A Trial de Novo is a new trial or a criminal retrial in which the entire case is presented as if there had been no previous trial.  In a trial de novo, new evidence and witness testimony can be presented “without deference to the initial judgment”- meaning that the outcome of the previous trial is not considered. 

Trials de novo are similar to criminal appeals, except that new evidence may be introduced, since it is basically a new trial (“de novo” means “anew” or “afresh”).  

When is a Trial de Novo Granted?

A trial de novo is often granted when reviewing claims from a probate court, or from lower minor municipal courts.  The basis for a trial de novo is much like that of an appeal or a writ of certiorari.  A trial de novo may be granted when:

  • The normal limits of justice have been exceeded
  • A ruling or award was passed illegally
  • Other modes for review are not available

In many cases, the judge has much discretion to either order or deny a trial de novo.  This is because of the possibility that the defendant will be tried twice for the same exact crime, which is a violation double jeopardy laws.

What can be Heard in a Trial de Novo?

One aspect that distinguishes a trial de novo from an appeal is that no new evidence is allowed in an appeal.  Also, in an appeal, only factual disputes can be reviewed; legal arguments or questions of law usually can’t be heard in an appeal.

Thus, in a trial de novo, any new issues of law and any issues of fact can be heard or reviewed by the court.  Also, new testimony can be added to the already existing evidence in the record.

In some cases, a trial de novo may be conducted “on the record”, meaning that no new evidence will be reviewed.  Instead, a new consideration of the laws involved will be conducted. 

What’s a De Novo Appeal?

A De Novo Appeal is where the appeals court utilizes the records from the trial court, but reviews the laws and evidence without considering the previous ruling.  This is slightly different from a trial de novo, wherein the original record isn’t referred to.  A de novo appeal is sometimes called a “de novo review” or “de novo judicial review”.

Trials de novo are somewhat uncommon due to the time and resources that are required to try an entirely new case.  On the other hand, de novo appeals are more common.  This is because in a de novo appeal the facts of the case often remain established and new evidence doesn’t need to be introduced.  Instead, the court will proceed to review one or more legal issues that may not have been sufficiently addressed during the previous trial.  

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with a Trial de Novo?

A trials de novo is basically an entirely new criminal trial and may be necessary in certain instances.  It’s to your advantage to work with a qualified lawyer if you believe that a trial de novo is necessary.  A qualified criminal attorney in your area can help you file a request for a trial de novo or a de novo appeal.