Definition of mistrial
mistrial (plural mistrials)
- (law) A trial that is invalid because of an error in procedure
A judge may cancel a trial prior to the return of a verdict; legal parlance designates this as a mistrial.
A judge may declare a mistrial due to:
- The court determining that it lacks jurisdiction over a case,
- Evidence being admitted improperly,
- Misconduct by a party, juror, or an outside actor, if it prevents due process,
- A hung jury which cannot reach a verdict with the required degree of unanimity
- Disqualification of a juror after the jury is impanelled, if no alternate juror is available and the litigants do not agree to proceed with the remaining jurors.
A declaration of a mistrial generally means that the court must hold a retrial on the same subject.
An important exception occurs in criminal cases in the United States. If the court erroneously declares a mistrial, or if prosecutorial misconduct forced the defendant into moving for a mistrial, the constitutional protection against double jeopardy bars any retrial.
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