By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
A mistrial is a declaration the judge makes to immediately halt and end a trial in progress. Normally a mistrial is declared when a circumstance arises that taints the process beyond repair. In certain situations, a mistrial can also result in an acquittal of a criminal defendant, but most merely result in the case being reset to a new trial status as if the mistrial had never taken place.
The circumstances which could cause a mistrial are seemingly endless. More common reasons for mistrials are hung juries (meaning the jury couldn’t decide a case unanimously after a lengthy deliberation), or what is known as a “busted panel” which means after jury selection there were not enough qualified jurors to form a complete jury. Other common reasons are improper arguments by a party, unexpected or improper comments from a witness, and on some occasions juror misconduct.
A judge has wide discretion to declare a mistrial. When a mistrial is declared it normally means the case starts anew and typically goes back to trial. If the State intentionally causes a mistrial it can lead to a dismissal in some instances.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.