You may hear the term jury deadlocked, or hung jury in today’s media culture. But what does it really mean in a DUI case. To put it simply in your standard DUI jury trial there are 6 members of the jury. To reach a decision the verdict must be unanimous. Meaning in order to find the defendant guilty or not guilty all members of the jury panel must agree.
However there are times when this will not happen. And some of the jurors will reach different decisions regarding the facts, witnesses, and legal issues in a DUI case. When that happens the jury becomes deadlocked, or hung among the panel. Generally when that happens there are a couple of things that will happen.
First is a Judge will always ask the jury to go back and try and reach a decision. Usually that conversation states like this. The Judge will inquire as to what the hold up is. Then the Judge will ask if the jurors think they can reach a decision. Judge’s aren’t stupid. They know if the jury cannot reach a decision then that means extra work, and additional legal issues to be sorted out later. If the jury thinks they can reach a verdict then the Judge will usually tell the jury to go back and try to work out any issues that may exist.
Secondly if the jury says they cannot reach a unanimous decision, and they are deadlocked. Then that means the case will end in a mistrial. Meaning a decision cannot be rendered, and the entire case would start over. There is no penalty for the jury or anything. They are released and free to talk about the case. However because the entire case would have to start over this is not good for either party, but especially for the Prosecution.
In my experience in DUI cases that end up in a mistrial, depending on the facts of the case, and the defendants criminal history the case may not be retried. Usually Prosecutors will look at the facts, and the history in making that decision. If the defendant has never been in trouble before, and the facts of the case are not egregious then they can choose to not retry the case, which would result in a dismissal of the charges, or they can offer a plea deal which was not made before. Typically the later is what happens, but sometimes the charges will just be outright dismissed.