What Does a “Hung Jury” Mean for the Defendant in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

A criminal trial does not always end in a jury verdict. If the jurors cannot agree on a verdict, the court might declare a hung jury, and a new trial will be ordered.

A hung jury has numerous implications for the defendant. First and foremost, a hung jury often means the defendant gets a new trial before a new jury. In somewhat more unusual cases, the judge might decide to dismiss the case entirely rather than order a new trial. It may be very frustrating if a new trial is ordered, as the entire case must start over. However, this presents a unique opportunity for the defendant to hone their defense strategies and take a second shot at their case. We can also use what we know about the prosecutor’s strategy to our advantage in the new trial.

Contact our Utah criminal defense attorneys for advice if your criminal trial ended in a mistrial and you are now facing a new trial. Our team at Overson Law, PLLC is available for free case assessments. Call (801) 758-2287 for help now.

What Happens When the Judge Declares a Hung Jury in Utah?

A hung jury presents a serious complication for criminal cases. The judge may declare a hung jury if the jurors are deadlocked and unable to reach a unanimous verdict. In most cases, the judge will not immediately declare a mistrial and instead order the jury to continue deliberating in the hopes of reaching a unanimous verdict. Hung juries are often declared after days or even weeks of deliberations, which is very frustrating for all parties involved.

In most cases, once the judge declares a hung jury, the case ends in a mistrial, and a new trial is ordered. This presents both advantages and disadvantages to the defendant. On the one hand, a hung jury is better than a guilty verdict, and the defendant gets a second chance in a new trial. On the other hand, defendants who could not make bail might end up waiting in jail for even longer and might be emotionally drained at this point.

In rare cases, the judge might dismiss the case entirely, and there is no new trial. Typically, the judge might dismiss a case in instances of serious misconduct. For example, suppose the prosecutor bribed a juror to hold out during deliberations so they could get a mistrial. In that case, the judge is unlikely to award the prosecutor’s bad behavior and order a new trial. These cases are not typical but still possible. If the prosecutor in your case tampers with the jury, our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers can help you argue for a total dismissal of the case.

What Happens to the Defendant After a Hung Jury in Utah?

After a hung jury, the court will declare a mistrial and likely order a new trial barring special circumstances. This presents both advantages and disadvantages to the defendant. For example, the defendant has a whole new opportunity to defend themselves in a new trial and hopefully get a favorable jury verdict. On top of that, we now know the prosecutor’s case and strategies, and we can use them to adjust our tactics.

Unfortunately, a new trial comes with some significant drawbacks for the defendant. We need time to assemble a new jury and prepare for the new trial. If the court has a very busy schedule, it might be weeks or even months before your new trial. During that time, defendants who could not make bail might end up waiting in jail for even longer. Our Provo criminal defense attorneys can help you argue to the court that your bail should be reconsidered and reduced, so you are not held for an unreasonable amount of time with no jury verdict.

While there are numerous effects of a hung jury, the fact that a jury could not reach a unanimous verdict cannot be used against you in the new trial. For example, a prosecutor might try to insinuate that you must be guilty because the previous jury could not agree on your innocence. This kind of information cannot be presented to the jury. If a prosecutor attempts such a strategy, our Park City criminal defense attorneys can object and stop them.

How Defendants Can Use a Hung Jury to Their Advantage in Utah

When entering your new trial, we are armed with far more information than in your first trial. Not only do we have a better idea of what kind of strategies and arguments the prosecutor will make, but we know more about how the previous jury responded to our own evidence and arguments. Using this information, our Utah criminal defense attorneys can help you tweak your defense strategy to be more effective in the new trial.

The prosecutor is always required to disclose their evidence to the defense during the discovery process. After a hung jury, we know more about how the prosecutor will use the evidence in the new trial. This provides us with an immense strategic advantage in your new trial, as we can better prepare for any possible curveballs planned by the prosecutor.

We also know more about the witnesses being called by the prosecutor. Cross-examination is challenging because we never know what a witness will talk about until they are on the witness stand. In a new trial after a hung jury, we know exactly what the witnesses’ testimonies consist of, and we know about things like reasons to lie or inconsistencies with past sworn statements.

In some cases, witnesses do not stick around the new trial, and prosecutors are left scrambling. With fewer witnesses and a weakened case, prosecutors might be more easily persuaded to reach favorable plea agreements.

Call Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help Now

If you are facing a criminal trial or a new trial after a hung jury, our Orem criminal defense attorneys can help you. For a free case evaluation with our dedicated team, call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.