Most likely at one point or another, you’ve received a letter in the mail informing you that you’ve been selected for possible jury duty. But how does someone get selected for jury duty? What happens if you get called to come to court? Are there ways to get out of serving jury duty and if not, what are the compensations for serving? While the answers to these questions may vary from state to state, there are some important general things everyone should know about when it comes to jury duty. Understanding how the process works in advance will make your selection and potential for serving in a trial go much more smoothly.
What Jury Duty Is
Every locality in the United States has a court house in which trials are held. The jury’s job is to hear the trial and examine both sides, then come together to determine the defendant’s status of either guilty or innocent. In most cases, the jury is randomly selected from people living in any one given area. Potential jurors often receive a letter informing them that they may be chosen to serve on the jury. Not everyone who gets this letter will ultimately be selected, but if you are, it is important that you show up as requested. If you do not appear you will typically go back into the “juror pool” until chosen again however repeat absentees may be subject to a fine or other charge.
Types of Cases Heard by Jurors
Often we see news stories where juries determine the fate of hardened criminals, including the recommendation of sentences such as the death penalty. While not all cases heard by a jury are serial killers or famous murderers, the purpose of a jury is very important. They must hear both sides of the story, listen to witness testimony, and make a decision on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Some trials can only last one day, while others can go on for months. Some people will simply hear a civil case, so it just depends on which case you are chosen for and how long it will take the attorneys and judge involved to reach a final verdict as well as how much evidence is shown and how many witnesses must testify. As jurors, you will work together to come to a final conclusion about the fate of the defendant. If the jury cannot reach an agreement, the arguments can go on for much longer than planned. In a few instances, a “hung jury” is declared in which the entire jury cannot come up with a unanimous agreement as to the verdict.
Avoiding Jury Duty & Compensation
In some localities, you must attend jury duty if chosen regardless of the individual circumstance or date requested to attend. In others, you may request a postponement if you submit your request to the court in writing within a certain timeframe. The court may deny your request, so it is imperative that you check to make sure you are or are not selected. In very rare cases, you may be excused from jury duty in instances of family emergencies or other situations. Even if you are called, you may not serve in a trial setting. The attorneys and judge choose from the pool selected as to whom they want to sit on the trial. Depending on the area in which you live, you may receive monetary compensation for serving on a jury. This amount can vary and is usually around thirty to fifty dollars per day, but it ultimately depends on the state you live in. Some employers will pay their employees if they must serve jury duty, but this is often rare.
Frequently Asked Questions About Jury Duty
Here are some frequently asked questions pertaining to jury duty. Please click on the question to find the answer.
- What do I have to do when I receive a jury summons?
- Can jury duty be postponed if I request it?
- How many days do I have to serve on jury duty?
- What are the main types of juror summonses?
- What are my rights as a member of a jury?
- What role do jurors play and what is their importance in the courts system?
- What helps to determine whether or not I will have to serve on a jury?
- What are the general etiquette rules when I go to court?
- Would I be able to get out of jury service?