Under the American Constitution, a trial by jury is a guaranteed right in most criminal and civil cases. No knowledge is needed about jury duty facts in order to serve as a juror. There are two judicial systems-federal and the state-and while there are many similarities between the two, state systems for jury selection do differ in some instances.
The following qualifications and stipulations apply:
Both the federal and state systems use lists to contact potential jurors that are usually obtained from state driver's license information or registered voter lists. When a case is set to go to trial, the court clerk uses these lists to randomly select a pool of potential jurors chosen as a fair cross section of the community. Those chosen are summoned to appear on a certain date. Both lawyers question them, under oath, to determine whether or not they are fit for service through a process called "voir dire."
Number of jurors chosen
In federal and state criminal cases, usually 12 jurors are chosen with a differing number of alternate jurors, depending upon the case. In some cases between one and six alternates are selected in order to step in should one of the 12 regular jurors become ill or disqualified in some way. Federal and state civil cases require from six to 12 jurors, with two alternates usually chosen. All alternates sit in the jury box and listen to trial deliberations even though they might not be called upon to render a verdict.
Allowable reasons to avoid jury duty
Unless an individual can prove a personal or severe financial hardship, most judges will not excuse people from jury duty. Having a job isn't a qualified excuse because most employers will allow their employees to serve, even if they won't pay them. Other reasons for dismissal include a conflict of interest with the case, knowing anyone involved in the case, or a bias formed as a victim or through a family member's experience. At the federal level, no members may serve on jury duty that are actively serving in the armed forces, are employed by local fire or police departments, or are employed by federal, state or local governments.
Payment for jury duty
While federal courts pay $40 per day for each day of service, payment for state court service varies and is usually a little less. As an example, in Nevada, state district jury pay is $35 per day, but state rules often change. If a juror travels a long distance, sometimes modest travel expenses are included or hotel accommodations provided. In most instances, courts pay for reasonable parking fees. Courts also have the discretion to pay an additional per diem if a trial lasts longer than 30 days.
Multiple jury duty service
Even though you serve on a jury, that doesn't mean that you won't be called again should your name be randomly chosen another time. The Federal system allows for a two year break from service while states have their own rules. In Nevada, there is a three year grace period.
Most people usually feel annoyed when they open the mail and find a jury summons. Keep in mind that if you were ever to need a jury, you would want qualified, intelligent people sitting in the jury box.