One of the responsibilities of registered voters in the United States is the distinct possibility of serving jury duty. County and city governments often maintain rolls of eligible voters, and every so often a pool of them are summoned to the courthouse for jury duty. Some are dismissed almost immediately, while others may be questioned by attorneys or a judge. Those who survive the initial interviews are most certainly destined to become jury members or alternates in a court trial.
If you are called to serve jury duty, you may have to be prepared for a number of scenarios. At the very least, you'll need to inform your employer and/or family members of your new circumstances. Employers may need to reschedule other employees to cover your time away or hire a temporary replacement.
You may also want to inquire about the company's policy regarding jury duty. Some companies compensate summoned employers as usual, while others charge the absence as unpaid personal leave. You may receive some monetary compensation for your services while on jury duty, but this amount is usually nominal.
Since predicting the length of a court proceeding is difficult at best, you'll also need to reschedule or cancel outstanding appointments for the duration of your stint on jury duty. If you are responsible for a carpool or after-school pick-ups, you'll need to make alternative arrangements. On the rare chance that your jury becomes sequestered, another family member or friend may have to assume many of your normal household responsibilities. Access to phones and other communications may be restricted by court order, so make sure to have a long-term plan in mind before you leave for jury duty.
The good news is that most court trials only last a few days to a week. Both sides of a case strive to present evidence in a clear and understandable manner. The judge is often available to answer the jury's questions over legal definitions.
A foreperson is elected to act as a facilitator for deliberations, and you'll be expected to vote according to your own perception of the facts presented in court. If the vote reaches a certain majority opinion or unanimity, depending on the type of case, then the jury's foreperson hands over the jury's verdict to the presiding judge. Once the verdict is read, the jury members are released from jury duty.
One important element to prepare for when summoned to jury duty is the reality of the deliberation process. Unlike the fictional juries of crime shows or movies, relatively few jury members hold out on an 11 to 1 vote for very long. Emotions can run high during deliberations, especially if the case involves a violent crime, but not often at the feverish pitch portrayed on television. You may find yourself sharing a minority opinion, but a careful reconsideration of the evidence could change your mind. Jury duty on a controversial or high-profile case can be a life-changing experience, so be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions while deliberating a verdict.