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What is Jury Duty?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the American legal system, individuals or groups accused of a crime have the right to a trial in which they can make a plea to a jury of their peers. In order to assure this for all individuals tried in an American court, all adult American citizens and those with permanent residency status are required to serve as a member of a jury from time to time. This service is referred to as jury duty.

The number of times an individual will serve on a jury depends on the selection process stipulated by the county and state of his or her residence. In some places, individuals are called after being randomly called from a roster of registered voters. In other places, individuals may be called more frequently based on other factors. Owning land or having a drivers license, for example, may increased the frequency at which an individual is called to serve on a jury.

Most people find jury duty to be more of an annoyance than anything else. In most cases, people are called to service and are discharged after one day at the county court house. There are cases in which people become involved in a complicated case, however. There are cases, for example, that have taken over a year in a courtroom trial. These, clearly, are the exceptions.

In most cases, people who are called to jury duty are protected from being fired or disciplined for missing work. In some states, an employer may be required to pay the employee for at least some of the time served on a jury, but this varies. People who provide child care to a member of their family must make private arrangements for that child or children while serving. Some states will pay jurors for their service — often up to $40 or $50 US Dollars per day — with some states paying from the first day and others only after several days or if the employer is not required to pay.

Jury duty can be postponed, but it cannot be waived except for in very special circumstances in which an individual is, for one reason or another, incapable of serving. In the event that an individual does not show up to court on his or her appointed date, the court may issue a fine in excess of $1100. In order to postponed this duty, you must get in touch with your county court house and request a postponement. If your postponement is granted, the courthouse will assign you another jury duty date.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By anon936993 — On Mar 03, 2014

Just like anything else in life, if you are forced to do something that you do want to do, most likely you will not do a good job. Please stop forcing people to go to jury duty.

By anon936989 — On Mar 03, 2014

I just got a notice to serve jury duty in the next city over from where I live. I have absolutely no interest in serving jury duty and I do not support forcing anyone to serve on a jury. I am a citizen who obeys the laws of the land and all of my tax responsibilities are current. However, I do not feel it is my place to condemn or judge some one else actions.

I do not believe any of us are qualified to impose our opinions and views on others. Just imagine all of the people who have no interest in jury duty, sitting there upset with unconcerned attitudes, forming an opinion on your case. It makes no sense to do it by force. I say let all those who feel it is such and honor do it and keep peace.

By anon320938 — On Feb 20, 2013

Jury duty is only for certain people, not for everyone.

By anon289738 — On Sep 05, 2012

I live in Southern California and got excused from jury duty by the judge for cause of a childhood traumatic experience. Then two years later, they called me again to serve. What gives? Nothing has changed and never will. I also have high blood pressure and that may push me into a heart attack. I'm 68 years old and have had loads of stress.

By anon284997 — On Aug 13, 2012

Anon145295 said it right. We shouldn't be forced into doing something we are not interested in. They need to call people who are interested in doing it.

By anon201565 — On Jul 31, 2011

The trick is knowing how far to push the envelope without being in contempt of court. Let’s face it – “justice” systems are just a game. Judges will tell you it is an honor and your civic duty. They would say that because they get paid a lot more than a juror. Typically judges are not accountable for stupid decisions, and jurors are kept in the dark on many topics. Evidence is “withheld” for being too prejudicial, even though it is relevant.

The rich get better results because they can afford better lawyers. The same thing that got you on to the jury call-up can be the same thing to get you out – the electoral roll. If you changed your address, and updated your license and electoral roll that you were out of the area (living with grandma), you would be excused based on distance. If you went to a doctor and complained that you are stressed, you can’t sleep and you can’t concentrate and make simple decisions – you would have some disorder. A medical certificate that you were unwell on psychological grounds would get you out too as it would affect your decision making process.

If it is a drug trial, say how upset you are at your long lost friend or relative who died from drugs and how you hate drug dealers. Same for a rape or a murder trial. You would be biased, and the accused would not get a fair trial. It would be grounds for a mistrial or appeal. If you are called up during empanelment, each side can object to a certain number of potential jurors. Give the accused a filthy, and I mean filthy, look as you are called up. Let everyone see it. His lawyer will object to you.

By anon190618 — On Jun 27, 2011

Well i got a notice to be on jury duty and honestly i don't mind it at all. don't get me wrong: i don't like the fact that it also forces me to go and get fined or serve some time. i think it's all a bunch of crap.

By anon188725 — On Jun 21, 2011

In my state/county jury duty pays $10/day and my job won't pay me to serve on a jury so i would have to use vacation time.

for 10 bucks a day, whoever is on trial is innocent.

By anon187272 — On Jun 17, 2011

If courts were about truth finding, you'd be happy to serve as a juror. Sadly the courts support the big end of town, who get better lawyers and better results. Getting out of jury duty is pretty easy. There are clips online on how to get out of it based on bias.

By anon178803 — On May 22, 2011

I received a letter to report for federal jury duty. I will be out of town that week. I asked for a later date and was denied. What do I do?

By anon145295 — On Jan 22, 2011

I am against forcing individuals to serve on jury duty and here is why. First and foremost, you are forcing someone against their will to decide the fate of someone's life. I mean, would anyone like to be judged by people who could, and usually are, brainwashed by lawyers?

