While some of us relish the opportunity to do our civic duty, many see jury duty as an obligation they would rather avoid. We have friends that tell stories of being on a jury for weeks or others that have been called dozens of times but never selected. There are many jury duty myths that you may have heard but we would like to put these to rest and give you the whole truth and nothing but the truth regarding your stint in the courtroom.
#1 – you won’t be called to jury duty if you don’t register to vote
This is untrue. While it is true that you are entered into the jury duty pool when you register to vote, failure to vote does not disqualify you for jury duty. If you pay taxes, buy a home or get a drivers license you are on the list. So even if you don’t exercise your civic duty to vote, you may still be called upon to perform your civic duty as a member of a jury.
#2 – you can’t postpone your date of jury duty
Many people who have never been called for jury duty believe that they cannot reschedule their service dates which is not the case. When you receive your notice, you can choose to postpone if the date causes you problems. That said, you can’t postpone jury duty indefinitely. If you read your notice, it will clearly explain how you can postpone should you have to. Just follow the instructions and you can try and set up your jury service for a more convenient time period.
It’s important to follow these instructions. If you do not, or you ignore the notice, you can end up with severe consequences. While the courts won’t always pursue a juror who pretends he or she didn’t receive a notice, it can result in an arrest. The courts try to make selection fair so nobody is forced to incur any serious hardship, so its best to trust the processes in place rather than try to circumvent them.
#3 – a judge will excuse you from jury duty if you are biased
Judges won’t excuse you if you have a bias towards the case, but lawyers might. You can get excused for bias during a process called voir dire but that isn’t as straightforward as saying “I’m biased” or “I think the defendant looks guilty.” If you think something that simple can get you out of jury duty in front of a judge and lawyers who have seen these tricks for many, many years, you are mistaken.
In the United States, voir dire is the process in which lawyers question jurors about their background. Upon answering those questions, both the prosecution and defense can choose to dismiss you from the jury pool. The goal of this process is to create a group of citizens who can judge the case fairly, as both sides have to agree to keep a juror. If you answer these questions dishonestly to try and provide a bias, not knowing what the case is about, you might give a favorable answer without realizing it. If you really don’t want to be on a trial, remember how big the juror pool is. In almost every circumstance, you have a pretty tiny chance of selection—especially on the longer trials.
#4 – attorneys have to explain why you were not selected
It is a common misconception that attorneys have to have a good reason to ask for you not to serve on a jury. This is not the case. In most cases, you are simply told that you will not be needed, and no reason will be given as to why you were not selected. Lawyers can decide to challenge certain jurors for different reasons — or no reason at all. You may never find out for sure why it was that you were not chosen to serve. In the grand scheme of things, not being chosen for one jury will not change your chances for serving down the road.
#5 – you can be fired for missing work to attend jury duty
Some people worry about the safety of their jobs when they go on jury duty. After all, there is the potential to miss a lot of work. However, federal law prohibits your employer from firing you due to jury duty. While you receive a stipend from the courts to help compensate you for your service, unfortunately, your employer does not have to pay you for the time you are on jury duty, so you may actually lose income.
One of our privileges and rights as citizens in the United States is to serve on a jury. Jury duty is one way that we can give back to our country and help exercise the principles upon which it was founded. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right of the accused to a trial by his peers, and jury duty allows that right to be fulfilled. So next time your jury notice arrives in the mail head in to the experience with a different mindset – you are fulfilling an obligation that many in this world do not have the right to experience. And bring a good book as there will be plenty of hours of waiting!