Top 10 Myths About Jury Duty
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. However, many people do not understand even the basics of jury duty. Here are 10 of the top myths about jury duty:
Jury Duty Myth #1: If You Don’t Vote, You Can’t Serve on a Jury
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. Indeed, other ways that you enter the jury duty pool include paying taxes, buying a home and getting a drivers license. So, as you can see, you 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.
Jury Duty Myth #2: You Have to Swear on the Bible
Many people envision days of yore when people were required to swear on the Bible. However, when you report for jury duty, you may not have to swear on the Bible. Most courts, recognizing the plurality of religious, as well as agnosticism and atheism, no longer expect such a proof of trustworthiness. In most places, you will simply be asked to raise your right hand and promise to tell the truth and make accurate statements to the best of your ability.
Jury Duty Myth #3: Jury Duty Notices Can Come Over the Phone or Email
Some believe that jury duty notices might come over the phone or through email. This is very dangerous, since this is becoming a more common scam. In this jury duty scam, someone calls or emails you and tells you that you either need to report for jury duty, or that you failed to show up for jury duty. The only way to verify who are and fix the problem (avoiding arrest) is to reveal personal information, such as a Social Security Number, or pay a fine using a credit card. Clearly, the scammers are looking for your information and threatening you with fear tactics. Realize that jury duty summons will only come through the postal service. If you have questions, stop contact with the caller or emailer, and look in your phone book for the local courthouse phone number. Then contact that courthouse.
Jury Duty Myth #4: You Will Have to Serve on a Jury If You Are Called In
Many people think that if they are called in for jury duty, they will have to serve on a jury. However, this is not the case. Jury duty is a way for a large number of people to be called in and screened to serve on a jury. Not everyone will serve on a jury. Most of the people called in on a certain date will actually be dismissed from serving on a jury for a particular trial. Attorneys are looking for specific things when it comes to serving on a jury, and not everyone will be asked to come back. You may be asked to be an alternate, however.
Jury Duty Myth #5: Attorneys Have to Explain Why They Don’t Choose You
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, however. In most cases, you are simply told that you will not be needed, and no reason will be given for the fact that your services will not be required. Lawyers can decide to challenge certain jurors for different reasons — or no reason at all. And you may never find out for sure why it was that you were not chosen to serve. In the grand scheme of things, though, not being chosen for one jury will not change your chances for serving down the road.
Jury Duty Myth #6: Jury Duty is Only for Criminal Trials
When we think of jury duty, we often think of criminal trials. We assume that juries are only used for criminal trials, and that civil trials are mainly held before a judge. This is not the case, though. It is possible to have a jury for a civil trial. The terms are a little different, though. Only six jurors are required, and the case does not have to be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the standard is “more true than not.” Additionally, the verdict is often required to be unanimous, unless the parties have agreed that something else will suffice.
Jury Duty Myth #7: If You Serve on a County Jury, You Don’t Have to Serve Again Anytime Soon
There is an idea that if you serve jury duty once, you are “safe” for at least a couple of years. This is a myth. If you serve on a county jury, you can still be called in for federal jury duty. Federal jury duty does not except local jury duty as an excuse for not serving. Due to the often time-consuming nature of a federal trial, though, you can be excused if you have served on a federal jury in the past two years.
Jury Duty Myth #8: You Can’t Postpone Jury Duty
Some feel that they will have to report for jury selection, no matter what. The good news is that this is not the case. There are special cases in which you can postpone your jury service, or be excused from it. In order to postpone your date to show up, you will need to request a change of date. You will need to contact your courthouse to learn the process followed by your jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction has specific excuses that are acceptable when it comes to avoiding jury duty, or postponing it.
Jury Duty Myth #9: You Can Lose Your Job While on Jury Duty
Many 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. Other adverse actions cannot be taken against you as a result of your jury duty. Additionally, you receive a stipend from the courts to help compensate you. Unfortunately, your employer does not have to pay you for the time you are on jury duty, so you may actually lose income.
Jury Duty Myth #10: If You Don’t Show Up for Jury Selection, Nothing Serious Will Happen
While it is possible to postpone your jury selection date, you must arrange for it in advance. Simply failing to show up can have serious consequences. It can result in an arrest warrant, a fine or other penalties. Make sure that you show up on the indicated day, or arrange for a postponement through the proper channels.
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