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Will you be on a jury? Jury Duty - An Honored Service - Read this before serving

California Drunk or Impaired DUI Law for the Public



Jury Service, an obligation shared by all eligible citizens, is a cornerstone of American democracy. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens who are charged in criminal cases the right to trial by jury of their peers. In civil cases, the jury manifests the conscience of the community, ruling for either of the opposing parties in a dispute. Every person brought to trial in the United States on a criminal charge bringing a certain amount of custody (jail or prison time) as a punishment, whether citizen or not, has a right to a jury trial guaranteed by the United States and California Constitutions.


JURY DUTY – An Honored Service


(this page adopted from new materials of the U.S. Postal Service

and old ones of the California Judges Association)


Jury Duty


The right to a trial by jury is the privilege of every person in the United States, whether citizen or not. This cherished right is guaranteed by both the United States and California Constitutions.


Obviously, jury trials cannot be held unless people like you are willing to perform their civic duty. Jurors are essential to the administration of justice.


Questions & Answers


If you are called for jury duty, you will have many questions- from where you should report to what will happen during a trial if you are chosen to serve. Most of these steps are set by state law, a few by county rules. What you read here should cover most of your questions, although each county may be slightly different.


Who may be called to serve as a juror?


You may be called to serve if you are 18 years old, a United States citizen, and a resident of the county or district where summoned. You must be able to understand English, and be physically and mentally capable of serving. In addition, you must not have served as any kind of juror during the past 12 months, nor have been convicted of a felony.


How did my name get selected for jury duty?


Jurors’ names are selected at random from lists of registered voters. In addition, the law provides that the courts may use the names of all persons who have drivers licenses, or identification cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The courts may use other sources such as customer mailing lists, telephone directories, and utility company lists. So you may be called even if you allow your name to be dropped from the list of registered voters.


How long will my name be on a prospective jurors list?


Your name will remain on the county jury list for at least one year, and you may be called for jury duty once during that year. If you are not called one year, your name may be placed on next year’s list.


When I am summoned as a juror, what should I do?


READ the summons. The address, the date, and the time will be written on the summons. In some cities, trials may be held in different locations.


May I postpone my jury service to a more convenient time?


You may request to reschedule your jury service to a more convenient time. Usually it must be rescheduled during the same year. Mail your request to the jury commissioner’s office to see if a postponement is possible.


Do I get paid for jury duty?


Yes. Generally, if you are summoned to the courthouse, you are paid for at least that day. And if you’re actually on a jury, you’re paid for each day or part of a day the trial lasts. The minimum amount paid is set by the State Legislature. Counties may pay more but never less. Your county may also pay for some travel costs.


Who pays for meals?


You do. Lunches are not provided during a trial and usually not during deliberations.


How can I be a juror if my boss won’t let me off?


Your employer must let you off for jury duty. Employers cannot discharge an employee called for jury service if the employee gives reasonable notice of the summons. Some employers pay the difference between your jury allowance and salary. If your salary for the day is $35, for instance, and the jury fee is $5, your pay would be $30. This is not required by law but many union contracts require the pay differential.


What should I wear to court?


Dress as you would to go to a business meeting or social functions. Do not wear shorts or tank tops. Check with the jury commissioner if you have any doubts.


Is there any special way I must act in court?


Be alert and courteous. You may bring a book to read while you’re waiting for  court to begin, or during recesses, but don’t read while court is in session.


How much of my day will jury service take?


You should plan to attend court as a juror all day from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., depending on the court’s schedule. An average court jury trial lasts two to three days with medium ones take four to five days.


Why are there such long breaks and lunch hours during a trial?


The judge may have to set the next day’s calendar and dispose of other cases. Attorneys may also need time to prepare their witnesses and other aspects of the case.


What happens if I’m late?


Contact the jury commissioner’s office as soon as you know that you are going to be late. If you are already assigned to a courtroom, contact the jury commissioner’s office or the clerk of the court and explain your situation. Remember the trial cannot proceed until everyone is present. If you don’t have a good excuse, the judge may fine you for being late.


May I take notes?


Yes, but your notes must stay inside the courtroom.


May jurors ask questions during the trial?


If you have a question, write it down on a piece of paper. Motion for the bailiff or marshal and ask that it be handed to the judge. Normally, the judge will show it to the attorneys first and then respond, by writing a note back, by answering directly from the bench, or may indicate that it is not proper to answer the question at that time.


Is it true that I must not discuss the case with anyone while it’s in progress?


