Verdicts (Jury and Court Trials)

In almost every trial1, one of the following outcomes will result:

  1. A jury or the court can find the defendant “not guilty”;
  2. A jury or the court can find the defendant “guilty”;
  3. A jury will not come to a decision (a “hung jury”) resulting in a mistrial; or
  4. The court can declare a mistrial for another reason.

Jury (or the Court) Finds the Defendant “Not Guilty”

Defendant found not guilty (hands raised in victory) For the defendant, this is the ideal outcome from a trial. Once the trier of fact (the jury or, in a court trial, the judge) reads its not guilty verdict, the court will tell the defendant that he is free to go. The case is over and the defendant cannot be tried for the same set of events again—even if new evidence crops up later.

Jury is “Hung”

If the jury cannot reach a verdict after deliberating for quite a while, the court can declare a “hung jury” and declare a mistrial.

Court Declares a Mistrial

If certain other events occur during trial, the court can also declare a mistrial. For a discussion of mistrials, please read the mistrial FAQ.

Jury (or the Court) Finds the Defendant “Guilty”

If the defendant is found guilty, the court will proceed to the sentencing phase of the case.

Defendant found guilty (led away in handcuffs)

In some instances, there is evidence put on after the verdict so the jury can decide on a sentence (for example, in a death penalty case to determine whether the defendant should get the death penalty or life in prison). In other instances, the court alone determines the sentence.

In misdemeanor cases, sentencing can proceed immediately. In felony cases, the court will request a probation report from the probation department before sentencing.

1 Sometimes the prosecutor (also called the District Attorney (DA) or Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will dismiss the charges during trial. This result is extremely rare. It usually only happens where the DA receives credible new evidence during trial that exculpates the defendant. Do not expect this result in your case.