Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
Q: What if I don't speak English?
If you cannot understand English, contact the jury office in writing. If you need assistance, a friend or a family member who can speak English can write the letter for you.
Q: What happens to my job or school attendance record?
Remember that you have a one-time ability to postpone jury service to a more convenient time. Make such a request in writing and submit to the address on your summons. The California Labor Code (§ 230) makes it unlawful for any employer to fire or harass an employee who is summoned to court to serve as a juror. If you are harassed or fired, contact your local jury office or the judge assigned to your trial. The law also protects students and teachers.
Q: How much and when do I get paid?
Currently, jurors are paid $15 per day starting with the second day of service either on a case or in the assembly room while available to be assigned to a case, plus 20 cents per mile, one way, for mileage (Code Civ. Proc., § 215). Some counties pay more than the required minimum amount. Checks for jury service are computed at the completion of service and are mailed to you at your home address. Checks should be received within two weeks after you complete service. Contact your local jury office if you have not received compensation or have questions.
Q: What if I care for a dependent child or adult?
If you have a dependent child or adult under your care, you may ask for a postponement in writing from jury service. Read your summons carefully or contact your local jury office for specific information for your county.
Q: Why do I always get summoned but other people don't?
All people selected for jury service are selected at random. Counties may choose names randomly from Department of Motor Vehicles lists, voter lists, and lists such as the utility company's customer list or telephone directories.
Q: What if I have been called twice or have already served in the past year?
If in the past 12 months you have been called twice or have already served, contact your local jury office. Explain to the jury staff person that you have been summoned twice and you would like to make sure that does not happen again. It is important for you to call to make sure the problem is cleared up. If you have served on a trial, it is important to keep the certificate that the judge in your trial gives you at the end. The certificate proves that you have served in case a question arises. If you were called but did not serve, keep your summons as a record; the jury office staff should provide a certificate of service. If you have been called again but it has been more than 12 months, your name has been randomly selected again. Please read the summons carefully and follow the directions. Call your jury office if you have specific questions.
Q: What should I do if I need special accommodations?
If you need special accommodations (such as assistance with a wheelchair, hearing amplification, special seating), contact the local jury office and let them know what type of assistance you will need. If they cannot reasonably accommodate you, you may be excused from jury service.
Q: How long does a trial take?
The length of trials varies depending on how complex the issues are and how long jurors spend in deliberations. Most trials are completed within a few days or a week. The judge knows about how long the trial will take, and he or she will tell you the time frame when your group is called for jury selection. Judges know how difficult long trials can be. Let the judge know whether it is a serious hardship for you to sit on a long trial. Be patient during this process because a lot of people have similar time concerns.
Q: Why do I have to wait around so much as a juror?
The judge and court staff work hard to reduce the time you spend waiting as a juror. However, waiting time cannot be completely eliminated. A trial is very important to the people involved and it is very important that things happen correctly. The law is also complex and many steps have to happen before, during, and after the trial. Try to be patient and come prepared with a book or other reading material to occupy your time while waiting. Court staff will try to explain delays when possible. Be assured everyone is working to avoid delays.
Q: What kind of trial will I hear?
There are two types of trials that have juries: criminal trials and civil trials. Juvenile and family law trials do not have juries.
Q: Can I take notes or ask questions during the trial?
It depends. Judges decide whether jurors can take notes or ask questions during a trial. A juror may ask a judge about this at the beginning of the trial, but the final decision rests with the judge. If permission to ask questions is granted, the questions will be given to the judge in written form. Jurors should pass these written questions to the bailiff so that the questions remain anonymous. It is important that jurors stay connected to the proceedings, and both note taking and question asking can assist jurors in processing the evidence presented.
Q: Is my privacy protected during and after the trial?
The judge will take your privacy into consideration when making decisions about the case. The judge must balance the requirement in the federal Constitution that guarantees people a public and speedy trial on the one side against jurors' real concerns about privacy on the other side. If you have concerns about privacy, please let the judge know. If a newspaper or television reporter, or a lawyer or a friend of one of the people involved in the case, approaches you during the trial, let the judge know immediately. Such contact is inappropriate during a trial. After the trial is over, the media and the parties in the case can contact you, but you do not have to talk to them. Call the judge in your case if you feel harassed.
Q: What happens after the verdict?
Once the verdict is read in court by the clerk, the jury may be polled. Jurors are given a certificate for their service and can go home. Some jurors find it helpful to give the judge and attorneys feedback about the trial. Some jurors also ask fellow jurors for their phone numbers in order to discuss aspects of the case with other people who shared the same experience. If you do not want to be contacted after the trial, let the judge know. After long or stressful trials, some jurors may feel disoriented. Some jurors may need to talk to a professional about feelings that the trial may have brought up. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) publishes a manual Through the Eyes of the Juror: A Manual for Addressing Juror Stress. NCSC can be contacted at 800-877-1233.
Q: How can I get out of jury service?
Jury service is a civic duty that every eligible adult in California has. (Code of Civil Procedure, sec. 191) This service to your community is the most direct, hands-on involvement in government most Californians will experience. If you honestly cannot serve, the law provides several undue hardship categories that can allow for an excuse for a summoned juror for up to one year. Write the reason for your excuse on the summons and return to the jury office. You may have to appear in court on the date on your summons in order to explain to the judge the reason for your excuse. Be prepared to receive a postponement to a more convenient time rather than a one-year excuse.
Q: Why do I have to serve?
The California Code of Civil Procedure sec. 191 states that jury service is an obligation of citizenship and comes as a direct result of our right to trial by jury guaranteed by the Constitution.
Q: What if I'm called as a Grand Juror?
The grand jury is different from the petit jury. The terms and purpose of service are different (Penal Code 888). People called for grand jury duty should contact the local court that has summoned them if there are specific questions. There is a group of grand jurors, the California Grand Jurors Association, that can be contacted at http://www.cgja.org/.