You might look back on childhood and fondly remember how exciting it was to receive mail. Well, as an adult, the correspondences you receive are typically not that thrilling. One of the most dreaded pieces of mail you might get is a summons for jury duty. This is when you are called to serve on the jury of an upcoming trial. If this is the case for you, don’t panic. There are simple steps to ensure that your experience is successful or that your excuse for not attending is submitted effectively.
You need to respond to your summons in an expedient manner. Failing to reply can result in jail time. If you have a conflict that prevents you from serving during the specified dates, you can request your service to be postponed or explain why you do not have the availability to serve at all. Excusable reasons include, but are not limited to, lack of childcare, medical issues, student status, military conflict, or financial hardship. Fill out the proper forms that have arrived with your summons and include any other evidence to support your claim for dismissal. Be sure you are truthful in any reasoning you claim for inability to serve because you can be held in contempt of court for lying. This leads to fines or even prison time. Employers must allow you to be absent from work whenever you are summoned for jury duty. Though they can’t fire you for taking off, they can dock your pay. When you serve on a jury, the state may compensate you for each day you are present.
When you arrive on your day to serve, you’ll enter the courthouse and wait with other possible jurors in an assembly room. You’ll be given all the information you need to understand the process and might even watch a short video regarding jury selection and trial procedures. After this, your name might be called to enter a specific courtroom. If you don’t get called on the first day, you must return the preceding days specified in your summons until you are called.
Once called, the judge provides an overview of the case. Voir dire then occurs. This is where the judge and attorneys will assess your ability to remain unbiased and uncover any conflicts of interest. The case will end up with a total of twelve jurors and a few extra to serve as alternates in case someone is dismissed from serving during any point in the trial.
After the jury is compiled, the trial will begin. You will be expected to pay close attention to both sides’ testimonies and evidence to support your decision. The proceedings may take just a few hours, several days, or even months to conclude. When it does, the jury will begin their deliberations. If all the jurors agree in the consistency of the findings, you will present your findings and decision as well as make recommendations on the potential disposition, or punishment based on the sentencing. Once all your duties are completed, the jury is “hung” and retired.