlocked and cannot reach a unanimous decision. Also known as a “hung jury,” such a deadlock doesn’t mean the defendant is innocent or guilty.
- The jury selection is deemed improper or incorrect. Perhaps jury members are later found to have conflicts of interest in the case.
- A juror behaves improperly, such as discussing the ongoing trial with the news media.
- A juror or attorney in the case dies.
- Given the circumstances of the case, it’s found that the court lacks proper jurisdiction to try it.
- Misconduct is found in an attorney for either side.
- Certain evidence was improperly introduced.
Other procedural grounds for a mistrial also may apply.
What happens after a mistrial?
As for what happens after a mistrial is declared, such events can include:
- Another criminal trial is scheduled based on the same charge. In effect, the trial process starts over. The second trial isn’t considered to be unfair “double jeopardy” since the first one was declared void as a mistrial.
- The prosecutor can dismiss the charge or charges, and the case can be closed.
- A plea bargain agreement can be reached between the prosecutor and defense attorney. Such agreements normally are reached before a trial is held. If that did not happen in your case, but the ensuing mistrial showed difficulty in prosecuting, a plea bargain to resolve the case in your favor would become more likely.
In any event, you need a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle your case from the start, and our law firm can provide you with one.
If a trial is held, we can uphold your right to due process by fighting to show that the prosecutor can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. And if your trial ends in a mistrial, we can fight to resolve the case in your favor without need for another trial.
We hope we’ve answered your questions about what a mistrial in Texas looks like. Feel free to contact us for a free legal review of your case. There’s no obligation. Houston criminal defense lawyers are ready to help you.