It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you are on when it comes to jury duty, it’s an inevitable process. Whether you regard it as a liberating responsibility or a nuisance, the summons is going to arrive in your mailbox at some point or another. If this is your first experience with jury duty then you are in good company, because this article will look at the important things you need to know. More specifically, it will answer questions related to the experience and how to handle the difficulties in case you are unable to fulfill this responsibility.
What to Expect
First and foremost, every state and county does things different. However, these differences are relatively small. For example, the compensation rate between counties are different. But the basic principles of being summoned and serving on a jury are pretty much the same. To make things easier, every county has a website that outlines the necessary details according that district. All you have to do to find out the specifics of your district is to go to the relevant website.
For the most part you’ll receive a letter in the mail, which states that you’ve been chosen for jury duty. Whether you fit the requirements or not, you are obligated to respond to this letter. If you don’t respond then it can lead to negative consequences, such as being held in contempt or getting a fine. Assuming there isn’t anything that stops you from serving on a jury, you need to prepare yourself for a lot of waiting. Everything starts off by sitting in an assembly room with the other candidates. From there you will be called and questioned by the relevant lawyers and attorneys. This process will be repeated until you are selected to serve as a jury member for a case.
It’s important to note that being summoned doesn’t necessarily mean you will be an active juror. If you don’t fit the right profile according to the lawyers then you might be excused from jury duty altogether until the next letter shows up in your mailbox. After you’ve finished serving on a jury you shouldn’t receive another summons for at least 12 months, but this might differ between states.
What happens if you are Unable to Attend Jury Duty?
Even though there are some set rules for being excused from jury duty, they are few and far between. Due to so many people who try to avoid it, excuses are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In other words, you need to put your excuse in writing and send it to the clerk of the court. Unless you are above (or below) a certain age, have a criminal record or you are mentally unstable, you need to support your excuse. The clerk will review your letter and inform you whether it will be accepted or not.
I wasn’t excused from Jury Duty and I don’t have a Babysitter – What Now?
This is a problem many mothers face. Being obligated to perform your civic duty while taking care of a child (or children) is not an easy task. Let’s break this down to get some perspective.
If this is the first time you are being summoned for jury duty, but you don’t have the financial support for daycare or a babysitter then one of three things will happen. The first alternative is that the court will compensate you for childcare, because being compensated for jury duty is mandatory. If the compensation rate doesn’t cover the childcare services then you’ll most likely be excused. The last option is to ask for exemption. Depending on your situation the court usually provides a 2 year exemption period.
For mothers who face additional difficulties that aren’t covered by the compensation rate, but aren’t excused either, don’t stop fighting. Call the clerk and send more letters explaining your situation in detail. Chances are there is a simple misunderstanding. Just remember to take action as quickly as possible. Don’t wait till the last-minute before protesting. If worst comes to worst and you are still not excused, just show up with your child. Although it’s not the most liberal thing to do, it definitely proves a point.
For mothers who have been excused several times already, it’s going to be a little more difficult. However, the same strategy should be used as mentioned above. If your child has special needs or you are the sole caretaker then keep pleading your case.
Some Final Thoughts
There is no such thing as a perfect system and thanks to those individuals who are looking for the easy way out, it might make things more difficult for you. Just remember that the government isn’t hell-bent on ignoring your hardships, but sometimes you’ll need to fight a little harder to make them see it. Simply take a stand and state your case through the right channels.
Have you ever served on a jury before? What was your experience like?