This guide is an introduction to mistrials in Central Texas counties such as Comal County, Hays County, and Guadalupe County.
What Is A Mistrial?
The judge can declare a mistrial if a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict. In this case, a mistrial means the trial ended without a decision on guilt or innocence.
A mistrial must be declared before a jury reaches a verdict and the judge announces it. It can also occur during the trial if one side violates specific rules of evidence.
For example, if a defendant has a previous criminal conviction, the prosecutor usually cannot mention it during the trial. The judge will probably declare a mistrial if the prosecutor improperly brings up the criminal conviction.
The goal of every criminal trial is to conclude with a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. While this happens in most cases, your criminal defense attorney occasionally deals with trials that end in a mistrial.
Why Might A Mistrial Be Declared?
Courts declare mistrials in several circumstances. Usually, this occurs when reaching a final verdict in a criminal trial is impossible:
- The jury cannot come to a unanimous decision (i.e., there is a “hung” jury).
- The State improperly introduced evidence or someone tampered with evidence.
- The judge finds a juror prejudiced or incompetent, or the jury is selected improperly.
- A party accuses a juror of misconduct, such as discussing the case with the media, contacting one of the parties involved, or considering evidence not admitted in the trial.
- A party accuses an attorney on either side of the matter of misconduct.
- A juror or attorney passes away during the trial.
- The court lacks jurisdiction to try the case (i.e., venue).
- A disruption occurs that makes a fair trial impossible for the defendant.
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 thrown out, which is incorrect.
When a trial ends in a mistrial, the State usually tries the case again. However, sometimes a mistrial suggests that the State has a weak case, and they dismiss the charges.
There are occasions when the parties can avoid a retrial. Examples are when the State agrees to drop the charges against the defendant or the parties make a successful plea bargain.
Mistrials Are Declared to Ensure A Fair Trial
When a judge declares a mistrial, it is usually due to a violation of the rules of evidence or code of criminal procedure that would make a fair trial for the defendant impossible.
Often, a mistrial can benefit the defendant, mainly if it results in the dismissal of charges. Other times, defense lawyers know that a mistrial can make the retrial even more challenging.
Defendants must work with an experienced attorney who can protect their rights during the trial when a mistrial is declared and in future proceedings.
Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with a crime in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.