What Contributes to a Mistrial? … and What Does It Mean for My Case?
While most of us have heard the term “mistrial,” few people really understand what a mistrial means. A mistrial occurs when some error in the trial process makes justice impossible if the proceedings continue. Sometimes this means that the jury is hung (that is, the jury can’t agree on a unanimous verdict). Other times, unfair comments by an attorney or a witness that reveal inadmissible evidence to the jury can be grounds for a mistrial. Even catastrophic circumstances, such as a death of a key player in the trial, such as a judge, an attorney, or a witness, can cause a mistrial. More recently, there has been a rise in mistrials due to jury misconduct. Usually, this is related to a member of the jury researching the case or related matters online.
Mistrials are rare, but when they happen, it is difficult to predict what their ultimate impact on the case will be. Generally, mistrials are only permitted when absolutely necessary in order to avoid some fundamental unfairness. If requested by you as the defendant, there can be a retrial, but the prosecution has to weight the merits. No matter what, the mistrial will lead to a delayed verdict or final outcome; however, mistrials can sometimes lead to an acquittal or an abandonment of the case by prosecutors.
Is My Case Over Once a Mistrial Has Been Declared?
As discussed before, a mistrial usually opens up the possibility of a retrial, but this is not the case if a judge dismisses the case with prejudice. In these cases, the judge is essentially saying that the trial has legally occurred already and, because of double jeopardy laws, cannot be tried again. Usually a trial is dismissed with prejudice only in the case of serious misconduct by the prosecution or the court. In certain high-profile cases, this also happens, because the extensive news coverage would make finding a new impartial jury impossible.
Generally speaking, your case isn’t automatically over just because a mistrial has been declared. That still doesn’t necessarily mean that you will end up back in court, though. A trial costs the prosecution time and effort to pursue. Therefore, many cases that end in mistrial are simply dropped due to the potential cost of a retrial. Since a verdict was impossible to get the first time around, it may be equally difficult to get at the second trial. If your case has gotten dismissed due to a mistrial, you cannot know for sure what to expect, but your lawyer will work hard to avoid you ending up back in the courtroom. For minor charges, you probably will be given a reprieve.
Since mistrials and other tricky courtroom situations come up fairly often in cases, it is important to have an experienced Pittsburgh criminal lawyer on your side to deal with whatever comes up during the criminal justice process. If you have been arrested in the Pittsburgh area, call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 today to see how we may be able to help. With years of experience defending our clients, we are prepared to deal with any legal situation that may come up.