Every year in the Minnesota criminal courts, thousands of cases that involve driving while intoxicated are heard. Of these thousands of cases, not everyone can be tied up neatly with either a conviction or an acquittal. In some circumstances, criminal cases for DWIs in Minnesota can end in what is called a mistrial.
What is a mistrial, and how can it impact the charges against you? Does it mean you get off scot-free? Read on to learn more about what it means if your DWI case ends in a mistrial and your options should that occur.
Mistrial: What Is It?
A mistrial can occur under one of two circumstances in Minnesota criminal courts, either through a procedural hurdle that makes continuing the trial impossible or through a hung jury.
When something happens in the course of the trial – not related to the conduct of counsel, the defendants, or the jury – that makes it impossible for the trial to continue lawfully by the court assessment, then a mistrial can be declared by the judge. This may include an attorney getting sick, a juror dying, or someone tampering with the jury.
Even inclement weather, if it impacts the ability of the jurors or lawyers to get to the courthouse, can trigger a mistrial. It’s simply up to the judge.
A Hung Jury
You may recognize the term hung jury from movies and television. What it means is that the jurors on the trial cannot reach a unanimous decision as to the guilt of the defendant. You may also hear this referred to as deadlock.
It is enshrined in federal law that each member of a jury has to agree to the guilt of the defendant in order for the defendant to be found guilty. However, the judge often encourages juries to go back and try to reach a verdict rather than be declared deadlocked. A judge will not easily declare a mistrial in this circumstance.
What Happens If There’s a Mistrial
In the event that a mistrial is declared by a judge, the prosecutor who is assigned the case must decide what happens next. If they believe a jury will convict the defendant, they’ll have another trial. However, if they believe that a jury may become deadlocked again or find the defendant innocent, they may simply drop the case.
Can a DWI Case in Minnesota End in a Mistrial?
No matter what you see in the movies or read in your favorite legal thrillers, mistrials are not common – and they are even less common in cases that aren’t complicated with high stakes like a DWI case. DWI cases tend to be fairly straightforward and provide less room for a mistrial.
That doesn’t mean they cannot happen, as there are various reasons a jury could end up deadlocked or a major procedural issue could arise – but it’s not common.
If you’re facing DWI charges in Minnesota, then you need the help of an expert and experienced attorney. They can advise you of your rights and help you navigate the court process, hopefully securing the best outcome for your case. Remember, you have rights, which should always be upheld no matter the crime you are accused of.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and has been named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.