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Your Friendly Guide To Jury Duty: Requirements & Exemptions

jury duty

There are a lot of weird laws in the US. Jumping off a building is punishable with a death sentence. It’s illegal to wear body-hugging clothes in New York. But some legal machinery is just standard general practice like jury duty.

These laws, like jury duty or antitrust laws, are founded on good old principles of justice, equity, and judicial ethics.

In this article, we will shed light on the broad topic of Jury Duty.

We will discuss the evolution, current role, and state/federal laws related to it. So, let’s jump in!

What Is Jury Duty?

Jury duty is a civic duty of every U.S. citizen. They get a court summons through which the court asks them to serve as jurors in court cases. The duty consists of ensuring that a defendant gets their right to a fair trial. Every defendant and plaintiff alike enjoy this right under the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution. Being subject to a jury is, therefore, the defendant’s right to have a speedy trial as well as an impartial jury.

Who Is A Juror?

Each person taking part in jury duty is a juror. The judiciary selects the jurors from a list of voters. Additionally, they may also select jurors from a list of registered drivers.

Moreover, U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old and have proficiency in English can become jurors. Other requirements to become a juror are as follows.

  • They should be a resident in the district/county for a minimum of a year.
  • Qualified jurors have no convictions or criminal record.  
  • Additionally, a felony charge may disqualify them from being a juror.

Lastly, they should be in proper mental and physical condition that is fit enough for a jury trial.

Can Anyone Be Exempt From Serving On Jury?

These are the following conditions under which the judiciary may excuse you from serving as a juror.

If the member may be an active member of the armed forces.

  • Professional firefighters.
  • Member of the police forces.
  • If the juror is a federal employee, state or local government employee, too.

Not Every Case Requires A Jury

Yes, not every case in the United States requires a jury. Typically, when the crime is too grave, and there is a possibility of very strict punishment, a jury comes into the scenario. For example, if it is a case of statutory rape. 

Let’s say that there’s the possibility of imprisonment for life, 15 years, 30 years with no probation, and the like. In such a case, a jury is necessary for an impartial opinion.

In civil cases or minor criminal cases, parties go for a bench trial. There, the judge alone decides whether the resolution of the case is possible without a jury.

However, for serious criminal offenses, big civil disputes, and matters of significance, a jury trial is necessary. Whether there will be a jury or not depends on the facts of the case and the choices of the parties.

What Is The Process Of Jury Duty?

Citizens receive a summons from the federal government or the state governments. These summonses ask them to be a part of the selection.  If they qualify for this selection stage, they can officially be a part of the jury. 

Therefore, the officials assembled a group of twelve individuals. Next, they can swear them in. 

Additionally, a juror participates in the process. They proceed to make a decision, deliver a verdict, and choose a penalty for the accused in the legal case.

The Selection Process For Jury Duty

The jury selection process is what we call the “voir dire.” It consists of several stages. First, the Attorneys of both parties question the potential jurors.

This questioning mostly makes sure if there are biases, prejudices, or conflicts of interest amongst the jurors. If yes, then these jurors do not make it through the selection process. Remember, if bias is present, it could affect their ability to be impartial.

For the next round, the attorneys can pose various challenges to mark the final jurors. These challenges may be of two types.

They can go straight to the process of elimination. Additionally, they may do so without giving any proper reasons. Moreover, attorneys may even eliminate jurors if they find them to be unfit for jury duty.

Therefore, once the questioning and challenge stages are over, the final jurors are there to hear the case. Thus, they make up an impartial jury who will carefully go through the facts and evidence of the case to arrive at a decision.

How Does Jury Duty Work?

Well, the process begins with you receiving a jury duty summons. It contains the time, date, and location when you will be serving as a jury member. When you reach the assigned court, you will have to fill out a questionnaire.

Thus, only after you fill out the questions correctly will you be able to take part in the jury selection process.

To Conclude

With this, we reach the end of our article. Jury duty is very serious. There could be repercussions if you skip it or do not abide by jury-specific guidelines.

Failure to attend can lead to court officials contacting you. You will have to explain your absence and receive a new date for service.

Thus, we wouldn’t advise you to skip the duty. It could lead to a criminal complaint, contempt of court, or even an arrest warrant. However, check if you fit the following criteria regarding the case.

  • If you know anyone involved in the case,
  • In case you have previous knowledge about the case or
  • If you have prejudices about the case.

The legal officials can excuse the duty. Additionally, if you are over 70 or served as a juror in the past two years, you can be exempted from it.

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Debkanya Bhattacharya
Debkanya is a lawyer turned writer. With an experience of 3 years, she is your go-to source for all things law. She has a soft corner for the US and international section. When the weekend arrives, you'll find her reading up on politics, Austen, or travel blogs over a cup of coffee.

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