American Jury Duty

Jury duty is something that most Americans will have to go through at some point in their life. However, it doesn’t need to be dreaded. In fact, there’s a good chance that you might not even have to serve.

The Process –

It all starts with that letter in your mailbox. You’re just going about your day and taking one thing at a time. Then you see an odd letter mixed in with all of your other mail. You then realize what the letter means, and open it up. The jury duty letter then explains when you’re summoned and where to go. In some cases, you might have a free bus pass to take you to the courthouse.

Keep in mind that you might not even have to bother with your jury duty summons at this point. In the letter, you will be able to check off excuses as to why you can’t serve on a jury. If you’re in high school, college, have a criminal record, mental disability etc., then you simply place a mark in the small box next to the excuse that you’ve chosen. Simply put the letter in the envelope that came with your jury summons, and mail it at your local post office. And then you’re done.

If you are not immediately exempt, then you will have to go to your summons. Most of the time, you will have about a two week notice as to when your jury duty begins. This gives you time to tie up loose ends, and to find out exactly where your local courthouse is. You really should do a practice drive to the courthouse because parking can be limited in many places, and you don’t want to be late. Judges don’t like it when you’re late.

As for the parking, it’s probably going to cost you. In many areas, you may have to pay around five to fifteen dollars a day for parking. Though, sometimes, your local courthouse may provide you with cheaper parking.

On your jury summons date, you will probably have to be at the courthouse early in the morning. If you arrive early, you can avoid the long lines. Some people think that if you arrive really late, then you are less likely to be picked. Don’t believe them. The jury duty process is completely random. You can be the first one at the courthouse, and you might not be called. Or you might be the last one to show up, but you’ll be called up first.

When you first arrive for your summons, you’ll have to pass through security. You can expect to have to go through metal detectors just like you would at an airport. Do not bring any weapons with you because they will be confiscated at the security checkpoint. Should you accidentally bring a weapon with you, then you may or may not be able to retrieve it when you leave the courthouse.

After this, you’ll line up and wait until the courthouse workers call up jurors. Then you will all be herded into a large room where you will be provided general information about the courthouse, and you will be given instructions on what to do if your number is called up. Later on, you’ll be able to ask specific questions. Eventually, a judge will stop by to swear everyone in. And then they start summoning jurors to cases. You are usually called out by name and then assigned a number. Remember your number.

On a normal day, expect the courthouse workers to call around twenty to fifty people every thirty minutes or so. However, it may be longer or faster than that; it just depends on the need for jurors. If there’s a major holiday coming up, then you may not be called at all.

Even on a normal day, you may not be called up. Whatever you do, be sure and bring something to pass the time with because you will almost certainly be at the courthouse for several hours (perhaps the whole day).

Even if you’re one of those twenty to fifty people who have been called up, don’t think that you’re now a juror. Out of those twenty to fifty people, only twelve are usually selected as true jurors. The individuals who were not selected are usually sent home, which usually means that they have completed their jury duty service. It may vary from state to state however.

How Long –

Jury duty can last a few days or even a few months in some instances. But for the most part, it only takes a few days. And sometimes the defendant may change their sentence to guilty, which will prematurely end your jury duty service. And then your life is yours again for a few more years.

What to Wear –

Wear whatever you’re comfortable with. There is no dress code for showing up for jury duty. However, if you’re selected for a case then you may have to dress up. For civil cases, you probably will not have to dress up at all. Criminal cases may be subject to media attention, so the judge may want his or her jury to look more professional. In the end the dress code is mostly up to the judge; however, it’s usually a non-issue.

Payment –

Unfortunately, the payment for jury duty is unsatisfactory at best (unless you’re unemployed). It’s definitely better now then it was in the past. In Texas, the payment is six dollars for the first day, and forty dollars a day if you’re selected to be a juror. You can give the money to charity if you like, or keep it for yourself. And yes, you will have to pay taxes on the money.

You will be paid after your jury duty is over. So if you were a juror for a week, then you would be paid two hundred and six dollars. The government of your county will send out your check by mail, and you will receive it within a few days usually. Though, in some cases, it may take a few months to receive your money. It’s mostly a matter of luck.

Jury duty is an inconvenience that many people believe to be essential to our liberties. Nevertheless, many people dread getting that little piece of paper in the mail. However, there’s really no reason to fear jury duty, and it will probably be over with before you know it.