What is a Hung Jury?

You may have heard that Bill Cosby was recently convicted for crimes of sexual assault by a Philadelphia jury. You may have also heard that this was not the first time Cosby was on trial for these crimes. This may have struck you as being odd since it is well known that a person cannot be subjected to double jeopardy.

In other words, you can only be tried once for a specific crime.  However, there is one important detail concerning double jeopardy that is often forgotten. The criminal matter must be resolved in some way for the protection against double jeopardy to be applicable. Since Cosby’s first trial resulted in a hung jury, there was never any resolution to his criminal case.

Jury Trials in Chicago

If you are charged with a crime in Chicago and your case proceeds to trial, you have the right to have a jury decide your fate. Illinois state law requires that all members of a jury in a criminal matter be in unanimous agreement about the verdict. In other words, all 6 or 12 jurors in your case must either agree that you are guilty or not guilty. A hung jury occurs when all members of a jury cannot agree on the verdict in a case.

Consequences of a Hung Jury

What happens when your criminal trial ends with a hung jury? When the judge is confident that the jury, in its current state, will not be able to come to a unanimous decision, he or she will declare a mistrial. A mistrial simply means that the trial was invalid and inconclusive. In fact, it is as if the trial never even happened in the first place.

The state has a few different options after a hung jury and mistrial: retrial, negotiation, or dismissal.


State prosecutors have the option of trying the criminal case again. There is no requirement that the state stick to its initial game plan or approach the case in the same way. The state is allowed to learn from its mistakes and use the insight gained in the initial trial. States may choose to retry a criminal defendant if a crime was particularly heinous or, as was the case for Cosby, the defendant is famous or notable. Sometimes the state may feel external pressure from society and the media to get a conviction or pursue justice.


Trials are expensive, for both the state and defendant. If the state is confident that the defendant is guilty, but not confident in their ability to secure a conviction at trial, it may try to negotiate a plea. A plea bargain can allow the defendant to secure a reduced charge and criminal sentence, while also allowing the state to get a victory.

Criminal defense attorneys may be hesitant to accept a plea bargain if they believe they have a real shot at winning in a subsequent trial. Defendants are also entitled to try a new strategy and learn from mistakes made in the first trial. Whether or not a plea is the best option will require a lot of thought and consideration.


There may be situations where the state, after reviewing the circumstances of the mistrial, decides that it lacks the evidence needed for a conviction. If the state believes that they will not be successful in court and the defense refuses to accept a plea, it may decide to drop the charges and move on to other criminal matters.

Will a dismissal prevent the state from prosecuting a defendant for that crime in the future? It depends on how the case was dismissed. If the case was dismissed “without prejudice,” the state has the authority to pick it up in the future for litigation. However, cases dismissed “with prejudice” will prevent the state from prosecuting the defendant for that specific criminal offense in the future.

Need More Help?

Have you recently been arrested for a crime in Chicago? Hiring an attorney to handle your defense is the best thing you can do to protect your future. Contact the Kostopoulos Law Group to find out how we can help to minimize the consequences of any criminal charges that you may face.

Our Chicago criminal defense attorneys have over 30 years of combined legal experience. During this time, we have successfully defended thousands of clients in DuPage County in all complex criminal matters. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation. We will review your case, explain your rights, and answer any questions you have.

Kostopoulos Law Group
125 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 300A
Chicago, IL 60606

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