If you are charged with any criminal or traffic offense in South Carolina, you have the right to a trial. In most cases, you’ll face 12 jurors, though only six are required for municipal or magistrate court trials. Your experienced criminal defense attorney will help to select your jurors, ensuring that you get a true jury of your peers. Then, your trial will be scheduled.
Each side will present evidence, which must meet certain standards to be allowable in court. Once all evidence has been heard, the judge will give the jury instructions and send them out to deliberate. No matter how many jurors are assigned to your case, their decision will have to be unanimous in order to reach a verdict.
What if the Jurors Don’t Agree?
Under South Carolina law, a jury which cannot agree on a verdict can be presented with evidence again or have the law applicable to the case explained again before being sent back to deliberate again. The jury is typically given instructions, referred to as an Allen Charge, before being sent to continue their deliberations. These instructions remind jurors of their job: to consider the evidence and vote accordingly. It also typically asks those in the minority to thoughtfully reconsider their position, though it is illegal for a judge to pressure jurors into a verdict.
If the jury returns a second time without a unanimous verdict, it will be considered a hung jury unless the jury requests further clarification and the chance to deliberate again. It is rare for a jury to request such an opportunity, so the jury is generally declared hung at this point.
If the jury remains hung, or short of the unanimous vote required to reach a verdict, a mistrial will be declared. However, it is important to note that the jury could agree on some of the counts you are charged with, meaning that a mistrial would be declared only for those counts on which they do not agree. In any case, you may be retried for any counts on which the jury did not reach a verdict.
After a mistrial, a hearing will be scheduled, during which the prosecution will announce how they intend to move forward. There are two possible outcomes after a hung jury:
- You may be retried with a new jury in an attempt to reach a verdict; or
- The prosecution may choose not to pursue another trial, effectively dismissing the charges.
A new trial is allowed and is not considered double jeopardy, since the original jury was unable to come to a verdict. The new trial must start within 90 days of the initial trial’s end unless a continuance is filed.
If you find that the prosecution has chosen not to proceed, your attorney may be able to assist you in getting the charges expunged from your record, giving you a fresh start. However, there are strict requirements to qualify for expungement, which an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to discuss with you.