Jury Duty

Who can be called for jury duty?

To be called for jury duty, you must be 18 years old, have lived in Virginia for at least one year, and have lived in the city or county where you are being summoned to serve as juror for at least six months immediately preceding your summons. If you have been convicted of a felony as an adult and have not had your civil rights restored, or have been declared mentally incompetent and your competence has not been reinstated, you are not eligible to serve on a jury.

The Constitutions of the United States and of Virginia guarantee that all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, have the right to trial by impartial jury. An impartial jury should be a jury of the defendant’s peers — i.e., a cross section of people who are representative of the local community. Juries decide the fates of criminal defendants and the outcomes of civil cases and are essential to the overall administration of justice. Therefore, it is very important for everyone in the local community to respond and fully participate in jury duty if asked.

How are people called to serve on a jury?

Jurors are selected randomly from lists designated by the court, such as the voter registration list and the DMV list. Each individual selected for jury duty will receive a summons from the sheriff that will identify the date, location, and time to report for jury service. Keep in mind that receiving a jury summons does not automatically mean that you will sit on a jury. When you report for jury duty, you should dress appropriately to show respect for the court and for those persons whose case will be heard that day. When you arrive in the courtroom, the judge and the lawyers involved in the particular case will ask you questions about any relationship you may have with the parties or any interest you may have in the outcome of the lawsuit. This process is called “voir dire.” After these questions are asked, the lawyers will have an opportunity to remove jurors from the panel for any reason, other than race and sex, until the jury is reduced to the number of jurors required for that particular case.

If I’m called to serve on a jury, do I have to go?

Yes. All qualified citizens have a legal and civil obligation to serve as jurors when called.

Can I be excused from jury duty?

Upon request by a potential juror, the following shall be exempt: mariners employed in ­maritime service; custodians of minors who require continuous care; persons responsible for care of physically and mentally impaired person during court hours; persons over 70 years of age; breast feeding mothers; those whose spouses are on the same jury panel; and ­persons whose services are essential to operations of a particular business. Only a few people are automatically exempt from jury duty; these include members of Congress and the General Assembly (during session), licensed active attorneys, judges, members of sheriff’s departments, state troopers, certain corrections officers, and members of executive branches of state and federal governments. Others may be excused from jury service after contacting the court, but requests are determined on a case-by-case basis.

What if I get called for jury duty after I turn 18, but while I’m still in high school?

You have an obligation to serve on the jury, so you will be excused from school for jury­ ­selection and trial.

If I am attending college in a different town or state than my home address and get called for jury duty, do I have to travel home every week for the month I’m called?

There is no statutory exemption for college students from jury duty, even if you are living away from your home address. Students may ask to be excused from jury duty under these circumstances and offer to be available when they are home during school breaks. There is no guarantee that the court will grant the request. Many courts have websites describing how to ask to be excused from jury service. If there is no specific instruction on how to ask to be excused, contact the clerk of the court who issued the summons for jury duty.

How long can I be required to serve on a jury?

As long as it takes. Some trials last only a few hours, others a day or two, and some trials can last even longer. Before a lengthy trial, it is likely that the judge will ask you whether you have any problems that could prevent you from serving on such a jury. It will then be up to the judge to decide whether you have a valid excuse from service.

Will I get paid for being on a jury?

Yes, but not much. In Virginia, jurors are paid $50 per day of service. Any expenses a juror may have, such as meals and transportation, must come out of this $50.

What happens if I have to miss work for jury duty?

You are obligated to report for jury duty and your employer cannot fire you or make you use sick days or vacation days for the time you miss. Whether you will continue to be paid your ­salary for the time you miss in order to serve on a jury depends on your employer.

How often can I be called for jury duty?

You can be called for jury duty no more than once every three years.

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
For print copies of So You're 18 contact (804) 775-0521 or [email protected].