Legal Topics


The Basics of Jury Duty

In the United States, one of the most common and important civic duties is to serve on a jury. The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to a jury in the event of a trial, making each citizen's participation essential to the justice system. Jurors are usually selected at random from the total body of registered voters in the US, with the further requirement that they be at least 18 years of age, a US citizen, and a year-long resident of the local jurisdiction without any felonies on their record.

Jury Selection

A typical jury consists of 6 to 12 individuals selected from a pool of candidates, with 6 jurors usually required for a civil trial and 12 jurors for a criminal case. Alternate jurors are chosen in the event that an established juror becomes sick during the course of a trial. Prospective jurors are put through a process of questioning known as voir dire, where the judge and both lawyers on a particular case will ask questions about each juror's background and beliefs. This is determine if any juror has bias or a conflict of interest that would prevent them from keeping an objective point of view during the trial and rendering a fair verdict.

Dismissal from Jury Duty

A person can be dismissed from jury duty if they're shown to have a prejudice about the case being taken to trial. This can include being a relative of one of the parties, having personal connections to one of the lawyers, or working for the company that is involved in a lawsuit or criminal proceeding. Professionals who are automatically exempt from jury duty include active members of the armed forces, firefighters, police officers, and government officials who are required to give a full-time or daily performance of their public duties.

In addition, jurors can be excused on account of their age (if over 70 years old), if they have served on a federal jury in the past 2 years, or if their service on a jury would create an authentic case of "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience." Such excuses must be reviewed and approved by the judge to be considered valid.

Benefits and Obligations

While most trials can take less than a week to conduct, federal jurors will be paid 40 dollars a day and be reimbursed for any transportation, parking, and lodging expenses. This is essential for encouraging jurors in their duty, which is to consider the arguments and evidence presented to them in a court case and deliberate on a verdict according to the persuasive efforts of the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

Once all arguments have been presented, the jurors will deliberate in private until they have reached a verdict. This can take several days on a particularly difficult case, and if the jurors cannot agree, then the result is a hung jury and a mistrial is declared. At that point, either the case can be dropped or a new pool of jurors will be chosen for another trial.

Online Resources

To learn more about jury duty and juror rights, visit the American Bar Association homepage and

Image by JasonUnbound on Flickr

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