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Mistrials And Florida Criminal Law


Due process of law requires that, in order to ensure a fair trial with a fair outcome, all parties must do everything right.  Prosecutors must disclose the evidence that they plan to present at trial, so that the judge can decide whether it is admissible in court, and the defendant can come up with arguments as to why this evidence does not prove the defendant’s guilt.  Defendants must not tamper with evidence or attempt to influence witnesses, jurors, or judges; sometimes judges even order defendants to remain in jail until the trial in order to prevent this type of misconduct.  Jurors must not serve on the jury unless they can be impartial about the case.  If anything goes wrong with the process, the trial cannot proceed.  Procedural errors are one reason for delays in the start date of criminal trials, but if something goes wrong once the trial has begun, the court can declare a mistrial.  Depending on the circumstances, a mistrial can be the resolution you have hoped for, or just another phase of uncertainty.  The best way to ensure that the court declares a mistrial in your case if and only if it is appropriate to do so is to contact a West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer.

Mishaps at Trial That Can Lead to a Mistrial

These are some errors and circumstances that can lead the court to declare a mistrial in a criminal case:

  • A prosecution lawyer says something to the jury that renders it impossible for them to be impartial in their verdict, such as mentioning the defendant’s prior criminal record.
  • A lawyer involved in the case proves to the judge that a piece of evidence the other side has already presented to the jury is inadmissible.
  • Jurors engage in misconduct, such as by talking to people connected to the case. Since the advent of smartphones, the courts have heard many cases in which they must decide which Google searches by jurors count as misconduct and necessitate a mistrial.
  • After hearing all the arguments and testimony and seeing all the exhibits, the jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict.

If Not a Verdict, Then What?

What happens after a mistrial depends in large part on the error that led the court to declare a mistrial.  For example, if it is about inadmissibility of evidence, then the court may decide that, based only on the evidence still considered admissible, it does not have a case against the defendant, so it will drop the charges.  In the case of lack of unanimity among the jury, the court may decide to order a new trial.  It may also decide that it is not possible to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt, so it may drop the charges in that case, too.

Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Attorney William Wallshein has more than 33 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County.  Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.



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