Recently I tried a DUI case in King County. It resulted in a hung jury. Meaning the jury could not reach a unanimous decision whether my client was guilty or not guilty of the DUI. So today I wanted to discuss what a hung jury is and what happens afterwards to the criminal case.
Blacks law dictionary has a pretty good definition of what a hung jury is. It states a hung jury or a deadlocked jury that cannot be the voting threshold agree upon a verdict. In other words some of the jurors want to find the defendant guilty while other jurors believe the defendant is not guilty.
Often times when a jury is deadlocked like this a Judge can do three things:
First call the jury into the courtroom and ask them to continue to deliberate and attempt to reach a verdict. This is usually the first step rather than just accepting the hung jury.
Second the Judge can call the foreman in and ask whether they believe a verdict can be reached. The Judge can also poll each individual juror and ask whether they believe a verdict can be obtained in a reasonable amount of time. There is no set time that is considered reasonable that would be up to the individual juror to decide.
Lastly the Judge can declare a mistrial. A mistrial is just like a sounds. It’s a courtroom trial that has been terminated prior to reaching a verdict. So what happens following a hung jury if the Judge declares a mistrial.
When a mistrial occurs then one of three things can happen:
First the Prosecution can elect retry the case. There is no set precedent on when this happens. It varies depending on the type of case, the Prosecutions policy, etc. The second option is to dismiss the case. The last option is to offer some sort of plea deal that was not offered before just to prevent the case from going to trial again.
As a Seattle DUI defense attorney a hung jury is a pretty good outcome on a DUI case. It means there were some proof problems with the case and the Prosecution ultimately could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant’s guilt. What happens next is anybody’s guess, but nevertheless anytime a client is not found outright guilty is a good day for the client.
About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney. He is the owner of Leyba Defense PLLC a DUI law firm located in downtown Seattle.