And secondly, it should be a choice to serve on jury duty, not something force upon you by the federal and state government.

I have a better idea. Currently, this country is facing a high unemployment rate. Why doesn't the government set up a system of individuals who are unemployed and are seeking work (keywords "seeking work")to serve on jury duty (as well as people who truly want to be there)? That way, unemployment will be at an all time low. And no one is forced to do something they feel is unjust. That way almost no one is unemployed.

And we as a people, never have to hear that tragic line, "I can't find a job because no one is hiring." I look at it this way: it's not the greatest idea ever but it sure is a lot better than our current system.

By anon114159 — On Sep 27, 2010

Jury duty may be an annoyance but I don't understand why people feel it should be against the law to make you serve on a jury. We live in a society, a community of fellow Americans and that is how the system works. Those of you who complain would be the same ones crying about injustice if they did change the law, when we have nothing but professional jurors.

By anon97181 — On Jul 18, 2010

I think it's very inappropriate to force individuals to serve on a jury without proper background. They need to get people in the field of law, etc. who know what they are doing. A person might be intelligent with great instincts but honestly. this is something not to mess around with.

The whole thing is creepy. You're deciding on someone's fate and I believe it's too much responsibility to put on just anyone, not to mention dangerous across the board, no matter the case. Just think about it. The person on trial is angry in the end. You don't think he/she won't remember faces. Maybe I'm paranoid, but the world is insane enough. Yuck!

By anon88232 — On Jun 03, 2010

Why was it made law that it is my duty to serve on jury duty? It's all wrong!

By anon77436 — On Apr 14, 2010

i get selection of jury service, but i don't know what is it. i am a student here. can anyone tell me what should i do now?

By anon75167 — On Apr 05, 2010

Any citizen who is registered to vote is subjected to Jury Duty. If one was convicted for a misdemeanor/felony, you are not eligible to serve. Speeding tickets will not bar you from serving.

Now, with that said, why and how can we be subjected to serve? It's because our Constitution calls for a direct involvement of citizens (a form of republicanism as defined by philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau ).

By direct involvement, we fall into the checks and balances system in that the decision on whether or not a person should be convicted in a court of law.

For example, the judge is there to basically look over the litigation and make sure the trial is fair and going according to "standard procedure." The attorneys are there to bridge the judge to the common people (jury).

The attorneys inform the jury of the law while exposing a defense or attack on both the defendant and plaintiff parties.

The jury, or "us," as defined per the Constitution, are there to make the judgment call and determine whether or not the law was followed.

(Okay. Some of this may not make sense. I'm actually writing a paper on this at the moment, and am using this opportunity to somewhat "organize" the thought process.)

By anon67838 — On Feb 26, 2010

How can our government subject us to involuntary servitude? How is this possible?

By anon62105 — On Jan 24, 2010

Don't think that jury duty is easy work! You will pay strict attention. You may be deciding the fate of the accused for many years if not for his/her entire life. A sober and reasonable person is required.

Jury duty is an interesting process. Not like on TV where you see Judge Judy. The work is hard if you are doing the job properly. If you were the accused you would want the same. I have been called several times for jury duty and never tried to avoid it.

I served as an actual juror one time and I was elected foreman. The judge was very respectful toward the jurors, very concerned about their welfare and placed the members at ease. But make no mistake, this is serious work! I will serve jury duty at any time I am called.

By anon61484 — On Jan 20, 2010

what gives the state the right to make you serve jury duty? is this still a free country? do we have any rights? or are we government owned?

By anon58641 — On Jan 03, 2010

I am just curious about the whole thing. I've yet to be serve as a juror, can't wait though. It seems fun.

By anon55964 — On Dec 10, 2009

I got this thing in the mail, or my mom did, with my name on it to serve on jury. I'm 13.

By anon50573 — On Oct 29, 2009

Jury duty was the worst experience of my life.

By anon47421 — On Oct 04, 2009

This is the dumbest thing I have heard of. I am a full time student and working 30-plus hours a week to try and stay on top things. I don't feel like I should be punished if I do not want to participate.

By anon44927 — On Sep 11, 2009

Some of the above comments are true for some but not all states. Each state differs in their systems.

By anon41336 — On Aug 14, 2009

I'm super excited! I was selected for jury duty! I'm 24 years old, property owner with a driver's license and no tickets since I was like 18 or something. Weird thing is, a good friend of mine was selected as well!

By anon29876 — On Apr 10, 2009

In Los Angeles I was on call for a week and on Friday was called to be present for jury selection, and told if selected i may need to be available for up to a week for trial. This is a crazy way to treat a citizen.

My main question is how has jury selection developed? Shouldn't it just be a random sample of the population? Why is the jury not chosen before the judge, defendant, and lawyers?

I think all negotiations by the lawyers and defendants should be done blind. A random sample of the population is the best way for justice: no jury tampering by manipulation of the citizens allowed to sit on the jury.

By hillmont — On Dec 22, 2008

I live in the State of Tennessee (carter county) I have never been ask to serve on jury duty while my family and a few friends have. I was wondering if there certain requirements or negatives that would disqualify a person? I am 55 and have had a valid drivers license for 39 years. I have had one spending ticket back 25 years ago. I would like to know when they (county) does a random pull for potential juror's if that would void my opportunity to serve?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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