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What is a Mistrial With Prejudice?

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What is a mistrial with prejudice?

A mistrial with prejudice is a ruling by the judge in a criminal trial that due to some sort of misconduct, disruptive events, or improprieties occurring during the trial, the case cannot go on. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, the prosecutors cannot refile the charges.

When does a mistrial with prejudice happen?

Cases being dismissed with prejudice is a fairly rare occurrence. It is more likely to happen in high profile cases or in cases with a great deal of external pressure which could lead to severe prosecutorial misconduct.

Furthermore, although the result of a dismissal with prejudice and a not guilty verdict is functionally the same for the defendant, given that a case dismissed with prejudice cannot be refiled, a not guilty verdict carries significant intangible benefits. Acquittals are generally viewed as vindication for a defendant while dismissals with prejudice open the door to accusations of judicial overreach and intervention. It is generally preferable for a high profile defendant to be acquitted than to have their case dismissed.

Can a case be retried when it is dismissed with prejudice?

A case cannot be retried when it is dismissed with prejudice, because such dismissals are considered an “adjudication on the merits:”

Under FRCP 41(b), all involuntary dismissals (i.e. defendant moves for dismissal and the judge grants the motion) are considered to be adjudications on the merits, and thus dismissed with prejudice. Note that there are exceptions to this rule: dismissals for lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or failure to join a party under FRCP 19 do not count as adjudications on the merits, and thus are considered dismissals without prejudice.

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An adjudication on the merits cannot be refiled:

An adjudication on the merits means that the court has made a determination on the legal and factual issues of the claim. Once a plaintiff’s claim is adjudicated on the merits, they cannot bring the same claim again.

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For more idiosyncrasies of the American court system, see articles on double jeopardy and forced testimony.