How Does Jury Duty Work in the US?

“Trial by jury is part of the bright constellation which leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” (Thomas Jefferson, 1801). This quote highlights the role of the jury in the democracy of the US. But do you know what jury duty or jury service is? How does jury duty work? What does it mean to be on call for jury duty? Keep scrolling down to figure it out!

What Is Jury Duty?

Jury duty is an obligation of US citizens to serve as jurors throughout a court proceeding. As jurors, you ensure the Sixth Amendment right of the defendant to an impartial and speedy trial. When called for jury service, you must appear before the court; or else, you might risk being held in contempt of court with a bench warrant. 

Regarding jury types, there are trial juries and grand juries. Each of them has different functions in the federal trial courts. A trial jury, or a petit jury, determines whether the defendant has broken the law as charged in a criminal case or harmed the plaintiff in a civil case. And a grand jury decides whether a person committed a crime and must be put on trial or not based on “probable cause”. If the grand jury is unanimous that the evidence is sufficient, the defendant will receive an indictment.

How Does Jury Duty Work?

Summons for jury service in the US.

Summons for jury service in the US – Source: Odessa American

When called for jury duty, you’ll receive a formal summons asking you to be ready for jury duty at a specific time, date, and place. You have to call the court the night before reporting on jury service. Doing so, you could know whether your services are necessary the next day. Upon arriving at the designated court, you need to fill out a questionnaire and participate in the jury selection process.

One thing to keep in mind is that the jury service law may vary from state to state. Thus, it’s advisable to know the laws of jury duties in your state. You can go to the State Labor Offices to know that.

Regarding possible outcomes after a jury duty call, you can request and receive a grant for a delay to a more suitable time. Typically, you need to fill out a jury questionnaire and be willing to offer replacement times in the future. However, the rules for delay requests vary between jurisdictions. As a result, your delay or postponement request can be possibly approved by the court.

You'll need an acceptable reason for jury service exemption.

You’ll need an acceptable reason for jury service exemption – Source: Magistrates’ Court Of Victoria

In addition, you can request a full exemption from jury duty for acceptable reasons. Your reasons can range from financial difficulty, health problems to full-time student status or caregiver duty. To guarantee your exemptions, you must have a written document or proof of the situation. For example, you have to show your doctor’s note if you are claiming a medical reason.

Knowledge Seminar – Jury Service Overview – Source: United States Courts

What is Juror Selection Process?

During the jury selection process, the lawyers of each side have the right to question potential jurors. If potential jurors are partial or show a conflict of interest, they might be removed from the jury pool. Moreover, the court may dismiss potential jurors when jurors aren’t needed due to an already seated jury, plea negotiation, or a settlement.

Jury Selection: An Inside Look At The Process. Source: CBS Philly

But how long does jury duty last? Usually, potential jurors may be selected to serve on the jury. When that happens, the trial can be short and quick, but it can also take a few months. They may even be isolated or separated from their daily lives until the trial is over with the final verdict.

What’s Time Off Policy For Jury Duty?

The policy of time-off to perform jury duty needs to treat employees serving on a jury fairly and protect employers’ interests in daily business operations. Normally, in almost every state, it’s the employers’ obligation to allow their workers off work to fulfill their civic duty.

However, if a jury summons occurs when staff loss significantly affects the employers, they can write to the court. The Court will take their requests for jury service delay into account on a case-by-case basis.

In fact, the time-off policy for jury service can differ. It depends on whether you work for a private company or a local, state, or federal organization. For example, some states, such as Louisiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Utah, Virginia, etc., even prohibit employers from demanding employees to use their vacation and sick leave in exchange for jury duty.

Moreover, federal law forbids employers from taking adverse measures, including employment termination against employees serving on a jury, harassment, threat, or attempt to coerce their staff into denying jury obligations. Additionally, employees have the right to return to work after their jury duty.

Whether Jury Duty Leave is Paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 94% of employees working in state government get paid while on jury duty leave. Around 85% of employees working for the local government and 57% in the private sector receive their regular wages when serving on jury duty. In general, the proportion of workers on paid jury leave varies, depending on job title, job rank or category, and industry.

Do employees receive a salary for jury duty leave?

Do employees receive a salary for jury duty leave? – Source: Shutterstock

Regarding paid jury service leave, there are eight states where employees still receive a salary while on jury duty. These states include Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Nebraska, and Tennessee. Moreover, some states even set the amount an employer must pay an employee, usually the same as the jury’s salary, for certain days at the start of the process. Then, the state court system will pay the employee the jury fee for additional jury days.

In New York, for example, the jury fee is about $40 a day. New York law states that a firm with over ten employees must pay the jurors their usual daily salary or $40 jury fee, whichever lower, for their first three jury duty days. If jurors receive less than jury fees, the state will compensate for the difference.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, jury duty is a civic responsibility of US citizens to serve as the jury in a court proceeding. Federal law does not require employers to pay jurors while away from work, including jury duty. However, according to some state laws, employees are entitled to get paid on jury duty. You cannot be laid off for taking a leave to fulfill your jury duty.

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John Hobbs

At Jobandedu, John Hobbs holds the position of senior blogger. Though Hobbs has achieved massive success as a researcher, adviser, and writer, he still had to undergo multiple trials and tribulations before finding his true calling. He considered it his life's work to assist others in discovering and developing their full potential. His broad expertise in diverse fields and specifications allows him to provide insightful, real-world advice. His writings offer in-depth guidance on finding and excelling in a career, using information gleaned from extensive study and his personal experience. Hobbs also has a creative and engaging writing style, which he uses to publish pieces wherein he discusses his interests, views, and studies.