Ahhhh, Jury Duty. 'Tis a time-honored and noble duty of every good member of society that lacks a felonious record or bias against the parties. There are few things more American than participating nobly in your civic duties. This should serve as a primer to prepare you for your patriotic obligations.
Do questions like what should I expect, how long will I be there and why are the lawyers asking me all these questions ring a bell with you? If so, read more.
What should I expect?
Expect to have some free time. Jury Duty is a cattle call. You are supposed to show up, on time, to the location indicated on your Jury Duty summons. You then have to wait, while they sort through who has shown and who hasn’t. If your summons mentions a Qualification Questionnaire, your questioning will be done in advance, online, and will probably be much more extensive.
The lawyers are on a mission to find potential conflicts and bias. So, while the other ninety-seven people are being grilled, you will listening to every question and answer. Bring a book, (or seven) or some work.
When it comes time for you to answer questions, be sure to be truthful. You are under oath and lying at this point is perjury. You may recall perjury is what Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have been indicted for. The lawyers are trying to determine whether you can be fair and impartial on their case. So, if you know that you cannot be fair and impartial, whether it’s due to personal bias, a history with one of the parties, or due to a traumatic past, you should speak up.
How long will I be there for?
There really is no way to tell. For your initial service, you will be there for probably one to two days but if on call for a trial, it could be up to five days. If you are selected, you could serve on a jury for any length of time. The vast majority of trials are short, otherwise we’d never convict anyone of a crime. However, there are the occasional multi-week trials, like the O.J. Simpson debacle, that can occupy months.
What if I have a really, really good excuse?
Well, this is going to depend on the excuse, but remember that everyone has an excuse. The court is especially unsympathetic to loss of income excuses, as everyone loses pay by attending. Jurors are compensated only $40 per day, which is about $5 per hour.
For those of you who need a delay, filling out this online form, or calling 800-449-2819 at least one week before your date of service, will allow you to get one automatic postponement. After that, you’ll need to come up with a good excuse or debilitating disease and provide the excuse and documentary proof to the local Commissioner of Jurors. The contact information for the Commissioner can be found by selecting your county from the top left side of the Juror Information page.
Remember, no matter how much you might want to avoid jury duty, it is not worth a perjury charge. Be smart and make excuses wisely. If you really cannot be fair and impartial, say so, but don’t go from being a juror in one case to a defendant in another. Plus, where would the judicial system be without you?
This post is part of FindLaw’s Legal U series. We are working to help you learn what to do in your city to cope with some of the legal problems, questions, or issues that come up in daily life. Please come back to learn more from future posts in this series.
- Find a New York Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- NY Juror Information: Frequently Asked Questions (NY State Unified Court System)
- 9-Year-Old Gets Jury Duty Summons: ‘What’s a Jury Duty?’ (FindLaw’s Legal Grounds Blog)
- Jury Duty and an Employee’s Right to Pay (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
- How to Fight a Jaywalking Ticket in NYC (Legal U)
- How to Fight a Red Light Ticket in NYC (Legal U)