Motion for a New Trial

When the judge, the prosecutor, or the jury makes a mistake in a criminal trial in California, the defendant might have the option of getting relief by filing a motion for a new trial. The types of issues raised in the motion for a new trial might include:

  • newly discovered evidence;
  • insufficient evidence being introduced at trial;
  • an error of law by the court;
  • misconduct by the prosecutor;
  • misconduct by the jury.

The motion for a new trial in a criminal case in California must be filed prior to the sentence being pronounced by the court at the sentencing hearing.

After the motion is filed, the court must rule on the motion within 20 days or 30 days with a proper extension of the verdict. In fact, the failure to rule on the motion within the time limits might automatically result in a new trial. See California Penal Code 1191 PC and 1202 PC.

When ruling on the motion, the Court has the option of:

  • denying the motion and pronouncing judgment on the verdict;
  • modifying the verdict to a lesser included offense of the convicted charge or reducing the degree of the charge; or
  • granting the motion and ordering a new trial.

If the motion for a new trial is denied, your criminal defense attorney can still help you file a direct appeal with a higher court or seek other forms of post-conviction relief.

Attorney for a Motion for a New Trial in Ventura, CA

If you were convicted of a crime after a bench or jury trial in California, then seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can file a motion for a new trial, a direct appeal, or a post-conviction motion.

The motion for a new trial often alleges errors by the judge, the prosecutor, the criminal defense attorney that tried the case, or the jury that committed some form of misconduct.

Call Jay Leiderman Law at (805) 654-0200 today for a free consultation.

Overview of California Law to Motion for a New Trial

Back to top

Juror Misconduct Alleged in a Motion for a New Trial

A defendant may move for a new trial on grounds of juror misconduct. (Pen. Code, § 1181, subds. 2, 3 & 4.) When a party seeks a new trial based upon jury misconduct, the court must undertake the following three-step inquiry:

  1. the court must first determine whether the affidavits supporting the motion are admissible. (See Evid. Code, § 1150, subd. (a));
  2. if the evidence is admissible, the court must then consider whether the facts establish misconduct;
  3. assuming misconduct is found, the court must determine whether the misconduct was prejudicial.

The trial court has broad discretion in ruling on each of these questions and its rulings will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.’ ” (People v. Bryant (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 1457, 1467.)

Jurors must not converse among themselves or with anyone else on any subject connected with the trial, nor may they form or express any opinion thereon until the cause is finally submitted to them. (Pen. Code, § 1122, subds (a)(1), (b).)

For this reason, it is misconduct for a juror to discuss a case with a non-juror during the course of a trial. (People v. Linton (2013) 56 Cal.4th 1146, 1194, 158 Cal.Rptr.3d 521, 302 P.3d 927.)

Once a court determines a juror has engaged in misconduct, a defendant is presumed to have suffered prejudice. The prosecutor has the burden to rebut the presumption by establishing there is “no substantial likelihood that one or more jurors were actually biased against the defendant.” (In re Manriquez (2018) 5 Cal.5th 785, 797, 235 Cal.Rptr.3d 787, 421 P.3d 1086.)

“Ultimately, the test for determining whether juror misconduct likely resulted in actual bias is ‘different from, and indeed less tolerant than,’ normal harmless error analysis. If the record shows a substantial likelihood that even one juror ‘was impermissibly influenced to the defendant’s detriment,’ reversal is required regardless of whether the court is convinced an unbiased jury would have reached the same result.” (People v. Cissna (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 475, 1117, 182 Cal.App.4th 1105, 1117, 106 Cal.Rptr.3d 54).

If the trial court is presented with a credible prima facie showing that serious misconduct has occurred, then the trial court may order jurors to appear at a hearing and to answer questions about whether misconduct occurred.

In fact, the trial court has discretion to subpoena even reluctant jurors when necessary to determine whether misconduct occurred. Although the court has the duty to protect jurors from overzealous attorneys and investigators, that duty does not require an abdication of the court’s obligation to ensure that the jury trial process is free from prejudicial misconduct.

