5 Reasons a Judge Could Declare a Mistrial in Your California Criminal Case

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 09, 2016 | 0 Comments

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We all have a constitutional right to a fair trial. When events happen during the course of a California criminal trial which put that right at risk, or if a jury is unable to reach a verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial.

What is a “Mistrial”?

Just like a “misfire” of a gun is a shot that either didn't go off as planned or didn't go off at all, a mistrial is a trial that either went so far off course as to require a new trial or didn't conclude as it was supposed to – with a verdict.

Either the defense or the prosecution can ask that a judge declare a mistrial at any time between the time the jury is sworn in and the time a verdict is rendered. Sometimes, a judge may declare a mistrial on their own.

If the prosecution requests a mistrial and/or a judge declares a mistrial over the defendant's objections, then the concept of “double jeopardy” will apply and an accused can raise it as a defense if the state decides it wants to try again to seek a conviction.

However, if there is some "legal necessity" that required the jury to be discharged, the double jeopardy defense is not available and the accused faces the possibility of going through another trial.

Causes of a Mistrial

There are a number of reasons that a mistrial may be declared in a criminal case. Five of the most common are:

  • a fundamental procedural, legal, or evidentiary error that cannot be cured by an instruction to the jury and which prejudices the defendant. Examples include improperly admitted and highly prejudicial evidence or very improper remarks by a prosecutor in their closing argument.
  • an impropriety in the selection or impaneling of the jury discovered during the trial, such as a relationship between one of the jurors and a party or witness.
  • juror misconduct, such as having contact with one of the parties, doing independent research about the case, considering evidence not presented at trial, or discussing the case with third-parties or the media.
  • the death of one of the attorneys or jurors during the trial
  • the jury is hopelessly deadlocked after deliberations and is unable to reach a verdict

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Shouse California Law Group represent individuals throughout California who have been charged with criminal offenses. If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges, please give us a call today.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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