The idea of receiving a jury duty summons isn’t one that most of us relish, but it’s an inevitable part of life in many cases. There are logistics to consider if you’re called for jury duty, such as what you’ll do about work and other things to think about.
If you satisfy certain requirements, you can be required to show up for jury duty. This includes being an American citizen, not having been convicted of a felony, and being able to understand, read and write English.
The following is a guide to jury duty, and what to know if you’ve received notice to serve on a jury.
Can You Get Fired for Going to Jury Duty?
First and foremost, what about getting off work? It’s illegal to discipline an employee for going to jury duty in most cases. As long as you give your employer notice that you’re going to be serving, your employer has to let you serve. That doesn’t mean your employer ha to pay you for that time, though, but if you would experience financial hardship as a result of jury duty, the court may let you go.
Every person has a legal duty to serve on a jury, and if you fail to appear, you can be subject to punishments.
That’s why employers can’t fire at-will employees called for jury duty. If you were to get fired for jury duty, you could file a lawsuit against your employer for wrongful termination.
In some states, including New York, an employer can face consequences for trying to prevent you from attending jury duty or punishing you for doing so. For example, these consequences could include up to 30 days in jail and fines.
A jury summons is a court order, which is something a lot of people don’t understand. It’s illegal to ignore a summons.
If you receive a jury summons during a time of year where it would significantly impact your employer, they might be able to ask the court to postpone your jury duty.
Depending on the state where you live, your employer may not be able to take away pay for the time you’re serving on a jury.
Can You Legally Get Out of Jury Duty?
There are a few situations where you might legally be excused from your jury duty, or you might be able to postpone it.
One is by having a doctor’s note explaining any mental or physical health conditions you may struggle with.
You may be able to postpone for a variety of reasons ranging from work commitments to a vacation you have planned. Sometimes full-time students can be exempt from jury duty, and there is also a hardship excuse. The hardship excuse can be the toughest to prove.
You’re only required to serve on jury duty once a year, so if you were to get called twice in a year, that could be a reason you could be excused.
What Happens When You Report for Jury Duty?
So if you can’t get out of it and you show up for jury duty, what can you expect?
First, you’ll show identification, and then you’ll go to a large assembly room. During this time you should be briefed on what to expect during your time on the jury, and you might get general information about what it means to be a juror. There’s a lot of waiting around when you’re doing jury duty, so you might want to bring a book or something to keep you occupied.
Eventually, you’ll probably go into a courtroom with other potential jurors, and a judge might give you a general rundown of the case background.
You might be introduced to the attorneys and parties involved, and you could fill out a questionnaire with information about yourself.
At this point, jury selection can begin. You’ll be asked questions to determine any possible biases you might have that could impact your ability to be fair on the jury. You may be dismissed at this time.
If you’re selected, you’re then part of the jury, and you’re sworn in. At this time, you might receive information about how long the trial could last, and there may be things that the judge hears that the jury doesn’t hear, so you may be moved out of the courtroom and have to wait for more during this time.
Once closing arguments are heard, then deliberations begin to come to a verdict. If anyone on the jury has questions they can be submitted to the court so they can get answers. Additionally, when you’re on a jury you’re prohibited from using any information from outside resources like the Internet. That could lead to a mistrial on the grounds of juror misconduct.
If the jury can’t come to an agreement, it’s considered a hung jury, which would also require a retrial.
If a jury can reach a decision, they let the bailiff know when deliberations are over. Then you go back into the courtroom, and someone reads the verdict. Your jury service is then done, and you can go back to your daily life as normal.
First, there can be some times that are interesting, but there can also be a lot of boring time spent waiting, so be prepared. You’re also likely to get hungry, so you might want to bring a snack and some water. In some states, you might receive a small stipend for serving, but not much so you might need to plan accordingly in terms of finance if you’re not going to be paid for working.
Overall, jury duty isn’t something people look forward to in many cases, but it’s something you may have to do, and when it’s all over, you might even find it was kind of interesting and rewarding. Either way, it is a legal obligation, so keep that in mind if you receive a notice that you’ve been called.