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August 2015 Archives

The In's and Out's of Jury Duty

When people think about jury duty, they often think about an untimely and aggravating necessity that disrupts their daily schedule. For some, it can be more than an annoying disruption, it can also cause financial hardships. While your employer cannot fire you for serving on a jury, they are not required to pay you for this time spent away from the job. The State of Minnesota only, for example, compensates jurors $10-$20 a day, 27 cents/mile, along with a small stipend for childcare. This can present a significant burden for a family. So with all of these potential drawbacks, why would someone want to serve on a jury?
The reality is that whether or not you want to serve on a jury, you likely will at some point. There isn't a lot you can do to avoid jury duty. Names are randomly pulled from State IDs, licenses, buying a home or filing a tax return. Ignoring jury duty or refusing to show up can result in consequences such as large fines and even jail in some cases.
You should know that there are a few exceptions that exempt a citizen from serving on a jury. For example, when there is a hardship, or a significant cause that could prevent a potential juror from giving an honest and objective opinion. Also, active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces are exempt along with members of a professional fire or police department, or public officers who are actively engaged in the full-time performance of public duties. Also it should be noted that scheduled vacations and prior commitments will be honored, and will often be the basis for permission to report on a later date.So for those of us who are still required to serve on a jury, how can we make the most of this time? We should try to remember that serving on a jury is a civic duty and an exciting opportunity to learn about the legal system. Without jurors, our legal system fails. In order to make the most of our time on a jury, (it can last from a few days to a few weeks) we should do our best to engage in the process. The best way to engage in the process is by paying attention. The judge will walk jurors through the process and give them clear instructions. As long as jurors are listening and paying attention, they will be able to fully engage. After the trial is over, jurors are expected to reach a verdict, which could take a few hours or a few days, or even longer. Many people believe that every jury must come to a unanimous decision, which is not always the case. It is important to remember that jurors are not allowed to have outside contact with anyone involved in the case. Jurors will have a lot of down time, so make the most of it and bring along a good book! 

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