This obligation to conduct a hearing is triggered when the defense provides evidence strongly suggestive of prejudicial misconduct.

Examples of Juror Misconduct
  • Discussing the case – a juror does not have the right to discuss a case with anyone else (spouse, other jurors, therapist, etc.) unless it is with jury members in a deliberation session
  • Considering evidence not introduced in the trial – if a juror uses information about the case from other sources (not presented during the trial) this can impair their decision
  • Withholding information

Back to top

 Prosecutorial Misconduct Alleged in a Motion for a New Trial

Per the Code of Civil Procedure § 659(a): a party that is seeking to file a motion for a new trial must first file a notice of intention for a new trial. The moving party must serve the other parties with a notice of his/her motive, stating on which grounds the motion will be made, and if the same will be made in the affidavits or the minutes of the court or both. Furthermore, the moving party will have ten (10) days after filing the notice to submit any supporting affidavits or documents.

If a defendant files for a new trial based on prosecutorial misconduct, it must be evident that the behavior of the prosecutor affected the outcome of the defendants’ trial, resulting in the defendant suffering from prejudice. (Pen. Code, § 1181, subds. 5.)

Prosecutorial misconduct entails that the prosecutor acted inappropriately and “overstepped the bounds of that propriety and fairness” intending to wrongfully convict the defendant. See Berger v. United States, 295 U.S. 78 (1935).

Examples of Prosecutorial Misconduct
  • Presenting inadmissible evidence – using evidence that is not permissible
  • Tampering or withholding evidence – for instance, the prosecution withholding any proof that can be used to discredit their witness or that violates the defendants’ due process. See Giglio v. United States, 450 U.S. 150 (1972).
  • Improper arguments – making inappropriate comments, using unreasonable hypothetical situations before a jury, expressing their opinion without evidence, etc.
  • Intimidating witnesses – this action violates the rights of the defendant being able to acquire witnesses
  • Misinterpretation of the law – if the prosecutor had led the jury to believe certain aspects of the law to be facts involving the defendants’ case when it was not true

Back to top

A defendant may file for a new trial based on an error of law made by the court. That is to say, a judge misguided the jury on the law (e.g., the judge might apply the wrong law to the defendants’ case), or the jury received incorrect instructions.

Disagreeing with the judge’s ruling does not indicate that a legal error occurred. However, if the judge had all the evidence, but the defendant believes that the law was not applied correctly or the wrong law was applied, then the defendant can move for a new trial.

Examples of Legal Errors by The Court
  • Refusing to dismiss inadmissible arguments – for instance, if the judge refuses to exclude evidence that is inadmissible by California Law (e.g., hearsay)
  • Demonstrating unfairness – if the judge is being biased in favor of the prosecutor or the prosecutor’s witness against the defendant this can affect the result of the trial
  • Proving the jury with incorrect instructions
  • Misguiding the jury on the law

Back to top

Additional Resources

Penal Code 1181 – View the California Legislative Information site to learn more about Penal Code 1181. It explains who is eligible to file for a new trial based on the conditions provided by the law. According to California law, motion for a new trial in criminal cases must be after the commencement of the trial and before the judgment. The court may grant a new trial based on specific requirements, such as when new evidence is discovered.


Back to top

Lawyer for a Motion for a New Trial in Ventura, CA

Filing for an appeal or a motion for a new trial can be overwhelming; the process is very time-sensitive, and many documents need to be written or reviewed. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help you identify an appealable issue and whether a mistake was made and can be corrected. Contact Jay Leiderman Law at (805) 654-0200.

If you believe that you have suffered prejudice because of a prosecutorial or jurors’ misconduct, an error of law by the court, or that your verdict was negatively impacted by the lack of evidence introduced during the trial and would like to challenge the sentencing contact Jay Leiderman Law.

Back to top