If you have been arrested and charged for driving under the influence (DUI) you will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty the court will determine your punishment, which is generally outlined in state DUI laws. But what if you decided that the prosecutions case was weak and you had a chance to win in court? You may have pled not guilty, hired a DUI lawyer and taken the case to court.
If you had a trial your drunk driving lawyer as well as the prosecution had a chance to outline their case, presenting evidence and calling witnesses. After each side presented their evidence the court asked a jury to make a determination if you are guilty of drunk driving. So what happens if the jury is not able to reach a verdict? This is called a hung jury. This may not be uncommon because a drunk driving jury, which consists of six jury members, must make a unanimous decision that you are guilty. This means that all six jurors must agree. If the jurors cannot agree than the jury decision is deadlocked.
What happens if the jury is deadlocked?
First, the court or judge will request that the jury reconvene to attempt to reach a consensus. The goal of the court is for jurors to make a decision, thus eliminating the need for the court to do additional work later.
If the jurors, after a second attempt, are unable to come to a unanimous decision than your case has ended in what is called a mistrial. This jury panel is released from the case and they will suffer no ill will or punishment from the court. What will not happen, however, is a decision of guilt or innocence from the court, and your drunk driving case may have to start over again.
What does this mean for you? It could be good or bad. Many cases that end in mistrial are not tried a second time, but this decision is made by the prosecution, who will review the details of the case a second time and determine if they think they can win at a second trial. Many times, especially if the defendant does not have a lengthy criminal history, the prosecution will decide not to try the case again.
If the case is tried a second time you will repeat the process you have just experienced. Jurors will be summoned, evidence will be presented and the attorneys will plead their case. If the prosecution decides not to try the case they may either offer you another plea deal that was not offered before the trial, when they thought they would get a guilty verdict by going to court, or they will dismiss the drunk driving charges. Pleas deals are more common but dismissal of drunk driving charges does occur.
Consider also, in some states if your DUI case is dismissed and the DUI charges are dropped you may have the legal right to request an expungement of the DUI arrest and subsequent trial from your driving record.