Questions Jurors Often Ask
Q. Who may serve?
To qualify for jury service, a person generally must have a reputation for being honest and intelligent, must possess good character and sound judgment, and also must:
Q. How long will I serve?
- Be a United States citizen;
- Be over the age of 19 years;
- Be a 12-month resident of the county;
- Read, speak, and understand the English language;
- Be physically and mentally capable; and
- Not have been convicted of a crime involving "moral turpitude" (a crime which violates accepted standards of the community, including crimes involving dishonesty) which resulted in the suspension of a person’s right to vote.
Service as a juror depends upon many factors, one of which is the type and complexity of the case. In Dekalb County, we have one (1) week jury terms, but you most likely will not serve every day of the term.
Q. Will I be paid for Jury service?
For each required service day, you are entitled to be paid by the circuit clerk or court administrator an expense allowance of $10.00 plus a mileage allowance of $.05 for each mile traveled in going to and returning from court to your residence.
Q. Will my expense allowance be deducted from my salary?
No. Section 12-16-8(c), Code of Alabama 1975, specifically provides that a "full time employee" is entitled to their usual wages during jury service.
Q. Who would be considered a "Full Time Employee" in terms of being able to receive their salary or wages during jury service?
The courts have defined "full time" as the amount of time considered as the normal or standard amount of work time for a given period, such as a day, week, or month. In most employment situations, "full time" means 40 hours a week. Also, the phrase "full-time employee" may be defined by industry standards, in addition to the standards of that particular community. The Attorney General of Alabama has concluded that the phrase "full-time employee" includes an employee who is paid hourly wages as well as a salaried employee.
Q. If I am summoned to court as a juror, but I was not chosen to serve, am I still entitled to an expense allowance and mileage?
Yes. As a summoned juror, you are entitled to an expense and mileage allowance regardless of whether you actually served on a jury that particular day. However, you are not authorized to receive an expense and mileage allowance if you are notified in advance that your services are not needed for that day, or if you report only to be excused.
Q. If I work outside the state of Alabama and I am summoned as a juror in the county where I reside in the state of Alabama, am I entitled to my usual compensation from my employer?
Not necessarily. Alabama law does not govern employers of other states. If you wish to find out whether you can be compensated for Alabama jury service, you must consult the law of the state in which you are employed. Note: The Attorney General in Georgia has concluded that it is unlawful for an employer in Georgia to fire an employee working in Georgia because the employee was absent from his/her employment for the purpose of serving as a juror in Alabama. For example, if a person is a resident of Alabama and works in Georgia and that person is summoned for jury duty in Alabama, the person’s employer in Georgia cannot fire the person for being absent for serving as a juror. To do so would subject the employer to civil liability.
Q. If I work a second or third shift (classified as a shift other than the typical 8-5 workday), must I return to work after I have served on a jury for six to eight hours during the day and am expected to report for jury duty the next day?
No. The law requires that a juror be excused until the next day so the juror may be fully attentive to his/her duties as a juror.
Q. Will my employer excuse me from work?
A prospective juror must present the summons for jury duty to his/her employer to be excused from work for the days (s)he is required to serve. Should you be released earlier than expected, you should return to your job. Alabama law states that a full-time employee will receive his/her usual wages while serving as a juror. A "Certificate of Jury Service" may be obtained from the circuit clerk as proof of jury service for your employer.
State law prohibits an employer from dismissing an employee because (s)he is summoned for jury service. If an employee is discharged solely because (s)he has been summoned for jury service, the employee may sue the employer in any state court and may be entitled to recover both actual and punitive damages.
Q. Can I be excused from or postpone service?
Jury service may be inconvenient, but no one is excused unless serving on a jury would present an undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, or be required by public necessity. If you believe you have a good reason to be excused from jury service, notify the court in advance. The court may postpone jury service to a later date rather than grant an excuse.
Q. How should I dress?
Wear comfortable clothing, which reflects the seriousness of jury service. Also, the temperature fluctuates greatly in our old courthouse, so you may want to bring a jacket.
Q. What if I have an illness or an emergency during service?
Should an illness of a family member or a personal emergency arise, immediately inform the judge or other court official and explain the situation.
Q. Will there be periods of waiting?
Be prepared to wait before and during trials. Delays result for many reasons: settlement or plea negotiations, record checking, points of law, etc. There are magazines in the jury lounge to read, or you may want to bring a book.
Q. What can I expect when I report to the courthouse for jury service?
After check in, the judge will ask general questions to determine whether you are qualified to serve as a juror. After qualification, you will be sworn in with the following juror's oath:
"You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will well and truly try all issues which may be submitted to you during the present session and true verdicts render according to the evidence, so help you God."
After the qualifying and excuses, you will be given a break to move your car out of the 2-hour parking, and then you will be divided into panels and you will keep the same panel number the whole term.
Q. Will I have to come to the Courthouse every day during the 2 week jury term?
It is very unlikely that you will have to spend every day at jury duty. After the first day, you will be given a pink juror card with a telephone number to call every night after 5:00 pm. When you call that number (943-7935 in Gulf Area and 937-0363 in all other areas), there will be a recorded message by the Circuit Clerk telling you whether or not your panel number needs to come to jury duty the next day, and if your panel number is to come, when you are to report. If you are selected to serve on a jury the first day, then you will follow the judge’s instructions until that case is over. When the case is over, you follow the instructions for your panel number that you will receive from the recorded message.
Q. What happens after the trial?
After the trial’s completion, you are not obligated to answer questions presented by attorneys or the press. If unwanted questions persist, contact the court immediately.
Q. How is a civil case different from a criminal case?
A civil case is an action between parties seeking an impartial settlement of a dispute. The "plaintiff" sues and brings the case to court usually asking for money damages to compensate the plaintiff for certain losses. These are called "compensatory damages." Sometimes the plaintiff may ask for damages in addition to the compensatory damages, in order to punish the defendant and to prevent the defendant from doing the same act again. These are called "punitive damages." The "defendant" is the party being sued.
A criminal case is an action brought by the state against a person or corporation charged with violating the law. In criminal cases, the state is the prosecutor, while the defendant is the person charged with committing the crime. In most criminal cases on which you may be asked to serve, the crime with which the defendant is charged will be a "felony." A felony is a crime punishable by at least one year and one day in the penitentiary and may also include a fine. Sometimes, a jury will be demanded by a defendant in a misdemeanor case. A misdemeanor is a crime punishable by up to one year in the county jail or a fine up to $2,000 or both.
Q. What is the difference between a petit and a grand jury?
A petit jury is generally composed of 12 people impaneled to try a criminal or civil case. In a criminal trial, the jury must determine whether the state has presented proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In a civil trial, the jury decides all questions of fact and determines whether the plaintiff has a valid complaint and should be awarded the relief requested.
An 18 member grand jury may be impaneled to hear evidence and to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to formally charge the defendant with committing a crime and to require an accused to stand trial. The grand jury does not determine the accused’s guilt or innocence.