Do not talk to anyone about the case until you are discharged from the jury, not even the lawyers or the judge, except through the bailiff. Discussions with others can cause a mistrial because the juror gained evidence outside the record. If any person persists in talking to you about the trial or attempts to influence you as a juror, tell the bailiff. During deliberations, at the end of the trial, of course, you will discuss the case with other jurors in order t o reach a verdict, but only when all jurors are present.


May I investigate some parts of the case that aren’t brought out by the attorneys – on my own time?


No. Under no circumstances should you investigate the case on your own, either alone or with other jurors. You may not talk to witnesses, or do independent experiments. Your verdict must be based only on evidence produced in court. This prevents a trial based on secret evidence. If you violate this rule, you could cause a mistrial.


Why do attorneys talk with the judge out of the juror’s hearing?


If this happens, do not feel slighted or guess what is being said. Such conferences are held to discuss legal issues or to agree upon points of evidence. These conferences often help speed up the trial or avoid the possibility of a mistrial.


Who do I write to with suggestions about my jury service?


The presiding judge or jury commissioner of the court in which you served.


The Trial


The reason we have trials is to allow two or more parties to have their dispute settled by a court. Some lawsuits are decided by the judge alone; others are decided by a jury. A jury is a body of ordinary citizens sworn to make an impartial decision based on the evidence or information presented during trial.


Jurors serve in two kinds of cases – civil and criminal. IN a civil case one person or entity – the plaintiff – asks the court to protect some right or to help recover money or property from another – the defendant. In a criminal case the State of Californiathe plaintiff – charges that a person – the defendant – committed a crime and asks that the defendant be fined or sent to jail or prison.


Before the trial – Settlement of cases


The law encourages people to settle their disputes out of court. In fact, lawyers will negotiate right up to the moment the trial begins. The trial may even be delayed while the lawyers try to work out a settlement with the judge in chambers. The lawyers may continue to negotiate out of the jury’s hearing, while the trial is going on. You, as a juror, won’t be told what’s happening unless the two sides come to terms, in which case the trial will be ended and you’ll be dismissed.


Jury selection


You and the others called for jury duty will be taken into a courtroom. Twelve to eighteen names will be drawn by lot, unless the parties agree to a smaller jury. These people will take seats in a jury box. The rest of you will remain seated in the courtroom.


The judge will state the names of the parties in the case and the names of the lawyers who will represent them. The judge will also tell you what the lawsuit is about, for example, a drunk driving case, a burglary case, or a civil suit such as an automobile accident.


Next the judge and/or the attorneys will question each of you seated in the jury box to find out if you can be a fair and impartial juror in this particular case.


One of the attorneys may “challenge you for cause.” This means the attorney will ask the judge to excuse you from the jury for a specific legal reason. For example, if you know one of the attorneys, you might tend to favor his or her side. Each lawyer has an unlimited number of challenges for cause.


Each attorney also has the right to a certain number of peremptory challenges. That is, the attorney may ask that you be excused without giving any reason at all. If this happens, don’t take it personally. The lawyer is merely exercising a right given by law.


After the required number of jurors has been chosen, the jury panel is sworn to try the case.


How the trial proceeds – Opening Statement


First the attorney for the party who is suing will tell the jury what he or she intends to prove. In a civil case, this is the plaintiff’s attorney; in a criminal case, this is the prosecuting attorney. The attorney for the defense may speak then or may wait until after the other side presents its evidence.


Presentation of the evidence


After the opening statement, the side bringing the suit – the plaintiff (civil) or the State (criminal) – will present its evidence. This will usually be by calling witnesses, and asking them questions. The other attorney will also ask questions. Each attorney may bring in letters, papers, charts, weapons, or any other exhibit to prove the case.


Closing Statement


Both attorneys will sum up the case from their perspectives. Taking turns, each will tell you what he or she believes the evidence shows and why it favors his or her side.


Instructions to the jury


The judge will instruct you on your duties as jurors. The judge will also tell you what law applies to the facts you will consider. After that, the bailiff will take you to the jury room where you and the other jurors will deliberate.


In the jury room


First, you will select one of the jurors as foreperson. He or she leads the discussion and tries to encourage everyone to join in.  Don’t be afraid to speak out during deliberations. The whole idea of a jury is to come to a decision after full and frank discussion, based on calm, unbiased reasoning.


In civil cases, it takes nine jurors to reach a verdict. In criminal cases, all jurors must agree, that is, the verdict must be unanimous.


The verdict


When you have reached your verdict – which may come after a few hours or several days, the foreperson will record your verdict on an official form. The bailiff will tell the judge you are ready and you will return to the jury box.


