Many of us have received that piece of mail – a summons to jury duty. When you get the request to appear before the representation (prosecution and criminal defense) for the parties involved, you start to think of excuses of how to get out of it. You wonder how you’ll replace the income that you’ll lose.
The truth is that it is a Constitutional right of every accused American citizen to be judged by a group of their peers (the jury). It is part of what makes our country great. It is, in fact, likely to be one of the most important civic duties that you can execute. The Jury and Service Act defines the qualifications that a person must meet to be initially selected for jury duty.
There are two types of juries that American citizens can be involved with: petit and grand. Petit juries in civil cases are composed of 6-12 people, judge the evidence and testimonies presented, and determine punishment. Petit juries in criminal cases are made up of 12 people and judge the evidence and testimonies presented. However, in criminal cases, judges usually carry out the sentencing. In both cases, jurors are allowed to deliberate in private.
Grand juries are utilized for more specific reasons and are usually comprised of 16-23 members. Jury members listen to evidence from a United States attorney, and determine if there is “probable cause” to put a defendant on trial. If there is, an indictment is issued to the defendant. None of these proceedings are open to the public.
Those who are selected for jury duty are financially compensated $40 per day. If the length of time your service is required increases to a certain number of days, compensation is $50 per day. Federal employees continue to receive the same rate of pay they would receive as if they were at work. Alternatively, your employer may choose to continue paying while you execute your civic duty, although they are not required to. However, it is against the law to fire or punish you for fulfilling jury duty.
Most of us think of ourselves as good, upstanding, law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, there is always a possibility that you will require the services of a criminal defense lawyer in Utah. Nobody is immune to prosecution. Your case may or may not go to court and require the services of a jury. However, if it does, selection of a jury that will judge the evidence, and possibly determine punishment, from the point-of-view of a portion of the population that you belong to—your peers—is of the utmost importance.
So, next time that summons to jury duty arrives in the mail, remember that you are being asked to fulfill a role that is of high value, but often denigrated. You can make a huge impact in the lives of people in your community, who may, in turn, be summoned to do the same for you one day.
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