When you become 18, you may have the opportunity to get an inside look at how the legal system works. We’re not talking about going to court for something like a trafﬁc ticket. Rather, you may be summoned for jury duty.
Q: Just the fact that I’m 18 makes me eligible for jury duty?
A: That’s part of it. You also must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the jurisdiction in which you are summoned to serve. You must never have been convicted of a felony (unless your civil rights have been restored) or be currently adjudicated mentally incompetent (ARS §21-201).
Q: If they call me to serve, do I have to answer?
A: Yes, all qualiﬁed citizens have an obligation to serve on juries when summoned unless they are excused for some special reason or are granted a postponement. In fact, failure to respond and report for jury service may subject you to punishment. Being on a jury can be a rich and rewarding experience. It is a right not available in all countries and is your civic duty. As a juror, you will decide the facts of a case. The judge may change your decision only in very limited circumstances (ARS §§21-202,336).
Q: Can I be excused?
A: The court may excuse people in the following circumstances:
- Those people with a mental or physical condition that causes them to be incapable of performing jury service.
- Anyone whose jury service would affect the public interest or welfare in an adverse manner.
- Anyone who would experience extreme physical or ﬁnancial hardship, or who has someone under his or her care who would experience extreme physical or ﬁnancial hardship.
- Good cause upon a showing of undue or extreme hardship including being temporarily out of the jurisdiction or not having transportation.
The judge may also excuse people in other special circumstances. But excuses are not automatic – if you request to be excused, you must provide the court with documentation that supports your request (ARS §21-202).
Q: How do they decide who should be called to serve on a jury?
A: A list of potential jurors is usually prepared from voter registration and drivers license lists. Before a jury is needed, names are chosen at random from those lists and those people are notiﬁed to appear at court. Questionnaires are also sent to those people to determine their qualiﬁcations. This is the jury pool from which jurors are chosen (ARS §§21-301-314,331).
Q: If I’m called to serve, will I be part of a jury?
A: Not necessarily. More people are notiﬁed to appear than will be needed because some requests to be excused are approved, and some people may be excused by the judge or the attorneys, following questioning.
Q: Once I have responded and appeared for jury service... what’s next?
A: Once you are in the jury assembly room, names are chosen at random from those who have appeared for jury duty to go to a courtroom for jury selection. The judge asks general questions of all potential jurors, and may excuse people for certain reasons. Lawyers may ask other questions, and then may ask the judge to excuse other potential jurors. Each lawyer is allowed to excuse from the case a limited number of people without any reason given.
Q: Why would a judge excuse some people — and not others?
A: Judges have the right to excuse prospective jurors from serving on a particular jury for a variety of reasons. For example, the prospective juror may have:
- Family members related to someone involved in the case.
- Financial interest in the case.
- Prejudice or bias about the case or the parties.
- Already formed an opinion about the outcome of the case.
Q: This sounds like it could take forever. How about all the time I’m taking off from my job?
A: Your employer may not refuse to permit you to serve as a juror, and may not dismiss you or penalize you in any way if you serve as a grand or trial juror. However, your employer is not required by law to compensate you while you are absent from employment because of jury service (ARS §21-236).
Q: How long will it take?
A: Generally, your jury service obligation is fulﬁlled when you have:
- Served on one trial until being excused or discharged.
- Appeared at court, but are not assigned for selection of a jury before the end of the day.
- Appeared at court and were assigned to one or more jury selections that day, and were excused or not selected for a jury. This is called a “one day/one trial” jury service system (A.R.S. § 21-332).
Q: Do I get anything for this?
A: Probably not as much as you make at work, but for each day’s attendance you will be paid $12, and a mileage fee for travel from your home to the court and back, equal to the fee paid to state ofﬁcers and employees through ARS § 38-623(A). You may apply for additional compensation if you are selected to serve in a jury trial that lasts for more than ﬁve days, if your employer does not fully compensate you for the time of your jury service (ARS §§21-221,222).
Q: How often can I be called for jury service?
A: If you have been summoned and selected to serve on a jury, you are not required to serve again as a juror in any court in the state for two years following the last day of your service. If you have been summoned and appeared for jury service in Maricopa County, but were not selected for a jury trial, you will be excused from further service as a juror for eighteen months (ARS §21-335).
Laws may have changed since the last time this article was updated. The current and most up-to-date laws can be accessed here.