The judge will ask if you reached a verdict. The foreperson will answer, handing the written verdict to the bailiff. The clerk will read it aloud and mark the record accordingly.


Sometimes one of the parties will ask that the jury be polled. This means that the judge or clerk will ask each juror individually if this is his or her own verdict. The jury’s service will then be complete.




You’ll hear a lot of talk about evidence during the trial. Evidence is really just information, but not all information is considered evidence and allowed in court.


Generally speaking, these things are evidence;


·        Testimony – Answers to questions asked by the lawyers or judge


·        Exhibits admitted by the judge – Documents, contracts, court records and material objects, such as a gun, item of clothing, photograph, diagram, or computer printout.


·        Witnesses’ depositions – Answers to questions which were asked by the lawyers in the case before the trial began. The questions are answered under oath and presented to the court later in written form.


·        Stipulations – These are agreements between both sides as to certain facts in the case, such as a date or time.


Some things are not evidence. Judges and lawyers must follow the Evidence Code, which has been created over many years to ensure a fair trial. During a trial, information may come up that cannot be considered as evidence, and you must not consider it when you are deciding on your verdict. This may include:


·        Testimony the judge will not admit – Sometimes the judge will rule that something which was said by a witness is not admissible and must be stricken from the record. The judge will then turn to the jury and tell you not to consider the matter.


·        Statements by the lawyers – lawyers often talk about the evidence and attempt to interpret it for the jury. However, their comments are not evidence and can only be used to help the jury analyze the evidence.


·        Anything that you learn or hear about the case from outside of court – by means of gossip, newspaper articles, internet use, websites, or personal information – is not evidence. This is why the judge will often warn you not to read about a case or read the newspapers or websites while a jury trial is going on.


·        Comments about the case made by others in your hearing. Most of the time these comments are made innocently, however, it is possible that the person is trying to “plant” a comment hoping to influence you.


How to consider evidence


The judge decides what evidence is proper or admissible. He or she may let the jury hear certain things or see certain exhibits – or keep them from you. This is done for a reason, even though it may frustrate you at times. The judge must apply the rules of evidence according to the law. Although the judge decides what evidence you may consider, you decide if that evidence is believable, and how important it is to the case.


As you listen to the testimony, there are a few questions you might keep in mind; Does this witness have an interest in how the case comes out? Does he or she “forget” when it is convenient to do so, and only remember what is favorable? Are the statements of the witness reasonable – or improbable? Could the witness simply be mistaken about what he or she saw, heard, smelled, or felt?


Remember that witnesses often remember different details, especially when an event happened quickly, and involved emotions.


Cross-examination of witnesses will also help you in considering evidence Cross-examination often points up weaknesses, uncertainties, and improbabilities in testimony that might have sounded convincing at first.  You should keep an open mind to the end of the trial, when you have heard all the evidence.


Objections to evidence


During a trial, the lawyers may object to questions asked by their opponent. This is common and is part of the lawyer’s job. A trial must be conducted according to rules and a lawyer may object to questions or evidence he or she believes to be improper.


When an objection is made, the judge will either overrule or sustain it. If the judge considers the question to be improper or the evidence inadmissible, he or she will sustain the objection. If the judge considers the question to be proper or the evidence admissible, he or she will overrule the objection. The ruling does not indicate that the judge favors one side or one lawyer over the other.


Remember that what is introduced in court is "evidence," but you alone determine which and what of the evidence are the facts of the matter. No one can tell you how to interpret the evidence; you are the exclusive judges of what the facts are, or are not.  Parties put on evidence; jurors determine facts.


Officers of the Court


JUDGE:  Appointed by the governor or elected by the voters – has the authority and duty to hear and decide questions of law. The judge must see that everyone receives equal and fair justice under the law.


ATTORNEY:  Licensed practitioner of the law, who is employed by a party or by the government to prepare and present their case.


CLERK:  Chief administrative officer of the court. The clerk compiles official files, stamps and collects exhibits, swears in jurors, and maintains records of court proceedings.


BAILIFF:  A court attendant who keeps order in the courtroom and has custody of the jury.


COURT REPORTER:  Records legal proceedings accurately for the official record.


INTERPRETER:  Hired by the court to translate foreign languages, or aid disabled participants.



The material in this website is for informational purposes only, and is provided as a public service. This public information is not intended to be a source of legal advice. Do not rely upon these materials for legal advice. Seek a consultation with more than one drunk driving defense lawyer on the phone or in person about the facts of your case.

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