harmless error

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Harmless error is an error by a trial judge in the conduct of a trial that an appellate court finds was not damaging enough to the appealing party's right to a fair trial to justify reversing the judgment, or to warrant a new trial. Harmless errors include: 

  • Technical errors that have no bearing on the outcome of the trial, and
  • An error that was corrected, such as mistakenly allowing testimony to be heard, but then ordering it stricken and admonishing the jury to ignore it. 

The difference between a harmless error and a reversible error is that reversible error requires a conviction be overturned and harmless error does not. See Earll v. State, 2001.

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]